Legacy of Love

Legacy of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

Legacy of Love

On November 29, 1999, our son Jarod ended his life. With his death our world changed forever. What followed this tragic loss was an incredibly difficult journey, as our family was plunged into an abyss of grief.

We had no concept, until then, what grief really was and how difficult a journey it could be. In the beginning, it was hard just to get through a day; the four of us were all grieving at different points. Our home was in total chaos. We didn’t know how to help each other, because we were so wrapped up in our own grief, not realizing that, as a family, this process would be ongoing for the rest of our lives!

In the beginning, it was as if we were suspended in time. The situation was unbelievably devastating. It was extremely difficult to focus on the simplest of details, as our thoughts were constantly of our loss.

As time goes on, we have found that the bouts of immense sadness have come further apart and for shorter periods of time. We are learning to deal with the void that Jarod’s death has left in our lives.

Often, the stigma of suicide rests heavily on those left behind. Who are we to judge? We feel our reaction as a society should be one of love, not judgment. Is it fair that all the kind acts and good impressions of our son be forgotten and blotted out by his final, tragic act? This is terribly sad. Jarod was a very kindhearted and caring young man. There were no warnings of any kind, resulting in total devastation for his family and the community. Jarod was a freshman in college who worked part-time, and was active in the community coaching his brother’s baseball and soccer teams. He was respected and loved by many, both young and old. So we ask, “What happened?” Were we too busy loving him (and he loving us) not to see any warning signs? There were no outward signs at all. He tried to protect us even to the very end and beyond.

We are eternally thankful to have had the opportunity to have been his parents. We bear no shame in that Jarod ended his own life. We are extremely proud of the person he was while here on Earth with us.

We now know that a time will come when the days of joy from having time to spend with Jarod will overshadow the sorrow of the brief time and apparent unfairness of his death. We feel that life is a gift, and whatever time we have, however brief that may be, should be utilized to enrich the lives of others. Events occur throughout our lives for no apparent reasons—destiny, as some will say. We simply need to have faith, and we don’t need to know why in order to have acceptance. We believe that there are forces that bring us into being for a particular purpose. However, we do sometimes choose a different path, as is evidenced by our son’s tragic decision.

Jarod’s time with us was brief, yet very meaningful, as he made many positive and lasting impressions on all those he came in contact with. He glowed brightly and intensely, and therefore used up his light more quickly than others. He felt certain that we would understand, and on many levels we do. We have focused not on his choice to remove himself from life, but rather on the incredibly positive influence he was on all those lives that he touched. It is also important for us to remain focused on the fact that Jarod will live on in our hearts forever. We feel that Adam and Lori will have a great deal of difficulty with the loss of their brother. For them, it feels as though he chose to leave them behind, and that is very difficult to understand. A parent has gained a very different perspective on life in the first place, having been an instrument in creating it and having had to learn to accept its mortal quality right from the beginning. For us, there was a time without Jarod before his birth. For Adam and Lori, there was never a time without him, until now. So older siblings and parents seem so permanent. It’s a rude awakening to discover that they are not!

Our friend, Holly, who also lost her son to suicide, had told us of her desire to craft a patchwork quilt made with her son’s clothing. Inspired by these thoughts, we also felt moved to assemble a quilt after sorting through Jarod’s clothes. It was extremely difficult to bring his clothes back into our home. As we touched and smelled his earthly garments, we shed tears of sadness and joy, recalling memories of Jarod attached to each piece.

Assembling the quilt became the first step toward passing through our grieving process, as we knew it would be very easy to stay stuck in the grief. Instead we put that grief to work in a positive way that we hope can inspire others who have suffered a horrific loss. Stitched together, grief, healing and remembrance became the quilt that we refer to as our “Legacy of Love.”

Over a period of about five months, we stitched the pieces of Jarod’s life together in a magnificent work of art—a quilt in his memory. The project became a balm that has helped to ease our bereavement. With every stitch, the horrible rift has gradually mended, easing shock, disbelief and pain. Our quilt is distinctly different from traditional handcrafted pieces. Each block is a unique representation of a different facet of Jarod’s life. Every stitch stands as a tribute to an outstanding young man with a ready smile and a passion for any activity he embraced.

For months, I sat at my machine cutting, piecing and sewing. As the family watched the process, they decided to design their own personal squares. Jarod’s dad, Ed, assembled a square that features suspenders, matching tie and a white shirt inclusive of the buttons and pocket, a valued gift from him to Jarod. Lori, who is Jarod’s younger sister, chose one of Jarod’s shirts. She used it as a backdrop for photographs of the two of them together throughout their lives. Adam, Jarod’s younger brother, added a letter he wrote to his brother the summer before, thanking him for being the best big brother a boy could ever have in life, and the cover from a baseball they used to throw around together. To this legacy of love, we added car keys, attire Jarod wore, pictures of family members, his favorite baseball cap and much more.

Crafting the quilt caused many raw emotions to surface. But doing so helped our family to cope with our grief in the best possible way—as a family. We know this quilt has really helped us a great deal with the healing. We tried to put his whole life into the quilt. Finally, at the end of June 2000, the quilt was finished just in time for what would have been Jarod’s nineteenth birthday. Friends and family were invited to our home for a special quilt signing. They added memories and messages to the back of the quilt. Our home was full all day long. When people came into our home, we could see the “Oh, I remember when he wore this” expressions. The memories aren’t just for us; they are also for others who knew and loved him.

We feel some sense of relief from the grief since the completion of our quilt, and now we want to share it in hopes that our story will help to inspire other families who are in the process of grieving. This “Legacy of Love” we created and our memories of Jarod are all that we have left as evidence of his brief life. We keep our memory-laden quilt on the back of our couch, so that when we feel the need for a hug, we can wrap ourselves in the quilt and feel him with us once again.

Ed and Sandra Kervin

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