Thursday, September 17, 2015

"If I Die Young"

If I die young
bury me in satin
lay me down on a bed of roses
sink me in the river at dawn 
send me away with the words of a love song
the sharp knife of a short life
I've had enough time.

The other day I heard the refrains of this song coming from Thomas's room. He had, of course, found a different version,  more suited to his taste in music and his youth. I heard the song, though, and was immediately transported back a few years to a time when a neighbor boy that was Thomas's age died tragically in a summer boating accident. I stood outside his room, leaning against the door jamb with quiet tears rolling down my face as I remembered that time all of those years ago and how grateful I had been to have my boy with me still, with his whole life ahead of him. He would have been 16 then.

Then I really started listening to the song, not as a grieving neighbor to a lost young man but as a mom with a son with schizophrenia. It began to dawn on me that this song was being played by my boy and I began to wonder why he'd chosen this song. I watched as he unloaded the parts to a new Gundam model he was getting ready to build as he sang pieces of the song and it hit me,

He's singing a song about dying young.

I wondered where his mind was in that moment. 

Was he thinking of dying?

Did he see that he'd live a short life?

We talked a little bit about the song and I told him about how it had come out just at the time that our neighbor Jonas had died and I told him how sad I had been that such a young man lost his life. Then I wondered and asked him out loud,

"Does this song make you sad?"

He stopped what he was doing for a moment and simply said,


My heart dropped and I couldn't find any words to push the conversation any further. All I could think to say, and I did say it, was,

"Kiddo, if you start feeling like you want to die will you let me know?"

He promised me he would and I stayed in the door jamb to finish out the song and watch my beautiful boy.

The whole thing hit me pretty hard because just a day or so before, my mom and I had been having a conversation about my own death and about what family heirlooms would be passed on to Thomas. I had asked Thomas if he wanted anything from the family and he really didn't. Knowing that, it caused me to think about what would happen in the days and weeks after my death as Thomas began a life without me. Both my mom and I didn't know how he would survive. He has nobody to turn to, perhaps a friend would step up and take him in, but I have no idea. 

Then my mom voiced the one thing nobody wants to say but that a small piece of me thinks about. Would it be better if Thomas preceded me in death? I'm not talking about him ending his own life or God forbid him dying young at all but would it be better for him to live a relatively long life but find his way to heaven before me? With this illness you just never know. I never know if tomorrow he'll wake up and the voices will be back. I never know if he'll become so paranoid that he can't leave the house or if, God forbid, he becomes delusional and believes I am his enemy in some way. We all know the potential for this illness and we all, as caregivers, don't want to leave our loved ones to have to cope with the worst of the illness, alone.

I don't know. I just really don't know.

Most importantly here, though, is that Thomas has now become attached to a song that concerns me deeply. He loves music and he's cognizant of it's messages and I worry that this song, "If I Die Young", will somehow stick inside of him and cause him to think too deeply about his life and his death. 

Ever since the day I stood in the entrance to his room and listened to that song and cried quiet tears, I haven't been able to get the thought of losing my boy out of my head. I just don't know what I would do. He is my life. Yes, my life. He is my only child and he has been with me for almost 21 years now.

I don't want to lose him.

1 comment:

  1. I have an eight year old with autism. I know this fear. I recently asked some other parents of autistic children, "Do we love them too much?" It feels like clinging sometimes, like desperation, because it is. "Losing" a child means more than one thing to us. I remember the initial diagnosis, as you probably do. My son died that day, the one I thought I knew. Then healing began in fits and starts, two steps forward, one step back, that kind of thing. We don't want to lose our gains, lose our footing, our idea of "normal." But on the bright side, I've noticed that every new gain or typical day feels like my son has been resurrected, again and again. And I totally get "He is my life." I eat, sleep and breathe Julian. Peace to you.


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