I tend to be an optimist… I make every effort I can to find the silver lining in every situation…try to find the bright side. I try to stay on the lighter side of things with humor and sarcasm, and I try not to dwell on the negative. I’m not sure how to gently share the thoughts that are really on my mind right now, without just jumping into it. Tissues may be necessary. It’s okay. Crying is therapeutic.
My son Brice was 16 years old when he committed suicide on March 28 of this year. It has been almost 8 months since I lost a piece of my heart…a piece that can never be replaced. My heart was not just broken. It was forever changed. Brice was my heart. He was my Bricer. There was just always something special about him from the moment he was born and I miss him every single day.
In March, I was training for the Colfax Marathon and working through tax season. I was at work the day that Brice died. I will never be able to fully explain how I felt during those first days, and perhaps it seems shallow but I remember thinking, I guess I won’t be running the Colfax, because there is no way that I can continue training. I can’t. How could I possibly? Brice had run the last half mile of my first marathon with me. He had met me near the finish line hill (which is an evil race plan). He was wearing his yellow tie-dye Grateful Dead t-shirt and his Converse. He was sitting on an electrical box waiting for me to show up. When I got close, he hopped off and started walking next to me. (Yes I was walking during a marathon. Deal with it.) He said, “C’mon mom, let’s run. You can do it.” I explained to him that my plan was to walk up that last hill and then sprint to the finish line. “You can run a little bit. I know you can do it mom. You’re almost there.” Thanks to his sweet talking, rather than walking up the whole hill, I made a deal with him that I would only walk to the next delineator post and then we would run. I can still hear him saying, “C’mon mom. You can do it” in one ear and the Rocky Theme song, ‘Gonna Fly Now’ in the other. Yes, I cry every time I hear that song. Yes, it remains on my playlist.
The weekend we lost Brice was supposed to be a 16 mile training run. I didn’t run that weekend. That Saturday was spent in shock. No tears. A very interesting feeling to realize that you are in shock, and that your body and mind are protecting you. I was very clear headed and calm. I asked practical questions of the police and victim advocate that were around, and reminded someone to feed the dogs. By the grace of God, one of my best friends was visiting that day. We walked. When people came around I didn’t want to deal with, we walked. When the coroner showed up, we walked. When a well-meaning relative was offended that I wasn’t crying, we walked. When my oldest son Chase showed up, he walked with me. There is a trail that runs behind our neighborhood, one that Brice and his friends would hike back into and camp. I walked that trail and through the neighborhood over and over again, stopping to pee in the woods. Just walking. Asking questions. Talking to God. Talking to Brice.
On Sunday, I was no longer in shock. That went away at 2:30am, as all the grief and disbelief and sadness and pain rose to the surface in heaving gasps and screams and uncontrollable sobs. I laid around my house in a fog, reminding one another to breathe – Just breathe – because that was really all we were capable of doing. I know people were in and out, that someone cleaned my kitchen, and that food and flowers arrived. But all I could do was remember to breathe. That has been the hardest day of my life. But God’s mercies are new every morning and joy comes in the morning – that’s what I remember reading in church. I prayed for mercy and joy and peace. Someone told me to get the words out – to talk it out or write it down – and so that night I picked up my journal and started to write again – “My Brice is gone. How can this be?” it started and the floodgates have been open ever since.
Without my permission and without any sleep, Monday morning arrived and someone reminded me to eat. With some food in my body and not knowing what else to do, I knew I needed to run. Muscle memory put on my running shoes, plugged in my earphones and went down the road on the route that I knew. Just one foot in front of the other, moving and breathing. Within a half mile, my breath was heaving and I discovered how difficult, but not impossible, it is to run and cry at the same time. “WHY?? Why, God?!! WHY?? Why Brice? Why…why? I loved you. You knew I loved you. Wasn’t that enough?” A mile down the road and then 2 and then 3 – one foot in front of the other. Just breathe. How do I do something that brings me so much joy while carrying something that is causing me incomprehensible sorrow? If running is 90% mental and I am mentally incapacitated, how do I continue to run? On to the 4th mile and Boston’s “Long Time” was playing in my ears.
Well, I get so lonely, When I am without you. But in my mind, deep in my mind, I can’t forget about you. Good times and faces that remind me. I’m trying to forget your face, and leave it all behind me…I’m takin’ my time, I’m just movin’ along. You’ll forget about me after I’ve been gone. And I’ll take what I find, I don’t want no more…I’ve got to keep on chasin’ that dream, though I may never find it.
I started to yell again, “WHHHYYY?! I LOVED YOU BRICE! GOD DAMMIT WHY??!!” as two sweet Mormon missionary girls were walking on the other side of the road. Yes. It was funny. I’m sobbing and running and shouting expletives and those poor young ladies couldn’t get far enough off the road – Is she possessed? Should we help her? Don’t make eye contact. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. I didn’t know what mattered.
I ran 3.87 miles that first day back on the road – my first “After Brice” miles. I ran splits of 11:45, 10:00, 9:50, 10:16. No run selfie that day, just a picture of the empty road. That’s how I felt that day – empty and lost. But I knew in those 40 minutes that the same running that helped me find myself and my confidence last year, would be the same running that would keep me from losing myself in grief and sorrow this year. I knew it would be hard, but I couldn’t quit. I wouldn’t quit. I had to keep on chasing MY dream. I had to keep living. I had to keep running.