Sunday, February 26, 2017

Not Every Happiness

“I wish you every happiness,” says a tearful mom to her adult son on TV. She’d given him up for adoption as a newborn and was only just meeting him for the first time when it became clear they would never meet again.

Every happiness. We wish it when we leave someone but still care about them. We say it at graduations and weddings, at births and milestone birthdays. 

Every parent wishes it for their child. Noah knew that. He thought happiness was his birthright.

But as his mind began to betray him, the promise of all that happiness slipped from his grasp. It got dragged out to sea by a force he couldn’t fathom or resist. Every anxiety attack stranded him further from pursuit of the promise.  I can’t see the lines/I used to think I could read between, he wrote in his notebook, quoting Brian Eno’s GoldenHours .

He whose life had been rich with friends, cousins, lovers. Riding a wave on a surfboard for the first time. Perfecting the art of pizza-making. Becoming French for a year.

But not every happiness, no. There wasn’t time in 21 years. No time to find his true love or vocation. No time to make that trip to Berlin or to build a family of his own.

Every happiness --who gets that, anyway? We get at least a shot at it. Noah forfeited the game at barely quarter-time. 

This is what crushes me: that a young man who seemed poised for so much happiness died in shame and despair and will never get another shot. That he couldn’t hold on long enough to recover his stride, and I couldn’t help him. That my husband and I lost out on naches from Noah, Yiddish for the unique gratification that comes from watching your child grow into a full and fulfilling life.

To my fellow suicide loss survivors: Where did your lost one find happiness? How did the two of you enjoy life in the years you had?


  1. Dear Mourning Mom,

    Every happiness. These words seem so carefree and hopeful. After losing my son, Paul, two years ago, I often reflect back on when he did seem truly happy. My thoughts always lead me to just two things in his life that I believe brought him good feelings and a light heart. Paul was an amazing and truly gifted jazz trumpet player and earned a scholarship to the New School in NYC. He loved the freedom of jazz improv and really connected with his audience. His soft melodic notes could melt your heart and his higher, more anguished sounds could squeeze a bit of pain into your soul. He loved being a musician but unfortunately became disillusioned with the idea of "making it" in music.

    Paul also found great pleasure in biking. He did not own a car and rarely used public transportation. He rode a
    fixed gear bike (no brakes!) and never wore a helmet. He would ride all through Brooklyn and Manhattan I'm sure weaving in and out of traffic. I would worry constantly about him getting seriously hurt. He was reckless and in constant motion, he was free, and he loved it!

    In the few years before in died, we started a Mother's Day ritual that we planned on celebrating every year together. Just the two of us. We would meet at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and spend the day enjoying the beautiful gardens and then have lunch on the outdoor patio. Paul was not particularly into gardens but he was patient and I think it made him happy that I was happy. How I miss him next to me, sitting on a bench in the warm May sunshine, simply being together.

    Sending love to all who have lost,

    1. Hello Jean, I'm reviewing comments from a while ago and can't recall if I responded to you? I know you've written before on the blog and hope you are well. Paul sounds like a passionate guy who was fully immersed in the things he loved. It may not feel like enough to us as parents, but I guess that's the definition of a life well lived. I hope the memory of you and Paul at the gardens, just being together, brings you comfort. Take good care, Susan