I received the following from Michael Mayette who is a friend of a grieving dad. He wanted me to share his perspective as someone that has supported his friend. I found it powerful to read his words and feel the compassion and unfiltered love that he offers.
I too was lucky enough to have a dear friend that helped me through those very dark days. He would take my calls anytime and no matter what he was doing. He would even call me if he didn’t hear from me in a couple of days and stop by just to check in on me. He even offered to help me finish my basement when I decided I needed to take on a “therapy project” at my home. Often times we wouldn’t get a lot done, but it allowed me to laugh and cry with my dear friend who was never taken back or scared away by the intensity of the pain that would flow from me.
Thank you to my friend Brent for always being there for me and thank you to Mike Mayette for sharing his thoughts below:
“I Will Not Abandon You”
My wife and I read about the death of Steve and Laurie House’s son Christian on the front page of the local paper the morning after it occurred. We immediately called them and asked in disbelief if it were true? Christian had just turned thirteen years old a few months earlier. A few days later his death was ruled a suicide. We never believed it. We never will. We’ll always believe it was an accident. Christian’s death evoked an enormous outpouring of sympathy from the community. His funeral, although respectful, had an air of spectacle to it as it was attended by hundreds of his teachers and classmates and many of Steve and Laurie’s business colleagues and the general public.
Steve has been a good friend of mine for almost thirty years. I remember how excited he was when he learned he was going to be a Dad. He’s one of these guys that has “Dad” written all over him. He was crushed by the death of his son. I told him at Christian’s wake, “You will survive this. I will be there whenever you call. I will not abandon you. Only you can abandon me.”
It’s been just over two years now since Christian’s death. Steve and I speak several times each week. In the early days, we spoke once, maybe twice a day, often for hours on end. In those early days I would listen as he poured his heart out over and over trying to find a way to grasp his immeasurable grief in the loss of his beloved son; and each time we ended our conversation I would tell him that I loved him and that I would be there when he called again.
It’s only been just over two years now. I have watched Steve struggle each day with his grief. I have watched as he has carried himself with a dignity and courage that I can only hope I would possess if I were ever in his shoes in both his bad days and during his good ones. But I have also watched as that huge tidal wave of support he and his family experienced in those early weeks after Christian’s death has slowly ebbed away. After the first six months, one of Steve’s friends was heard to comment, “It’s been six months, you should be over it by now.” After eighteen months, another of his friends was heard to say, “You are broken, you need professional help.” These comments were made because the old person Steve had been and they had known had not yet returned and apparently was never coming back.
I have talked to some of Steve’s other friends and they have sheepishly told me that they haven’t talked to him since Christian’s funeral simply because “They don’t know what to say.” So they have said nothing. My reply to them has been that all they have done in saying nothing is deepened the dark and desperate grief and loneliness he feels; for in addition to losing Christian; he has also suffered the loss of the support of those friends he loved as well. So I tell them, “Tell Steve you don’t know what to say and begin there. But if you truly love him…don’t abandon him!”
It’s been over two years now. Only…. I have watched and listened as my beloved friend has wept an ocean of tears. Yet so few of his other friends have dared themselves to swim in that lonely ocean with him. I have watched him wander helplessly in an undiscovered country; a cruel wilderness of emotions few men will ever be cursed to know; and so I have chosen to wander beside him. Yet so few of his friends have had the courage of Spirit to even acknowledge that he wanders there still. In many ways Steve and Laurie are a parent’s worst nightmare. But they must live that nightmare day by day.
Steve called me again today. He thinks he has been a burden to me. He thinks all he has done is take from me in his grief. He says this just about every time he calls, almost as if he were apologizing to me for being my friend. As if somehow he has failed me in our friendship. We talked about his son. I reminded him once more that I would never abandon him or our friendship. I reassured him that in a world where nothing else seems real, our friendship is, and always will be; and that he has not failed me in it. And I tell him over and over that as a father, he did not fail his child.
What Steve does not know and perhaps never will, is that I feel I truly have been blessed to have met and befriended him. In knowing him, it has been my great fortune in life to have witnessed one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching testaments to love that I have ever known. One that is beyond any measure, deeper than any ocean on God’s green earth. And having witnessed it, I learned and now I know, truly, for the first time in my life, how much I love my children. I learned and now I know how truly blessed I am. And I only learned these things because of what Steve has taught me in the infinite depth and absolute purity of his grief in the loss of his child. What Steve does not know is that I would not have missed a single moment of this journey beside him. Nor would I begrudge him a single tear in all that I have shed myself in my sorrow for him. Nor would I ever have thought to abandon him to walk alone in his hellish, anguished, solitary quest for peace had I been offered all the stars in Heaven as payment for what Steve himself my lesson paid.