Viewpoint: Absorbing the Loss of a Son

By Barbara Gould
Special to the Palisades News

Welcome to 2018. It is a time to review events of the prior year, and I hope some events can improve in the New Year.

Clearly, one of the biggest problems in 2017 was mass shootings: the carnage in Las Vegas, the church killings in Sutherland Springs, Texas. There were also nine school shootings that left 15 dead and 18 injured. It’s impossible to understand the reasoning the shooters had. But why would someone shoot at young children? I don’t know how a parent copes with the loss of a child. But I’m about to find out— my 52-year-old son Russell had a massive heart attack and died in early December.

As the rabbi said at Russell’s funeral, the family is complicated. That was a nice way of saying what everyone in the chapel knew. My son had been estranged from us for 14 years. The last time I saw my grandsons were when they were one and three. They are now almost 16 and 18, and the older one towers over me at6’1”.

I don’t know why Russell stopped communicating with us. I don’t know what I did that made him feel as if he could no longer talk to me. I try to think of what might have caused it, but I have no idea.

I tried to get him to talk about it for several years, but to no avail. To this day I don’t know the problem, and now I won’t know. I’m sorry that he was out of my life, because I loved him and never stopped loving him.

While trying to figure out how to cope with my son’s death, I decided not to dwell on the hard times of the past 14 years. Instead I am focusing on the good ones.

Growing up, Russell did a number of things to help others. He was a Boy Scout and joined the 5 percent of Scouts who reached the rank of Eagle. He served as such a good example that his two younger brothers had no choice but to follow suit.

He was a member of our temple’s teen group. It was not just social, but they would do things such as visiting the senior center and serving meals to the homeless. He also became a Mason and served as Master of the Lodge. His brother-in-law spoke at the funeral and talked about how Russell was such a good family man. Family was very important to him.

My husband and I emphasized the importance of family as Russell was growing up, and I’m glad that he made a priority with his family.

There’s an old expression that fits what I’m going through. Take a negative and turn it into a positive—when given lemons, make lemonade.

I will now get to have a relationship with my grandsons and their mother, Lois. I asked her how I could keep in touch with Ryan and Bailey. She said “by text” and gave me all their cell numbers.

Texting isn’t my forte, but I’ve already sent each one a message, albeit a short one. Both of the boys have replied, with Ryan asking if we can meet for lunch before he goes back to school in Colorado.

As I mourn my son, I have a chance to embrace my daughter-in-law and my grandsons. I have hope for the future.

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