“I hope that I don’t sound too
insane when I say there is darkness
all around us.
I don’t feel weak but I do
need sometimes for her to protect me
And reconnect me
to the beauty
that I’m missin'”
January Wedding, by The Avett Brothers.
I was once told by someone after they met Vanessa that I was “out-kicking my coverage.” It’s a sports’ cliche that refers to a punter kicking the football too far thus allowing the return team to have an easier return b/c the coverage doesn’t have time to set up. When he said it to me he was referring to the fact that Vanessa is too good for me. In Charlie’s eulogy I made a reference to the many people that had commented on how being a father to Charlie had changed me for the better. I also mentioned how I suspected no one ever said anything like that to Vanessa because she wasn’t in need of a change for the better. Vanessa has always been a genuinely kindhearted and selfless person. Someone I’ve always secretly known who is too good for me.
Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for 17 years. Just over half of our lives. No one on this earth knows me better than Vanessa. She can take one look at me and know exactly how I am feeling or what I’m thinking. We’ve been through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Together. We had so much careless fun with our friends and family while in high school, college, and mid-20’s. We leaned on each other when our best friend, Marc Sargis, unexpectedly passed away ten years ago. We lived our lives to the fullest celebrating weddings and new babies with our family and friends in our late 20’s and early 30’s. We experienced a level of love neither of us knew existed when Charlie was born. It was brought to an even higher level once Danny joined our family. Four short months after Danny was born our souls were crushed and we were forever changed.
I’ve been so consumed with being a father to my dead son that I’ve neglected and damaged my relationship with my living children and wife. It’s as if I won’t allow myself to move forward with my life because I have a hard time accepting that each day I’m moving further away from Charlie. The memories are fading and I’m trying to hold on so tightly that my living children are slipping through my grip. I miss him so much it physically hurts. I can feel the emptiness in my heart and soul. Unfortunately, that emptiness is all I have left with Charlie. It’s my only connection to him. This pain I feel, the darkness that is all around us, is all I have so of course I’m going to hang on to it. You get to hug your kids “extra tight” tonight. I get to cry into a computer screen while watching an old video of Charlie. I’ve been focusing on what I don’t have- my oldest son – and not on what I do have- two healthy kids and an adoring wife. Vanessa has been trying to reconnect me to the beauty I’ve been missing and in the process has kept me from drowning in this darkness. Vanessa sees through the emptiness in my eyes and into the void in my soul because she’s swimming in it too.
I remember in the days right after Charlie died some people warned us that bereaved parents are more likely to get divorced than other married couples. Um. . . thanks? Truth be told, I think the odds of us getting divorced have decreased since Charlie died. It’s like we are floating in an ocean of darkness all alone but we’re surrounded by all of our loved ones who are in boats. Everyone is passionately trying to help us get into the boats but no one can figure out how. It’s impossible. We’ve been permanently tossed overboard. We can feel the love but we are still very much alone out here and we’ll never let go of each other. We’ve been through the worst and we are still here. Together. Some days I hold her up. Some days Vanessa holds me up. All of the days, we are in this together. And that won’t change until one of us gets to see Charlie again.
Happy Anniversary to my wife Vanessa. I love you more today than I did yesterday and I look forward to loving you more with each passing day. I want to thank you for providing me with three beautiful children and loving them with every fiber of your being. Danny loves you. Reese loves you. Charlie loves you. Thank you for always being there to support me when I’m down or to calm me down when I am angry. Your compassion and unrelenting love is the glue that has kept this family together through the tragic loss of our son Charlie. You’re an amazing mother, friend, and spouse. I’d be lost without you. I’ll love you all of the days in this life and the next.