Two Hours and Four Miles
I went for a jog this morning and ended up at a place I’d never stopped at before.
My 4 mile jog took me, unexpectedly, to the place where Charles killed himself.
On June 17, 2013, two hours before he took his own life, I called him. I was already at work, starting my day, but I knew I needed to call him.
When he answered the phone I said, “I know you’re upset. I’m just calling to check on you; are you going to work today?” In one of the most calm voices, so calm it was like it wasn’t even him speaking, he said, “No, I’m going to kill myself today.”
The 2 hours that followed that life-altering sentence, are so surreal, I can’t even find the words to describe it.
We remained on the phone for the entire 2 hours.
It was two hours of me trying to talk him down. It was two hours of me reminding him we had a beautiful baby boy to raise. It was two hours of me reminiscing our four years of marriage. It was two hours of me experiencing every damn emotion known to man.
But it was two hours of him not wanting to budge. It was two hours of him telling me he wasn’t good enough. It was two hours of him showing not a single ounce of emotion. It was two hours of him already being gone.
In that two hours, I begged for him to tell me where he was. The only hint he would give me, was that he was in the middle of one of my dads corn fields. The not-so-great thing about that is, my dad had 4,000+ acres of 7ft corn planted in 3 surrounding counties. Logistically, there was no way of quickly spotting him. And he knew that.
I will never forget the feelings of anger that came over me. It felt like he was playing games with me. No matter what I said, it wasn’t helpful, and no matter how much I wanted to find him, he wouldn’t provide any information.
My hands were tied. I couldn’t get to him, and I surly couldn’t hang up the phone. It felt as though he was a million miles away from me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do.
After two hours, he decided to hang up the phone, and take his life. It was shortly after that, he was found just 4 miles away from home.
Since then, I’ve been down that gravel road many times. I take my dad meals during harvest or take Kaleb to ride with his papaw in the tractor. I’ve always known “the spot” but usually don’t make note of it.
Today on my run, I decided to take a turn down that road. I didn’t have any rhyme or reason, I just felt like going further than normal today. The wind was blowing my hair everywhere, and the humidity was nice and thick. Everything about taking that road felt right.
It wasn’t long and I reached “the spot”. I stopped and decided to soak up the peacefulness and the beauty of springtime. In that peaceful moment I remembered Charles, and that day came rushing back to me.
The memories of how angry I was, had me buckle at the knees and immediately start sobbing. It seemed so unfair that he was close enough to me, that I could have ran there on foot, yet he was still so unreachable. I had 2 hours and only 4 miles to go, but it might as well been 2 seconds and 400 miles, because his mind was already made up. He never intended on me getting there; he already knew my words weren’t going to be enough. And that is so unfair. And sad. And infuriating. And messy. Suicide grief is SO messy.
I allowed myself to relive all those emotions this morning, for a short time. Because that’s the healthy thing to do. I welcomed the tears as they flowed fast and furious and then later, slow and steady. I didn’t know all those memories would flood me when I made that turn today, but it’s okay that they did, because that’s what we call healing. And it felt freeing.
After I allowed myself the moment, I was reminded that it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my choice. And it wasn’t ever my job to change his mind in those two hours.
I picked myself up off the ground and started my trek home. Home seemed further away than it had earlier. My feet were achy and emotionally, I was tired. But I put one foot in front of another and got going. Before I knew it, I had reached the top of the hill, a point where I can look ahead and see how much further I have to go, or I can look behind me and see the distance I had already accomplished. I took the time to do that, and it was truly symbolic.
When I look back to that phone call, to where it all started, it’s not hard to remember where it left me emotionally. I wasn’t sure how I’d recover from that; how would I ever have the strength to get up from that spot?
By the grace of God, I did stand back up and put one foot in front of the other, despite the aches and pain. There were many times I’d look ahead and think I have SUCH a long way to go, but then God would remind me to turn around and look at how far I’d already come and I’m so proud to claim the spot I’m in today!
I know far too many people who are struggling with the stages of grief. Just remember to welcome it when it shows up, and when you don’t think you can go any further, turn around and pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve already come and take that next step.
You aren’t ever alone.