“Where are his shoelaces?” I wondered.
The officer pulled the door open and gave me a look of pity.
I slid across the back seat and it hit me…
Of course. They confiscated his shoelaces just in case…
“So, can I take him home now?” I had asked, nearly four hours earlier.
I didn’t know then that suicide attempts are automatically admitted into the Psychiatric Center.
“For like, a 24-hour period or something?”
“No, ma’am. For at least 3 days. He won’t have contact with you or anyone for the first day or so. After that, you might be able to call.”
The sobbing was coming, I could feel it. But it would have to wait. Right now, I had to hold it together for these last few minutes. But what do you do with a four-minute drive to a Psychiatric Center? What do you say while riding in the back seat of a police car with your suicidal son?
What’s safe when shoelaces aren’t?
I reached across the black vinyl and held his hand. I tried to squeeze all of my love and regret into his palm. He gripped it all tight.
So, there we were. Mother who bore life and son who tried to take it, holding hands in the dark… wishing it all away. Praying the wheels of the car would turn. Begging for the hands of time to reverse.
But the building lights broke through the window and splattered across our laps, our clenched hands, and his scared face. And I never hated the light more.
My squinting eyes were really a grimace as my stomach wrenched and my throat burned. It’s true that grief and fear can make you sick, and I was experiencing my first symptoms.
But all I wanted to do was pull my son away from all of these florescent bulbs, white, shiny floors, and soft-speaking professionals. Every fiber of my being wanted to wrap my arms around his broad, trembling shoulders for days.
But it was clear that the comforting time was long gone. So I swallowed my pride and filled out the paperwork.
Giving my permission for other people to watch over him. Signing my name as the one responsible …
Yes, I’m the one who’s son tried to swallow a bottle of pills.
Yes, I’m the one who was clueless about the pain under her own roof
Yes, I’m the one who wouldn’t have thought to take away his shoelaces…
I signed and printed when I wanted to be holding him. I listened to directions when I wanted to be telling him everything would be okay. I pushed papers when I wanted to pull us both away from that night forever.
Finally, the door buzzed and we had to say goodbye. I tried to speak, but my throat denied it. So I held him until one of the whispering people pried us apart.
“I love you, mom. I’m so sorry. I’ll be okay.”
Then he was gone.
I stood there holding a bag of his belongings: wallet, phone, belt, and shoelaces… and sent him to a place where I never thought he’d belong.
It hurts like hell to swallow the truth.
Someone buzzed me out and I stepped out under the dawning sky. I don’t know how long I spent there, nauseous, unable to stand, and wrecked with sobs.
But God met me in that whispering place:
Three days is all I needed to bring life from death. I can bring hope out of nowhere – in three days.
Those whispers brought a moment of calm and new realizations:
My son will be cared for in ways I could never do myself.
The right words will be said, even if I’m not the one who says them.
Three days can make a difference, even where I can’t be.
Finally, the third sun rose and the waiting was over. We all hugged as long as we wanted, talked better than we ever had, and circled around a new hope. There was much work to be done, but the stone was rolled away, and it felt like Easter.
My son came home, laced up his shoes, and started his long walk down the road of healing.
And I learned that in the worst of times, God can use a son’s whisper to deliver hope to a mother and shoestrings to lace up broken hearts.
…in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Romans 4:17
Because of the private nature of this testimony, I’ve allowed the writer to remain anonymous in order to protect her precious son and family. The writer has been looking for a safe place to share this story and this community seemed like the space God provided. Our prayer is that everyone who reads it will know they are not alone in the hard places of life and that God can heal anything and anyone.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers education, advocacy, and support for those who have been affected by suicide. Learn more about suicide prevention at their site where you can also search for a local chapter in your area.
If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
This is the 40th post in Testimony Tuesday: Women who inspire. Click HERE to read all of the other posts in this series. Now it’s your turn to link up your story of how God is working in your life. ________________________________________________________________________________________
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