Kevin was seven when he came to live with us. At that time, we thought we were keeping him short-term while his mother, Gwen, worked on recovering from her drug addiction.
However, Gwen wouldn't stay in rehab. One night, she came to our house and insisted on seeing Kevin as we were tucking him in bed. Gwen was irrational and upset and feeling bad about not being a good Mom. She insisted on Kevin going with her, and she took him without even giving him time to put his shoes on. We were so upset and worried about Kevin being on the streets barefoot and in his pajamas (since she was currently on the run after a fight with her boyfriend) that we called friends from our church. They ended up finding them and putting Gwen and Kevin in a hotel for the night. The next day, they took Gwen to another drug rehab place.
But, she didn't stay there, either.
At that time, before legal custody and adoption, we had no legal rights to keep Kevin. As Gwen bounced back and forth from wanting him with us and wanting him with her, we finally came to the agonizing conclusion that being "caught in the middle" wasn't the best thing for Kevin. That was why, after living with us about three months, we chose a day that would be Kevin's last day with us before he moved back with Gwen.
Although we knew Gwen had agreed for us to still see Kevin on the weekends and to take him to church with us, we all knew life wouldn't be the same. Gwen re-enrolled Kevin in the public school down close to their apartment and we prepared for Kevin's last day at the Christian school where Philip and I both taught. We were thinking this was a forever-move and our hearts were very heavy. We had no way of knowing that Gwen would be arrested a few weeks later and Kevin would come back to live with us.
Kevin and I were in classrooms right next to each other. He was in first grade and I was the second grade teacher. I loved the daily updates from my friend who was his kind and patient teacher. She would tell me about his funny mispronunciations, show me his beautiful coloring pages, and entertain me with stories about the unexpected things he did.
I remember how we both laughed so hard the day she told me about Kevin suddenly taking over the class near the end of school that day. He stood up, walked to the front of the classroom and began telling all the other students what to do. He called them row by row to clear their desks, pack up their belongings and to line up to go home. She said she just sat there watching him for awhile-amazed that the other children were obeying him and doing what he asked! After a few minutes, she called Kevin over and asked why he was doing her job and he said "I wanted to know what it felt like to be in charge." Ah, yes, Kevin did love to be the one calling the shots!
But on that last day for Kevin to be at our school that fall, we weren't laughing as we looked at his coloring page. Instead of his usual vibrant coloring page, Kevin had taken one crayon and scribbled over the entire page.
The color black.
Kevin wasn't able to verbalize his emotions to us.
He hadn't been able to explain the turmoil in his heart of wanting to live with us and yet being so conflicted out of loyalty to his birth mother.
He hadn't a clue of how to describe the helplessness he felt as he longed for his mother to be healthy and whole and for him to have a normal childhood, rather than the very troubled one he was living.
He couldn't vocalize the swirling emotions he lived with daily.
But on this last day in our home and school, he didn't have to say a single word for us to understand the dark and heavy sadness in his heart.
He let the black crayon say it for him. Today, I need a black crayon, too.
There is no way to vocalize the feelings as the month of February begins and Kevin's birthday approaches. February the third should be a day to celebrate his 35th birthday. It should be the day we acknowledge another year of his life on earth.
Instead, he is not here any longer.
When I think about his sadness and attachment disorder and PTSD (from his time in the army) and his depression and his final step in taking his own life, I just want to color my world black.
There is no beauty in it.
There is no way to make it pleasant.
Kevin could still be alive, but he is not.
This year his birthday feels like a ominous cloud instead of a celebration.
I can't put a bow on this and make it a pretty package.
Suicide doesn't leave a silver lining.
So those of us who loved him will cry. We will be sad. We will have a lump in our throat. We will wish things hadn't turned out this way. We will wonder why there wasn't a different ending to his story here on earth. We will grieve.
We will identify with the in the laments in the Bible.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. (Psalm 130:1)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1&2
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Psalm 42
But even though we may cry in anguish, we will also cling hard to the truth of a Comforter who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.
We won't pretend this ugly reality is pretty, but we will receive grace where we see it during this dark and heavy time.
We won't cut off our conversations with our Creator.
We will wonder what people do who find themselves in this very sad place if they don't know the Heavenly Father they can turn to.
We will wish that everyone knew the good news of a Rescuer who came to administer love to hurting and broken people like us.
We step into this month only because we know He goes before us and He is the only One who can bring any hope in a world colored black.