People have often said to me during this first year without Hans, “Jennifer, I just can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
Yes, they can imagine. They just don’t like to, and if they do imagine it, they certainly don’t like it. A year ago I remember being on the other side, when my family was complete. We all loved each other. Hans and Zatha liked coming home. They were proud to introduce us as their parents. They loved each other and we had fun when we were together, just the four of us. We weren’t estranged from each other. Things were so right. We were a whole family.
I remember thinking regularly of my family and friends whose child had died, feeling sad for them, crying for them, hurting with them, because I did not like imagining how it must feel. I prayed regularly for my children’s lives, hoping that God could see that they were, would be, ARE good in the world. The pressure of mainstream, Google-accessible, self-translated religion tells us we MUST pray. And if we don’t, well, something will happen to teach us the lesson we supposedly need to learn. So I was grateful, truly grateful for my life and my family’s wholeness. I certainly could imagine the utter horribleness of your child dying; I just hoped, thought, and prayed it would never happen to me.
We had a large wall in our dining room in Idaho Falls. We ended up filling it with 8.5” by 11” sheets of paper, each with one unique quote printed on it. We would add a quote to the wall when we found one that was inspirational. We had friends and family propose quotes to display, and the family would convene to determine if the quote was worthy of the wall. We ended with about 45 quotes up there. The first was, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second one read, “Pray not for an easy life. Pray for strength.” Well, we certainly need that one now.
Because then it happened. And it happened quickly. The back kicktail of the skateboard came in contact with the rear wheel of the Jeep, then in less than 1/100th of a second it was flipped upward, its rear truck crushed into the asphalt. Hans kept his forward motion, and gravity brought him to the ground. The same rear tire ran over his head. The helmet he was wearing couldn’t protect him, and he died his first time. His friend brought his heart back to life, but it is an amazing muscle and doesn’t really need the brain, Hans’s crushed brain, to work. He died his second time a week later, one year ago on this date, March 29.
I still say to myself what must be the usual sayings of a mother whose child has died. It’s not supposed to happen to him, to me, to us. It’s not fair. Hans was awesome. We were awesome. We appreciated and loved each other. People continue to say (and I still can’t stand it) that everything happens for a reason, we must learn the lesson, that it’s all part of His plan. It hurts to believe that people, when they see me, might be thinking, “There’s the mother of a dead child. Wonder what she did to deserve this. I’m glad that’s part of her plan and not mine.”
I have a hard time reconciling my deep grief – wanting the world to grieve with me because Hans was such a wonderful human – and keeping it in perspective. Each one of us will be affected by death in our lifetime, and each of us will die. The circumstances of death are different, and yes, many are worse than others. Each person and family is different. Grieving is different. But the end result is the same. The person I love is dead.
And so I admit it. I am jealous. Jealous that all of you who read this, and the billions who will never read this, are alive. I want Hans to be alive. But I also don't want to be consumed by anger and bitterness and jealousy. I’d always tell the kids that jealousy (coveting), is, in my opinion, the worst emotion or sin because it propels the rest of the evils into action – theft, murder, disrespect. I have a daily struggle now with my jealousy. Because, for the rest of my life, Hans is dead. And dead is so damn final; written in stone, as they say.
It is true that really all people will remember about you is how you made them feel. I know I never was, and never will be, perfect in that way. People have odd ways of interpreting others based on their own beliefs, thoughts, and perceptions, but I work hard every day, still trying to live my life in a positive way, albeit with less confidence and peace now; to live it pleasantly, graciously, thankfully (for what I still do have – a wonderful, loving husband, a beautiful, hard-working daughter, loving and supportive family and friends), and with honor – to honor those who are still living in the world with me, especially our sweet, amazing Zatha, and for those who have died before me, especially our sweet, amazing Hans.
Hans’s life has been marked on his gravestone with two dates and a dash. He made the most of his dash. I’m trying to continue making the most of mine, trying to imagine it full and happy and peaceful again. Think about “What’s in your dash?” as you watch this video we made to mark our first year without Hans. Then I dare you to make the most of your dash, make it as badass as Hans’s.https://vimeo.com/123530698