She worried that her late child, a former Marine, wasn’t at peace. Then she received a reassuring message from above.
Posted in , Sep 25, 2020
I’ve got to remember to call Tyler today.…The thought came to me while I was waking up, still hazy from sleep. Then I remembered—our son was gone.
It had been just more than two years since Tyler, a former Marine, had lost his battle with PTSD and taken his own life. Some days, like today, I’d still wake up thinking that it had all just been a terrible dream.
I got up and walked to the bookshelf we’d made into a small memorial for Tyler. It held items we displayed at his funeral—Marine Corps mementos, medals and a blue Bible. We’d moved to a new town and joined a different church when Tyler was 12 years old. Folks there had given him that Bible. He’d cherished it as a kid. Now I picked it up and held it to my chest.
When Tyler came home from his third tour in Afghanistan, I believed things would go back to normal. He moved in with my husband, David, and me and worked on building a life for himself. But he had trouble readjusting to civilian life. He struggled to find a meaningful job and felt as if his friends had all moved on without him. While he was away serving, they had gone to college and gotten married.
Tyler seemed so lost. He got angry easily, had nightmares and jumped at the slightest noise. I recognized these as signs of PTSD, but I didn’t know how to help him.
Eventually Tyler found an apprenticeship he loved. He was able to get his own place. I was hopeful that this was what he needed to turn things around. But then he started showing up to family gatherings with alcohol on his breath, slurring his words.
David and I organized an intervention to try to address his problems. We sat down with him and told him how much we loved him and how concerned we were, how something had to change.
“The drinking numbs my pain,” Tyler told us. “I’ve broken every single commandment, and I can’t ask God to forgive me for the things I’ve done.”
My heart broke for him. “Tyler, God loves you and could never stop loving you, no matter what.”
He shook his head. “Mom, you don’t know what I did over there. God can’t forgive me for that.”
Again and again, we tried to convince him to get professional help, but he refused. A few months after our failed intervention, David found Tyler’s body at his house.
For months, I could barely function. Losing a child to suicide is a different kind of grief. I felt guilt and shame, that I should’ve somehow known what to do to save him. That one conversation played over and over in my mind: Tyler had thought he was beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. Had my son died believing God did not love him? Lord, is my son at peace?
I put Tyler’s blue Bible back, then busied myself with my morning chores. It helped me not dwell too much. But days when I forgot for a moment that he was gone were particularly hard. It felt like losing my son all over again.
Later that afternoon, I got a text from an acquaintance of mine who lived in Florida. We’d grown up together but hadn’t really stayed close. She’d learned about Tyler’s death on Facebook.
Julia, I know we haven’t spoken in a while, she texted, but I had a dream last night I have to tell you about. I don’t know what it means.
She said that in the dream she saw several Marines, all dressed in black. All but one. He was wearing camouflage fatigues. He looked at her and stepped forward. “Tell my mom I love her,” he said.
There was something else, my friend’s text continued. He was holding something. A blue Bible.
I blinked away tears. At last I knew my son was at peace.
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