(I wrote this last week for an assignment in my writing group. It's about today.)
If no pain, then no love. If no darkness, no light.
If no risk, then no reward. It’s all or nothing.
In this damn world, it’s all or nothing. ~Glennon Doyle Melton
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~Desmond Tutu
The ringing telephone shattered the midnight silence. An almost-strange voice, choked with emotion, filled my ears with even stranger words- “This is Jamie, Shannon’s brother. I am so sorry…Carl was diving with Dan in a zenote in the Yucatan…he drowned. I am so very sorry…” the rest of the words lost in the roaring in my head, the dreadful tearing sound of my heart breaking, the harsh rasping of my sobs as tears streamed down my cheeks…as I sought for and grabbed at sanity in a world suddenly gone mad.
There was more conversation, I know…some details about official things- the authorities and cremation and death certificates- the minutiae of any death, even one which happened thousands of miles and a heartbreak away. And then that caring, emotion-filled voice was saying, “Shannon is in Tennessee, caving. I must fly up there to tell her in person. She can’t hear this over the phone.” And my own grief was momentarily crowded out by the awareness of the impending effect of this life-changing event on Carl’s fiancé, Shannon. I had lost my eldest son…she had lost the love of her life…both of us broken in ways few else could or would- or would want to- understand.
Another fleeting thought- poor Jamie…her brother not only was breaking this difficult news to me but he was going to bear it to Shannon upon his own shattered heart. He and Carl had been friends, too…they had gone diving together, had shared more than a few beers…this loss was impacting him deeply…only at this moment, my breaking heart was beating so loudly that it drowned out all other sounds…all other thoughts.
The call ended- I have no memory of how. Indeed, the gaps loom large as I try to recall that time. I only know that I roamed the house like a lost child, weeping, unsure of where to turn or what to do next. My youngest son, Paul, was asleep in his nearby bedroom, blissfully unaware of the way in which his life would be impacted at the light of day. And how would I tell Mark and Hope that their beloved big brother was gone, his often larger-than-life presence in their lives ripped away? What would I say? What could I say? I only knew, at that moment, that I was drowning and needed someone to take hold of my hand to keep me from going under, never to resurface.
And so, I reached for that dreadful telephone and called Charlie, a dear pastor-mentor-friend, shattering his sleep with my cry for help. “Charlie…my son, Carl, has died. I don’t know what to do…” my voice hoarse with emotion, choked with tears, even as he tossed me a lifeline with his words: “June and I will be right there.” No hesitation…none. “We’ll be right there.” And I could take a small, hesitant, gasping breath of hope.
Carl Allen Sutton, Jr. August 31, 1964- February 26, 1993