Friday, August 10, 2012

Choosing Joy {After Teen Loss}

This is what I've been reflecting on this week.  I started this post days ago but had to step away a few times, because I wondered if I should share it.  Is it too heavy?  Do I really want to get so personal?  Will I be able to put it into words?  Obviously, I decided to finish the post.  I think my future self will be happy I recorded these thoughts about one of the most important milestones of my life.

* * * * *

August 6, 2000.

I was seven weeks shy of my 16th birthday.  I had been awake for hours, anxious to go to a surf lesson at La Jolla Shores beach.  I had been wearing my bathing suit since 7:00 AM, as if it was going to get me to the beach sooner.  Music floated on radio waves from my bedroom to the bathroom across the hall where I was French braiding my hair.


* * * * *

Matt's mom had called the house at 3:00 AM looking for Matt, because he didn't come home the night before.  I spoke with her later in the morning with nothing helpful to offer.  If something was wrong, I knew he would have told me.  I figured he was at a friend's house and decided to spend the night, so I expected to see him that afternoon.  He visited our house so often that the creak of the front gate always painted a smile across my face and was soon followed by a knock on the door and his beautiful face.  Never had a squeaky gate brought such joy!

I was silently growing more and more concerned that he wasn't responding to any of my voicemails or pages.  (For all you youngens, people used to have pagers instead of cell phones.  Archaic, I know.)  Minutes morphed into hours, and I still hadn't heard from him.

There may have been some small part of of my soul that knew why.  There was a pulling at my heart, but I assumed it was my young, limitless love for my all-around great guy of a boyfriend.  The phone rang, and the receiver was in my hand before I consciously intended it to be.

"Hello?"  I knew it wasn't Matt, though I hoped it would be.

"Lindsay, I need to talk to your mom."

"Did you find him?"

"I really need to talk to your parents.  Can you please give the phone to your mom?"

I felt myself leaving my body.  Everything happened so quickly and in such a blur that every time I think back to the moments that followed, I picture it as an outsider, hovering above the scene.  I ran to the bottom of the staircase and called up to my mom.  My voice was already trembling, and the words came out with urgent force.

"Mom!  Matt's mom is on the phone, but she won't tell me anything.  She asked for you.  I don't know why she's not telling me anything!"

All of the words formed a single sentence on one labored breath.  Once I heard my mom pick up the phone, I ran to my bedroom.  For a fraction of a second, I considered listening in on the conversation, but I knew what I was going to hear.  I just knew.  I hung up the phone and began pacing.  Not in the linear and deliberate way it happens in movies.  I feared standing still, and I broke out in a panicked scramble.  And then I heard it.

"What?!"  My mom's voice dripped with desperation.

"Oh, my god."  My dad started crying.

I started a silent plea.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.  I couldn't understand their conversation upstairs, so I ran to the bottom of the stairs.  My sister, who was home from college for the summer, looked down to me from the rail.  With one heavy look and the utterance of "I'm so sorry," I knew what Matt's mom couldn't tell me on the phone.  How do you tell your son's girlfriend that she kissed him, hugged him, and talked to him for the last time?

My silent plea poured out of me as I melted into my own hands.  I wanted to escape my life, but escaping the house was the best I could do, so I ran to my room to grab a sweatshirt before walking out the front door.  With no destination, I walked.  I wanted to cry and hide and scream, but I kept walking.  In mere minutes, I had played in my mind my favorite moments with Matt: the first time we met at an audition, the first time he came over to our house, being on stage with him, BBQs with our friends, holding hands the entire drive from my house to his, our first kiss, the time I got called out of AP English... because he had flowers delivered to me at the main office, and seeing my little brother get the big brother he never had.

It wasn't long before my sister pulled up next to me and begged me to get in the car.  I kept walking, and the car followed.  We were both sobbing, and eventually, I conceded.

"Take me to Sara's house."  My cousin Sara was my best friend, and even though she didn't know Matt well,  I just wanted to be with her.  I didn't want to go home.  Halfway to her house, I asked,

"What happened?"

"They found him, but they don't know."  I wasn't prepared to ask what that meant, but I don't think she knew anyway.  We were just two sisters in a car with not a clue about what to do.  My heart was shattered, and she was heartbroken for me.

* * * * *

I escaped for a few hours but had to go home, eventually.  I had never heard the house echo before that night.  Every wall and window was tinted with silence.  I exchanged my beach attire for jeans and a T-shirt before we drove to Matt's house.  His mom wanted to see me, and my anxiety-ridden self wanted to see her.  My parents and I got in our tan Ford AeroStar van in which Matt and I had shared the middle bench and spoken in whispers countless times before.  For a moment, I let myself forget that he was gone, and I rested my left hand on the seat to hold his hand.  I swore I truly felt his hand take mine, so I let it be.  His spirit and mine were still connected, though one was without a body, and I savored that car ride knowing the feeling would fade.  Maybe the next day, maybe the next month, maybe the next year.  But I knew it wouldn't last forever.  That night was peppered with sobs and tears but also flooded with comfort and connectedness.  So much more turmoil lay ahead, but for that night, we embraced, shared stories, and let emotions wash over us.

* * * * *


Matt's case was closed unsolved.  It's hard to seek peace when there aren't any answers.  I would have loved to seek justice, but there was no one to question.  For years, I wished that I knew what happened, but it has become clear to me that there must be a reason why I don't know. 

I continue to learn from this experience 12 years later.  Each year and stage of life has brought new perspective.  With turning 28 next month, I feel like I am nearing motherhood.  This year I feel the hurt through a parental heart.  I am in awe of a parent who finds strength to move forward after losing her son who just started his senior year.  I ache for my parents who never expected that they would need to rescue their daughter from years of self-medicating.  But I know it's possible to survive it, because I witnessed the resilience of our parents!

Life has been really confusing to me at times for various reasons, but I've gained so much as an individual and feel like I have so much more to offer to others as a result.  No matter where I am in the world, I will always celebrate Matt on August 6.

To the kid whose friendship transcended titles and social groups in high school... 
To the kid whose heart accepted everyone...
To the kid who was equal parts crazy and cautious...
To the kid who endlessly encouraged others...
To the kid my teenaged heart beat for...

... thank you.  I will love you forever.

This year my Matt mantra is: Choose joy, even when your heart is hurting.

57 comments:

Emily said...

This is an amazing post. My heart feels heavy for you - but experiences like this help shape the people we are to become. And you - I are a beautiful person inside and out. Thanks for sharing this story.
xo

Jenna@The Life of the Wife said...

Oh my gosh Linds. I dont even know what to say. Your heart is beautiful. I can't imagine what that must have been like for you and stI'll feels like for you. I love you lots. Thank you for sharing this you brave, beautiful friend of mine.

Jessica Who? said...

thank you so much for sharing this. i know it must have taken a lot of courage to write it and even more to share it. my heart aches for you and it brought tears to my eyes. i can't imagine the pain you felt and even still feel now.
i'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason...if we don't understand it.
keep your head up and know that you are loved!

xx

Tyler said...

Wow Lindsay, I am so sorry for your loss. I know it's been a few years, but I'm sure that doesn't make it much easier. Especially not knowing. And you were so young. What an inspiration you are to get through that. You are such a beautiful, strong person. I bet he is looking down on you and is so proud of the person that you are! I am sending hugs your way, and truly admire you for finishing this post!

Ashlee Danielle said...

My goodness, this post brought tears to my eyes! But I admire your courage to share your heart with us, and your strength to choose joy through heartache. You, my dear, are an inspiration!

Mae said...

Lindsay, You are so beautiful and this post is such an unbelievable tribute. I will be thinking and praying for you, as well as the friends and family touched by his wonderful spirit. Your spirit is such a light and by sharing your experience you are helping the those in similar situations...

sara with an h said...

i really have no words that seem adequate enough for this post. sending positive thoughts your way, xo.

Little Lady said...

Aw! Lindsay I'm so sorry. You are strong and an inspiration to others, always share the pain in your life, because you never know how it can help someone else! *hugs*

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Honestly, I don't know what to say. I imagine that you didn't write this post looking for comfort though. As someone who married their own high school sweetheart, I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to lose someone you love, at any age, really. I know we only "know" each other because of our blogs, but I just have to say that you definitely are an inspiration, because of your ability to choose joy. I like that in you.

You're in my thoughts my dear. Here's to living our lives to the fullest :)

xoxo,
Joelle

EmPhil said...

I can't imagine going through all this. I had a friend try to kill herself and that was hard for me, but this... this is an entirely different playing field. I just don't even know what to say other than thank you for sharing this amazing and moving experience. God bless <3

Martie @ Spunkyrella said...

You are so brave for sharing this story - this huge part of your life, Lindsay!
I am in awe of your courage! I lost a very close friend myself in my teenage years, it was through a car accident though. Loss is loss, isn´t it?! Still I can´t fully understadn how hard it must be to not know what happened! I am happy you are in a good place and hope his family is too!

Dorien said...

Wow, this is really heavy... I'm not exagerating when I say I got tears in my eyes, it's a really moving story. I can't imagine what experiencing something like this must feel like and I'm grateful for that but I'm so sorry for you. (Not in a pathetic way, just, I'm sorry you had to lose someone you loved) And I think it's really inspiring that you can think positive things about him and about what to do :) This post really is an inspiration.

Gesci said...

Oh, I'm teary and all choked up. Lindsay, I'm so sorry... although I imagine those words lost any meaning to you years ago.
Your "squeaky gate" immediately brought to mind the song "Kody" by matchbox 20- and I feel like that song could be based on you in part.
I'm so thankful you've been able to find a sort of peace with this part of your story, and to have "chosen joy". I'm thankful for you, I'm thankful for Mr. TBS and your family, and I'm thankful for me- that I've been able to get to "know" you.
*giant, rib-crushing hug*

Empirically Erin said...

Lindsay,

Thanks for sharing this story. Yes it's a heavy subject, but it is so much a part of who you are. I kept reading hoping you (and I) would find out what happened to him. At first, I forgot I was reading a real life story where real life people had to live with not knowing. This story is important and keeps Matt's story going.

Alana Christine said...

Ommygoodness. I'm so sorry, girl! Thank you for sharing!

Allie Todd said...

Where to even begin?! We've spoken before but seriously, I am in awe of you.
Your incredible attitude accompanied by your bravery (and ability to be vulnerable) is so inspiring. And I know not just to me, but to everyone reading.

xo

Katie said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us. It was so brave of you to open your heart in that way and I just want to wrap you up in a big hug. I admire you so much for choosing joy.

<3

Megan said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss :( I agree with you, the older I get the more I reflect upon how a parent must feel when they lose their child. I cannot even imagine.

Jessica @ Lovely Little Things said...

Lindz,
I don't even know where to start. You are such a strong and wonderful person. I see that more and more every day. And I mean that.
This is beautifully written and I had chills on my arms and tears running down my cheeks as I read it.

I'm living your mantra with you.
I'm choosing joy, no matter what.

Thank you for being such a beautiful asset to the world (and blog world, duh)!

I love you so, so much!

Missy Adams said...

awww this is so sad :-( It brought a tear to my eyes. It must be hard that it was closed unsolved it will always leave a person questioning, i admire your strength from your experience. August 6th is an important day for me also as its my nans birthday who died on may 6th, my daughter was born on my nans birthday or august 6th and my son was born on the day she died

Micaela said...

I will always remember that day. My mom crying listening to the voicemail from your mom that she wouldn't let me listen to.

But mostly what I remember is what great hugs that boy gave!

Leanne @ Simply Beautiful said...

Lindsay, you are so brave to share your heart and story like this. I commend you for doing so.

I don't believe in certain posts being to heavy or too shallow. Our blogs are our little space to share our hearts and be open and honest, whether that's a food recipe or a story of a broken heart. It is all a part of who we are, and this story definitely is a part of you.

My heart aches with you and this story but I'm happy for the way you have grown from it. Shine on! :)

Steph said...

Wow, what a huge tragedy to deal with at such a young age. I'm so sorry to hear this :( You are incredibly strong for facing life the way you do and choosing joy in hard times. What an inspiration :)

Breonna said...

I don't really have any word. Just lots of hugs. What a lovely mantra.

Lisa @ MMT said...

My heart aches for you experiencing a loss so young. I may not know what it feels like, but what I do know is how great and beautiful of a person you are. Trials in life shape us and this one had a huge impact on you. Thank you for sharing something so personally and dear to your heart.

Kate said...

Lindsay, I'm just at a loss for words. Brian and I started dating around the exact age that you described, so I can only imagine how painful this must have been/ continue to be for you. You are such an inspiration, lady!

Meg Cady said...

Lindz.
I will give you a hug when I see you , but for now my mear words will have to suffice. I am so sorry that at such a young age you had to learn one of life's hardest lessons. I am so sorry that you had love ripped away from you. BUT I am not sorry that you got to experience that love not once but TWICE and I am not sorry that you have grown and been changed for the better though awful circumstances.

Love you friend.

Ellen A. said...

My heart ached for that 15 year old girl. I can't even imagine that kind of loss at such a young age. Your mantra is beautiful and shows just how strong of a person you are.

Sarah said...

I cannot believe your strength! This story reminded me of the summer before my senior year when I lost one of my best friends. That shocking phone call...so hard to think about, but thank you for sharing your story! You are an inspiration!

Amy said...

Lindsay, this is so, so beautiful. I teared up at work reading this. I am so sorry for your loss, and can't even imagine what that must have been like. The whole time I was reading this, I was trying to imagine what I would have done if I lost my high school love. And I can't. But wow, I can't imagine what a strong and incredible person this has made you. I admire your strength, and your courage for writing this down. Joy is a choice, and I will do my best to always choose it, for Matt. Praying for you love.

Nilda said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I can't even begin to imagine the pain you must have felt. I am sure he is looking down at you, proud of who you have become. It's wonderful that you continue to honor him each year! Sending some virtual hugs your way.

Emily H. said...

i have no idea what to say to this. you are so strong for sharing all of this. i can't imagine what it was like going through all of that, i was heartbroken for you reading this. thank you so much for having the strength to share this with all of us. i'm sure matt is proud to see you loving someone and moving past that tragedy.

5ohWifey said...

Literally sobbing a I read through this. Your words are beautiful, Lindz. I'm sorry.

Jenn said...

Lindsay, words have escaped me.

I had a bunch of classmates in high school lose their significant others to suicide and saw how they dealt with it. I could not imagine how they felt though.

It definitely shows how human's can overcome anything with strength and time. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Whitney H said...

I'm definitely crying at my desk right now. I had no idea that you experienced this and I am so so sorry for your loss. It brought back memories of my own, but reminded me that my story had a better ending. The next time I see you, you WILL be getting a giant hug from me. I already admired you. Now? I realized just how much I look up to you. You are such a strong, amazing person for getting through this. I love you Lindsay, and I am so thankful to call you my friend!

Miki {Becoming What I Always Was} said...

Lindsay, you're a strong woman. I am so sorry for the things that you have been through, but that must be the reason why you are such an incredible inspirational person now. I am sure Matt was put in your life for a wonderful reason, and it's awesome that you still and always will celebrate him and his life.

Mish Lovin' Life said...

I'm so sorry to hear this :( I had to read it twice. I just can't believe the case was closed UNSOLVED??? I think that's what frustrates me the most. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. But that's awesome you're able to keep close all the great memories of him, and that's what matters. xo

Annelise @ Aunie Sauce said...

Wow. Lindsay. I read this many, many times. Over and over again. I have so many questions, too, but as you didn't share them with us, it lets me know that we were told all we need to know.

I can't even imagine the strength it took to move on from this point. You are beautiful, and this person was put into your life for a reason.

It's hard for me to comment on this post because I've never experienced anything like this. I have NO IDEA what you felt on the inside. How much it must have hurt. This is the kind of post that pulls at those "fear" strings that I talked about earlier this week.

Thank you for sharing this. It's a huge story.

Mommy Karlyn said...

Dearest Lindsay,

Reading this brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. Remembering how saddened we all were. As a "mommy" when this occurred, it was so difficult to explain, to our children and to ourselves. You have grown into such a strong, lovely, and loving young woman. By sharing about this time in your life, you have actually gained some mastery over it. It will forever be a part of you, but you have an identity beyond it. Matt was a wonderful young man that many of us have never forgotten. Be blessed.

Kayla C said...

Oh my goodness Lindsay, first, I wish I could give you a giant hug. I experience my first HUGE loss earlier this year and it's been so tough. I was also the person who found him, so that memory is still so much in the front of my mind usually a couple times a day still. I had to stop reading this post because I couldn't see past my own tears! I've bookmarked it and I'll be back because I'd love to read the whole story, but for now it's too much for me to imagine. My heart goes out to you and I am so glad you decided to post this.

xo Kayla

Katie Price said...

I just want to join in with the others & say that you are brave for sharing this and I would give you a hug if I could. I can tell that this experience changed your outlook on the world for the better, and is part of the reason why you are such an outwardly positive & supporting person.

Sending lots of love your way today.

Erin said...

Oh friend, you are amazing and I admire you for your strength and loving heart after going through such loss. love you!

Phil and Darby Hawley said...

Oh my Lindsay. What a wonderful post. I"m so sad that you had to experience this, and at such a young age. But I am so grateful that you've been able to cope with this experience in such a way that can console and encourage others in similar situations.

Michelle said...

Oh Lindsay my love. I'm so glad you shared this. Writing it out is healing. And unsolved??? I don't know what happened, but oh my gosh. I can't imagine!

One of my best friends died in a car accident a week before his high school graduation. I remember the phone call and the sobbing and the agony as vividly as you do. It's a horrible thing and I'm so sorry you had to experience that!

Love you SO much girl!

Kristen @ KV's Confessions said...

I know this post must have been very difficult to write... but you did it so beautifully! I'm glad we all know a bit more about this special person that touched your life forever. I too question the reasoning for a lot of things that happen in life... and you're right. There must be a reason we don't know. My heart aches for you, but I know he must be very proud of you and the woman you have become. Thank you for sharing this precious story with us... Love you girl! xo

Kristen Danielle said...

First of all, I'm so sorry I haven't been keeping up with your blog lately! You haven't been showing up in my google reader :( I don't know why?

This was a really powerful post. I give you major props for putting out so much heart & sole for us to read. How lucky he was to have a friend like you. xo

jami lynn said...

What a beautiful post Lindsay, thank you for opening your heart and sharing something so personal.

Charlene Wolff said...

Dear Linz, my heart aches for you, your family & Matt's family, during this time every year. Knowing what you went through and wondered how you coped each year left my heart heavy & weary. I'd see your beautiful smile & tell myself, "she's gonna be fine...", but I've known you your whole life. On the outsde your personality was as bright as the sun & that reassured me that you were okay. I knew you struggled through the end of each summer season, years later. If I knew just how much, I know I'd probably be depressed. I believe things happen for a reason, good or bad, happy or sad. In our family you carried the burden of such a great loss, & we've learned tremendous strength to carry on when we think we can't feel any worse, from you... your wonderful smile! Your terrible loss gave those around you amazing strength just being around you. I believe God put you on this earth to share your passion with others, even when you hurt. I LOVE YOU SWEET LADY!!! AND I MISS YOU HERE IN SAN DIEGO!!! GOD Bless you!

tara said...

this post was so powerful, girl! seriously brought me to tears. sending the biggest virtual hug your way! <3

Lins said...

This post was written so beautifully! It brought tears to my eyes! I went through a similar situation in 2003 with one of my best girl friends.


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Myra said...

What a powerful post, love. I've got tears in my eyes, but my heart is proud to know someone so strong. Sending you a big, huge hug & prayers to Matt's family.

Janna Renee said...

This is so incredibly touching. I can't imagine going through that, but it's good that you can sound so positive about what you have learned. Death is a part of life, but it's sad and hard to fathom in a situation like this. {Hugs}

Jasmine said...

You are incredibly brave and beautiful. I can't quite stop crying and I'm sure I'll have a whooping headache to thank you for later.

Everything happens for a reason but I'm sure you know that. You've definitely inspired me to choose joy.

Big hugs, xxx

RadiantKristen said...

This breaks my heart so very, very much. I think back on the teens who passed away when I was in high school... on the friend I lost... it's hard. I'm glad you were brave and told this story. I'm sorry his case was left unsolved. I'm glad you found love again and have an amazing husband.

Twist Snag said...

I'm so sorry that this happened to you. You are amazing for having come through it the way you have, and so are your parents.

Julie Marie said...

this has me choked up, and is so touching. i am so sad you and your families had to go through this. but i am glad you came out choosing joy...
thanks for sharing it, lindsay

Ashley M. Flores said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story. Last September, my best friend's fiance was murdered by a friend of his in a silly argument over a soda...yes, a soda. I don't know how you feel, but I do know what it's like to lose someone who is like a brother to you and attempt to console yourself while trying to comfort my friend when she felt the most pain she'd ever experienced. The anniversary of his passing is coming up and there is an errie feeling in the air, but I know we will celebrate the wonderful man he was.

God bless you.