by Jeannie Lausche
“I told my team I was going to have dinner with my family and then I’d be back to work,” he said, on a beautiful June evening. He, being my fiancé. His family, being me and my three boys. He called us his family? Yes, he did. Is this our happy ending? Yes, I think may be.
Against the clatter of dinner plates and chatter of my sons’ voices, I tried to hide the surprise and sheer wonder on my face. Between my fiancé and me, we have five boys. But that night it was just me and my boys with him. His sons were with their mother. Yet still… withouthesitation… He called us his family. We are a family. I felt a genuine relief from the pain that’s been my burden, my cross to bear, for three years. And above that, I felt so much love for this man, this new life. But never in my life will I forget what brought us to this point.
Three years ago this month I buried my first husband, Zack. Thomas Zachary Bunker.
My college sweetheart. Father of our three sons. The man who gave everyone his everything for so long. When he felt he could give no more, he took his own life. Many of you know my story. Sometimes I still feel like I will spend the rest of my life trying to explain. Convince people. Give an answer to the unwavering questions. Why? Why did he do it? How did I not know? How did I not help him? And the endless cycle of my unsatisfactory answers: I didn’t realize he was truly on the brink of suicide. I had no idea he could ever be so far removed from rational thought that he would leave me and his three young sons. I. Simply. Didn’t. Know.
That first year after his death, I was willing to do just about anything to numb the pain. Distract myself from the sad reality of his absence. Escape. I did that for the entire first year after Zack was gone. I ran. But a person can only run so far. The pain is always there when you return. So I finally decided to face it.
A suicide is so different than other deaths. Instead of dignity there is shame. Instead of closure, there is mystery. Instead of comfort, sometimes there is blame. When someone was as beloved as Zack, someone needs to take the fall. And that someone was sometimes me. I finally accepted that. I don’t hold anger or hate towards anyone, anymore. I searched my heart until I found peace. Sometimes, when I still feel old anger stirring in me, I try to extinguish it. I search for peace all over again. Anger is so exhausting.
The second year after Zack died was different. I stopped running. A dear friend who worked as a grief counselor explained that for some people, the second year after a loss is more painful than the first year. I agree with that. The first year, you have the shock to mask the pain. The second year, the shock is gone, making the pain almost as intolerable as it was on the first day of the loss. Sometimes during that second year I retreated. Sometimes I lashed out. And sometimes, the clouds parted and I felt a ray of hope. Towards the end of the second year of being a widow, (A widow!! Who me?? That term is still shocking to me), someone special came into our lives. Someone strong enough to take on my pain and my boys’ pain. Someone kind enough to accept us all. Someone who has so much love inside that whenever I would ask him, “Why do you even want to take all of this on?” He would answer me, “I’ve always wanted a big family. You are what I want.” He asked me to marry him after we’d been dating more than a year. Engaged. Me! I never thought my boys and I would have this second chance. I thank God every day for this second chance.
And now we’ve come to the three year anniversary. Three years without Zack. Three years of the boys… and me…growing up. Growing into ourselves. There are days, although they are becoming fewer and farther between, when the pain and anxiety still feel fresh. I hate those days. And then there are days when I sense Zack. Just above the planes of this physical world. I know he’s there. He’s there for his boys. He’s there for me. And I believe he’s so thankful to the man who loves us enough to call us his family. Life is so beautiful, painful, complicated, and wonderful. I will never take it for granted. I will make sure my boys never take it for granted.
Promise me you will never take it for granted either.
“I have seen all I care to see of this world/ It has no more for me. I need the call for giving peace/ That only comes from my family. I want to go home/ I want to go home/ I’m following the lead of the setting sun/ And I’m going back where I came from.” Thomas Zachary “Zack” Bunker. 12/27/74 – 5/29/13. I hope you are resting peacefully in the home of the Lord now, Zack. Life may be moving forward but we will never forget you. Your boys still talk about you and pray for you all the time. And it’s a rare story told amongst our friends where your name doesn’t come up. I pray that the Lord is holding you in His arms while you watch over our boys. #gonenotforgotten
- The first post
- 6/4/2013: Update, plus funds raised by JCAs
- 6/1/2015: Year 2: Strength After Devastation
- 6/8/2016: Year 3: Life After Loss
- 6/27/2016: Congratulations
Thank you again, Jeannie.