9 years ago, T.J.’s death shattered my soul. Reflecting on the days and weeks following his death I remember a push and pull deep inside moving me forward on a wave of love and kindness. The thought of having a meaningful life outside of the darkness without T.J. was inconceivable— yet there was a spark within.
Now, 9 years later I realize that spark was the center of my soul that was not shattered, but now laid wide open, no longer covered by years of human existence, hurts and fears. I was left with only love. I felt it from my family, my friends, my community—I felt it from my precious T.J. It soothed and boosted me. It propelled me forward with a strength I couldn’t describe or understand.
Life was different, is different. I learned not to question, but to see. To see not only with my eyes, but with my heart and my head. I began to see the challenges and obstacles surrounding me and everyone around me. The perfect social media life didn’t really seem to exist for anyone. Under the perfect and the shine was the real. I began to understand this life is hard. Everyone has challenges. Everyone hurts.
We can’t choose what life may throw at us, but we can choose how we move forward from even the most inconceivable tragedy like the suicide of a precious 16-year-old boy named T.J. We can choose to find the lessons in the loss, in the hurt, in the hard. We can dig deep within and find the love that remains even when everything shatters around us.
Throughout history people have survived unspeakable tragedies. Those who move forward and survive seem to have something in common. They somehow are able to hold onto hope and love and find peace—not in the chaos that exists in this world, but in a place deep within, in the center of the soul that nothing can break.
Life can add layer upon layer over our center so we become so tough we can no longer find the soft and sweet that exists within us all. I am so grateful that the love of family, old friends and new allowed me to leave my soul exposed so I could find the light in the darkest days of my life and come to this new existence where the hard still exists, but the light and love is easier to tap into.
I resist covering up my center to try to avoid the hurt and toughen up against the hard. I work to remain open to feeling the big feelings, to embracing the waves of sad that still exist in the missing of a boy named T.J., but then finding again the joy in the love that surrounds me in the most unlikely places. It is there all around and the grace is in the seeing, the feeling and the knowing that each of us has within us the capacity to give and receive pure love in the mundane and the extraordinary. We can find it in learning to step back, to take that breath before reacting and letting it wash over us in the difficult moments.
Yes, I am shattered, I am broken open, but I am whole and 9 years after his death that boy T.J. still exists, still loves and still brings me joy.