There’s nothing harder in life than outliving your child. Forget any heartbreak you think you’ve been through – nothing compares.
Karen Hale learned this the hard way when she lost her son Matthew. Like many mothers, she’d had never been fond of her son going into the army but didn’t have the heart to dissuade him from following his dreams. Matthew’s father was an army man and he wanted to be just like dad. Never mind the fact that his father was also a terrible husband and a worse father…those are the kinds of things a wife understands and a child doesn’t. Maybe that’s what made it especially hard for Karen when the men in uniform knocked at her door to give her the news: the Lord hadn’t taken her son away from her, her ex-husband had.
And then tragedy struck again. Only three years after losing Matthew, Karen got the call every parent has nightmares about. As she was in the middle of preparing lunch, the phone rang. She peered at the phone’s caller ID. “Area code 212…hmm…must be Chelsea. I hope everything’s ok” she thought. Chelsea was the good child. She was the child that played well with others and obeyed her elders. She was the child that got all A’s, got into Georgetown, then Stanford Law, then landed a prestigious corporate law job. She was everything Matthew wasn’t and deep down she was Karen’s favorite…even though Karen would never ever admit it. She and her daughter would talk from time to time but usually it was on the weekends. That’s what led her to feel a little worried. Her daughter was calling her on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of work.
“Hi Chelsea, how’s everything?” Karen answered.
“Is this Karen Hale?” a gruff, male voice tersely replied.
“Yes…who is this?”
“I’m Detective David Stark from the New York Police Department. How is Chelsea Hale related to you?”
“She’s my daughter, why?”
“Have you spoken with her recently?
“Not for about a week. What’s all of this about sir?”
“Ma’am, how quickly can you get to New York?”
He didn’t need to say another word. Karen’s heart dropped as she started to realize that something very very wrong had happened. Still, she asked “is Chelsea in some sort of trouble?”
“Ma’am, there’s no easy way to … we believe she may have taken her life this morning.”
The phone dropped from her hand and Karen stood in shock. She stared out the kitchen window, juxtaposed against the world around her. Outside, it was a beautiful day. The sky was a brilliant azure kissed by a glowing mid-day sun. The birds were dancing throughout the sky, using the crisp breeze as their playground. Inside, a storm was building and the rain began pouring. Karen began to tear up then cry then sob as she stood frozen in place. Meanwhile the phone lay on the ground as the NYPD detective tried to reach out.