A dear friend sent an email to me on September 12th, which reaffirmed my gut feeling that I had something worth fighting for. Here are some excerpts to give you a flavor of her sentiment:
"I was [glancing through] an article...when I read the following. My next immediate thought was of you and Kyle.
'...It might be more accurate to call them a marriage of true minds. They're just the most wonderful and joyous couple ... You feel good when you're around them.'
I think it sums up my impression of you two before Ben's death. While it's unimaginable to ever think life could ever be so carefree again, what I do think is to have ever had such a love between a couple that could leave such an impression is such a gift in itself. [That's what some people don't understand]...where some of the amazing strength comes from .... a heart that will fight to the ends of the earth for the sake of it." (the quote she used was taken from: John Powers, "Naomi Klein on This Changes Everything, Her New Book About Climate Change," Vogue, August 26, 2014).
This message took me back to "who we were when" - not just Kyle and I but our entire family. We've found a great therapist here for the girls, one that we can have ready in the wings if anything should pop up with the girls in the future. During our last appointment, our entire family went in together and we played the card game, "Truth or Dare." My oldest daughter, K, pulled a card with a dare to imitate a runway model. She jumped off the couch, put her headband on backwards, which lifted the flowing ends of her hair up to fall down over her forehead, and strutted her stuff across the room, shaking her little bum back and forth, hand on hip, saying with her best model accent "Oh, yeah, I'm awesome." She turned to blow a kiss to her admirers. My youngest, R, jumped up to join her. We all found ourselves bent over laughing, including the therapist. Then, it was my turn. My dare was to imitate a golfer. I grabbed my putter, dropped the ball on the ground, stepped back to take aim, bent over a bit, shaking it like K had a few moments earlier, saying in my most helpless girl voice, "Oh, I just don't know how to putt...hun, can you come show me?" reminiscent of the worst "first date" movie you have ever seen. The room filled with laughter again. As we left the appointment, the therapist pulled me aside, saying "They're just great, Lindsey. Just wonderful. So funny, so happy."
We have never known how to live without laughter in our house, and we were so off-kilter for the first few months after Ben's death. There was only crying, silence, random outbursts of anger (or frustration or disbelief or an emotion for which there is no adequate word) from me to Kyle, long talks, and more silence. I didn't know if we would ever see even a glimpse of the family we used to be. And, Ben was just like the rest of us, or even more so. We were a true family of like spirits. Ben simply smiled and laughed All. The. Time.
After Kyle was charged in November and ordered (as a condition to his release) not to leave Connecticut, even over the holidays, he found himself again in a state of complete despondence, depression and loneliness. To say I worried about him moment-to-moment is an understatement. I prayed that he would just hold on long enough to come back to us. We will be eternally grateful to our friends who sheltered him and provided him with much-needed support and company during those tough weeks.
After the condition was lifted on Dec. 16th and he was able to join us here in Colorado, I noticed a slow but sure evolution take place. We hadn't seen him in over a month, so I spent those first days getting to know him again. The new him, the new us, in our new, very different life. But over time, I began to notice a joke here and there, then some more, and a few inappropriate quips flying between us as we drove down the road alone together. And, that first laugh we allowed ourselves to have together in December planted a tiny seed that has continued to grow. We now find laughter filling the house again.
I remember in the month after Ben’s death, several people told me that they worried we would never experience pure joy again. I’m posting this for you. No, we are not the same people as we were before July 7th. We never will seem carefree and "happy-go-lucky" again, but we will find joy. And, pure joy at that. For, in those random moments of laughter, our minds focus on nothing except each other and the fact that life is truly worth living, even after tragedy and loss. Time stops, if just for a second, and I stand, trancelike, mesmerized with the innocent laughter of my girls, watching their faces of glee....memories of times past sweep in, ushering me to a time and place where I can forget the hardships and grief...then my eyes blink back to reality.
We will never be the same. Ben permeates my every thought, step, and breath. But, through an honest laugh here and there, Ben is giving us permission to feel what he made us feel each day he was with us - pure joy.
You were and will always be my pure joy, my little man.