August 10th 2013 was the 23rd anniversary of Joshua’s death.
It was the first time in 23 long, sometimes agonizingly long years, that his death was not the first thing I thought about when I opened my eyes.
It was the first time in 23 years where I didn’t wake up thinking about exactly what I was doing at that moment in time, 23 years prior.
It was the first time in 23 years that I didn’t play back the events of that day, like some sort of morbid VCR permanently set to “rewind” on the same day each year – so that I’d mentally relive each and every minute of that day.
It was the first time in 23 years where I didn’t spend time wondering if the man who hit and killed Joshua was doing the same thing, and hating him a little bit more if I let myself believe that he wasn’t playing the same mental anguish Olympics that I was.
Can I admit something to you that I’ve not admitted to another soul on the face of the earth, or even to God? Well, I suppose God knows, because if he’s there, he knows it all anyhow (and oddly enough, I’m starting to lean towards believing he is there and that he does care) but the point is, outside of my own head, I’ve not told anyone else this, not even the slightest whisper. Not even Gareth.
I can’t remember the name of the man who found himself driving along on that dark road, and hit and killed my son, after Joshua wandered into the road.
If he’s reading this, I want to say this to him directly . . .
I don’t know why you were driving while your license was suspended. Nor do any of us really know whether alcohol was involved or not. Nothing changes the outcome. All of our lives were forever changed that night, 23 years ago. It doesn’t even anger me anymore – your callous response when Joshua’s father and I phoned you in 1993 and asked why you never bothered to show up at the funeral or offered any sort of condolences. None of it, not any of the anger, the relentless questions about that night and you – none of it matters. It wouldn’t change things for any of us.
I can’t remember your name, and the fact that I can’t remember your name has to be significant. I hung onto it for so many years and used it as an excuse to be hateful, vile, and miserable. At one point I thought about getting it tattooed on my body so that I’d never forget the person responsible for ripping that beautiful boy out of my life. I don’t even like tattoos, but having a tattoo of your name was something tangible that I could hang onto and look at when I needed a reminder of the reason for every single thing that was wrong with me.
And then? Then it dawned on me that I don’t remember your name and I don’t care that I can’t remember it. I’m not even making an active effort to recall your name, or anything about you. For all I know, you could be dead. I remember how I’d torture myself late at night in the year following Joshua’s death; laying there wondering where you were the night he died. Were you watching our family and the minute-by-minute flurry of activity while we waited and wondered whether Joshua would survive the massive head injuries from where your pickup truck slammed into him? I used to spend far too much time questioning whether our loss inflicted any sort of pain on you?
The point? Well, the point is, over the last year, I’ve grown up. Finally. I’ve done a lot of emotional, internal work on myself and realized that maybe, for a time, all that anger served a useful purpose, and hanging onto it protected me from other things in my life I wasn’t ready to deal with. Now though? I don’t need it or want it. I’m not saying that the loss of my son isn’t still painful. It always will be. It’s just that I no longer need to wear his death around my neck like some gruesome monument to grief, and ultimately, forever being a victim to that grief.
August 10th, 2013 was the first time in 23 years that I woke up and knew it was time to forgive you.
I forgive you.
I forgive you.
I forgive you.
Joshua was, and will always remain a beautiful little boy with huge sparkly brown eyes, curly blonde hair, an adorable smile that melted everyone around him, and an infectious little giggle that radiated over his entire body. He’ll always and forever be my son. Nothing will ever, could ever, take that away from me. For too long the anger over how he died and the fact that he died has clouded the memory of the beautiful little boy that he was and will always remain. I spent too much time remembering how he looked in his tiny little satin-lined coffin, with make-up covering his bruises, and mascara coating his eyelashes, and that God-awful huge wrapping over his head to cover the parts that were missing. For far too many years I tried to picture you that way in my head. That wasn’t healthy or helpful and years later I find myself trying to undo all the internal damage – and to a huge degree, external damage, that mental imagery like that caused me, and subsequently, to those around me. In the end, it didn’t change anything.
I forgive you.
Hating you took up too much space in my head and pushed to the back, other things, more important things, that should have taken priority in my life. No one is to blame for that but me.
I forgive you.
Wishing you dead, wishing for you to feel some degree of the pain I felt, that Joshua felt, wasn’t emotionally healthy in the least, and in the long run, served no useful purpose other than a means for me to spit out more hateful venom. Looking back, I think it was also morally repugnant to a certain degree, to wish that kind of misery on someone else. Everyone has a parent and I’d never wish this kind of pain on another parent, no matter who they were. I’m not sure what gave me the right to wish that kind of pain on you. Losing a child doesn’t give anyone any sort of moral high ground to stand on. It just gives those of us who go through it, a huge hole in our hearts and souls. For some of us, anger and hate fill the void left by the loss of our child. I’m sorry for all the hate and negative energy that I intentionally put out, in your direction. For all I know, you were dealing with your own internal demons. I’m sure your own life hasn’t been the same since that night on August 10th, 1990.
I hope you’ll forgive me for all of the hate.