Aug. 28, 2018 - Since first becoming pregnant with my four-year-old son Keaton, I had dreaded the day he would ask me about my mom. I had dreaded having to explain how this marvelous women who I knew had loved me more than anything decided to take her life.
How would I say she left me, but that I won’t leave him? How would I explain suicide in a way that would be appropriate for his age? I didn’t think of it often, but at times, a fear would come over me about when the conversation would happen. I hadn’t avoided it, but also hadn’t felt it was time to talk about it yet. My husband Matthew and I had taken him along with us to AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks, and I’d often expected him to ask then – but there we usually focused on wanting everyone to know they aren’t alone.
One week recently we were fortunate to have Matthew’s mom in town. I always joke it is like having Mary Poppins here when she comes! Matthew had the day off and the two of them spent the day cleaning out boxes of old papers. As I was sitting answering some emails that night, with Keaton playing across the table, Matthew handed me a black spiral notebook he had found. I opened it and immediately recognized my mom’s handwriting.
Seeing it took my breath away. As I read different entries, I realized it was her journal from the summer before she died.
My mother had made an attempt at the end of May that year, and spent about six weeks in a day treatment program. This journal contained her thoughts from each day. One page talked about how much she loved my sister and me.
I struggled not to start crying as I flipped through the pages. I read the words, but it had been years since my mind was so vividly brought back to the months before my mother had decided to take her life. I lived with her those months. It was just the two of us. Each day, she would go to counseling and journal her experience. She would then read me her words.
Reading those same words 20 years later was a different experience. The second page of the journal discussed how she knew how much I worried about her and lived in fear that she would do something. Further entries continued to reflect on how she needed to be the mom, and to let me be the kid.
Matthew walked into the room. I told him the journal was my mom’s.
Keaton, who was sitting there, looked up at me and said, “Who is your mom?”
I think I may have gasped.
I said, “Her name was Cecilia.”
He then asked, “Do you miss her?”
I said, “Yes, I do.”
He then asked the question I had so long dreaded. “What happened to her?”
I replied, “Her head was very sick.”
Keaton then asked – using a word he normally referred to when he had allergies and his head felt funny – whether my mother’s head had been “wobbly.”
“It was much worse than being wobbly.”
“Can I see a picture of her?”
“Absolutely,” I said.
As I was searching for a photo, I explained how he reminded me of her.
He said, “I do?!”
I explained that he is left handed, and so was she.
Keaton got a huge smile on his face.
I then showed him a dated picture of myself, my mom, and my sister from when I was in high school. He didn’t recognize my sister, and laughed at my glasses.
Keaton and I then both went on with what we were doing.
A few minutes later, he said, “Mom, can I tell you something?”
I told him of course.
He said, “I love you.”
In that moment, I suddenly felt both closer than ever before and yet so far away, from my mother.
I see more of her in Keaton than I can explain, but it was his reaction to the conversation I had dreaded for so long that reminded me the most of her in him. He loved me, and he cared about my feelings. These two things were the epitome of my mother.
The conversation I had dreaded the most, ended up being the most beautiful moment with my precious son yet.
A version of this post originally appeared on Amy Grosso’s personal blog.