Last night Weston and I finally had the talk. I’ve waited for him to come to me, knowing in his time and in his way, he would. I’ve watched him be so incredibly strong these past 5 months and I’ve hurt for him, knowing that underneath the strength was immense pain and confusion. How could there not be?
There have been moments watching him that I’ve ached to be invited into that pain and confusion, and there have been moments that I invited myself in. I’ve tried to catch a glimpse of how this traumatic event in his life has changed how he sees himself and the world around him, and if I’m honest, to comfort myself as a mother that I was doing everything I possibly could to keep him from falling into his brother's grave.
The timing of this inevitable conversation came when I was wrestling with my own emotions. I could feel the pain welling up as if it were, at any minute, going to take over. On this particular night, I had resigned myself to letting it, if only for a short while, so it would stop threatening me. My head knows what my heart refuses to believe, and I was going to start the delicate process of convincing my heart of the truth. I feared the pain and I feared the looming pit of sadness, but it had to be done. I spent two days preparing myself for this conversation and I was ready for the brutality of it. I knew it had to be done, so bring it on and let’s get this over with was my mentality. I had no idea that a phone conversation with my sweet boy was how it would happen, nor did I expect it to be as gentle as it was.
He was at his dad's so I called to see how his day at school was. Poor guy had been given a form to fill out and one of the questions was “how many siblings do you have?” He asked me how he was supposed to answer that. I told him the distance between him and Hagen would never change the fact that they were brothers, and asked him how he answered, curious to know how he handled that situation. He has 3 brothers, including Hagen, and one sister, so when he told me he put down 6, I was immediately confused and doubted my sanity as I counted on my fingers to 4. He kicked that gut punch of a question in the teeth when, not only did he include Hagen, he added Tyler (Hagen’s love) as a sister and his best friend, Derrick as a brother. He didn’t lose one, he gained two. That’s victory, folks, and my heart swelled. What an amazing glimpse into how he was handling his loss.
The question that came next was the hard one. The complicated question with the complicated answer.
WHY DID GOD LET HAGEN DIE?
My answer came with the hard truth. His brother died because he was doing drugs. Was it fair? No. Did God let it happen? Hagen isn’t here, so the answer to that is yes. Did God want it to happen? The answer to that is no. Did God give up on Hagen and throw in the towel? Had Hagen gone so far in the wrong direction that he just wasn’t worth fighting for? No and no. Did God try repeatedly to keep Hagen from that place of darkness and pain? He absolutely did. He used every person that loved him throughout his life, myself included. He tried. We tried. His love never diminished and neither did ours.
Explaining free will in a fallen world to anyone is difficult, so when the question, why did God let him use drugs in the first place came next, I said a quick prayer and dove off into the choices we have every day, and how the enemy delights in tempting us to make the worst possible ones we can. How he uses smoke and mirrors, lies and deception to twist pain and confusion and exploit love, hope and acceptance.
I didn’t know if I was getting through to him, and I feared that it was just too much for him to comprehend, so I drove over to his dad’s to take him for a ride because I needed to see his face. A mom can always tell how their baby is by looking at them. He didn’t look good when he got in and I was desperate to say something that would comfort him. I knew he was mad at God, and I told him that was ok because God knew why he was mad and understood completely. I wanted him to see that he hadn’t been abandoned, and that this God that took his brother took no joy in the pain that it caused those of us left behind.
I asked Weston to consider that maybe Hagen leaving us was less about him and more about us. I asked him to consider alife with a brother that wouldn’t be able to defeat addiction. A brother, that while still breathing, would be nothing more than the walking dead wasting away in front of our eyes. A brother so sick that he would no longer see the people that loved him or the pain that he caused us. A brother who, although he wanted nothing more than to be a dad, would inflict the pain of abandonment on the very thing he loved the most. I asked him to consider that God saw all of that and how hard Hagen was fighting to keep from being that, and had mercy on all of us by putting an end to our collective suffering. I told him that if given the choice, I would choose this pain over that pain. Neither are easy, but on this side of burying his brother there is peace and purpose and any suffering we do on this side is by choice. We have each other. He has a large loving family, including his 6 siblings, and we’ve got a baby due to make his appearance soon and a life full of amazing things ahead of us. There’s no room for suffering.
An amazing thing happened in that conversation. My son gained a new perspective and a different way to look at his loss and I had the talk with my heart that I had been dreading. That conversation was full of hard painful truths, but the beautiful truths that were revealed brought healing to both of us, and we drove around for another hour laughing and talking about Hagen. That was another victory for the day and my heart, while still hurting, gained some understanding and the part of my heart that belongs to a beautiful 16 year old boy smiled.
We get to choose what to do with this life and we’ll do it together, missing his brother, loving each other, fighting for those affected by this epidemic, and laughing every chance we get. A life of purpose and love.
Best. Life. Ever.
Best. Conversation. Ever.