I had a ‘suicide’ drawer in my dresser. When Toby died I accumulated all manner of upsetting papers and documents. The first was an ‘Interim certificate of death’. Imagine going to open the post and seeing ‘Toby Thorn’ ‘Asphyxiation’ and ‘Death’ leaping off the page and stabbing you in the heart.
Toby Thorn, my beautiful boy, my son – seeing in black and white official confirmation of what I had been told but was still struggling to absorb, was just almost too much to bear.
I also received a police report, witness statements from the coroner and had property returned by the police. Later I had a post mortem report, letters from Barclays Bank and Student finance, and newspaper cuttings that reported that the body of a 23 year old young man was found in a field.
One by one these went into the ‘suicide drawer’. I didn’t want to destroy them, for some strange reason I thought I might need them, for what I don’t know.
I went from wanting to know nothing about how my son died, to wanting to torture myself with every gruesome detail. How could I sit there and read through a post mortem report without it finishing me off? I felt I needed to know, I don’t know what it achieved but maybe by confronting these horrors head on I faced up to it, I didn’t let it finish me, I confronted it instead of denying it, maybe that helped me in the long run.
As the months went on, I started to rebuild my life. My Dad was gone now too, so I set out on a path to recovery of some sort. To all intents and purposes I had a normal life now. A job, a routine, a life of sorts.
All the while the horrors sat there in the ‘suicide drawer’. I couldn’t decide whether to throw all the documents out, something was still resisting. A friend gave me an idea. So I decanted the contents of the ‘suicide drawer’ into a large shoe box. I covered the shoe box with ‘Toy Story’ wrapping paper and added some rose petals, a picture of Toby and a few mementoes and I put it away down in the cellar of my house and forgot about it.
Just recently I have been struggling with feeling low and missing Toby. Sometimes well-meaning people will tell me I have to ‘get over’ losing Toby and ‘put it behind me’. Of course I will never get over losing Toby but it did make me think about drawing a line between the awfulness of how he died and the wonderful memories of the person he was and still is to me.
So I will try to put behind me how he died. It was not a good or noble death, no one to blame but Toby and his illness which was depression. He succumbed to this insidious disease like hundreds of other beautiful young souls do each year.
I want to focus on his life. I want to keep that memory alive, his beautiful soul and how he enriched my life and all the people he knew.
So I decided to hold a ceremony yesterday. I went into the cellar and got out the box. I pulled out each horrible document and some I read one last time. I don’t ever need to read them again. I made a bonfire in my garden in a large flowerpot lined with foil, and tossed each tortuous page into the flames and watched each one burn. I took the ashes to Perranuthnoe beach and tossed them into the wind and the sea and watched the waves wash away the horror of his death.
I won’t ever have to open that box again and confront the gruesome details of his death. I have filled it with pictures and mementoes so it is now a happy memory box. It is time to let go of the horror of the death and move to a place where I can remember his life and not how he died.
It felt symbolic and I expect some things to change as a result. My son fell asleep in a field when he was 23, that’s all. The memories of coroners, police reports and inquests all gone up in smoke, and it is these memories I will get over and put behind me, not the memories of my beautiful boy.
” Fire Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.