My son is still an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital. He is safe, he is taking medication, and he is getting therapy. He will come home soon.
I have a squad of friends and family praying for him and for the rest of our family. I feel it. I’ve been blessed with moments of the most famous peace of all, that which passes understanding. I’ve been blessed with audacious hope, laughter, and being witness to his genuine smile. Visiting hours are short. Each moment feels desperately precious. I want to drown in his words. When I hug him hello and goodbye, I inhale.
The death of my father in June was brutal. I’m still grappling with losing him. But the very real loss of my father is an acorn compared to the oak of the mere thought of losing my son. He was close. For the rest of our lives, we will carry the memories of this grievous time. When the ambulance crew loaded him inside, one of the crew members said they’d take good care of him. Their job was to take him from one hospital to another. My job was to drive home, alone.
The night was cold and I had left my coat in the car when we arrived at the ER 9 hours earlier. I walked from the ambulance bay through a dark parking lot. I was slightly chilled, but the shivers were intense. My entire body, heart, mind, and soul were screaming for the warmth of hope. I remembered my son shivering in the maroon scrubs but denying he was cold. He must have been so afraid.
I was so afraid.
I unlocked my car and sat behind the wheel. When we arrived, I said, “This is going to change everything for the rest of your life. Do you know that?” I wasn’t trying to change his mind. I was being honest and needed to know he understood.
He answered, “Isn’t it better to be here than not?”
With that, we went inside.
I drove to the ER with him. I drove home alone. That’s tough in any circumstance. Packing him into that ambulance with a kiss and my consent was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and one of the worst moments of my life as a mom.
With the legalities of a 72 hour hold, I felt like I had just signed away my son.
My son has had three surgeries in his life. I signed consents for all.
I’ve signed him up for schools, clubs, and field trips.
I sent him on a class trip 1,000 miles away. You can’t do that without a signature or twelve.
I’ve sent him to competitions in other states. Again, scritch scratch loopy loop. Done.
Yes, please clean his teeth, I’ve signed.
Yes, please remind him (in an official curriculum-sanctioned manner) how babies are made. I’ll sign that.
Sure, church camp. You may give him Tylenol. Signature required, signature given.
Load up his little thighs and big kid arms with pokes intended to protect him. I understand the risks and demonstrate with my scrawl.
My pens and their pens have propelled him towards scalpels and a western horizon. They’ve secured seats on chartered busses and protection from mumps. They let him zip line over a mountain creek, learn to drive, and tour a gold mine—not simultaneously. With every expressed consent, I believed I was putting him on the trajectory to the beautiful and the worthwhile and the protected.
That trajectory was a lie. While he had all the right things going for him on the outside, he despaired. We didn’t know at first. He hid it well and went through the motions of being a suburban teenaged boy. One day it became too much to bear and he told. He let it out.
He laid down his name, his words, himself on a long dark line: Help me.