Graduation COVID-19 Every Life Matters!
It's a story, but it's his story, so I will hold it next my heart until one day he is ready to share it (I am sharing this story from a mother's perspective).
When I was pregnant with Madsen, I was told three times he was dead... It seems this little baby boy that I held so preciously close to my heart would have to fight for his life even before his big spirit took on his earthly body.
Honestly, Madsen was our most beautiful baby. He was born with a FULL head of hair (his first haircut was at 3 weeks), Big blue eyes, olive skin and a smile that made everyone stop and take notice. I remember the day we brought him home from the hospital. We were so tired, so we placed him in the bassinet next to our bed. We hoped to catch a few winks of sleep, but he lay there talking to us- bright eyed and beautiful. Rigby and I just stared at him. He was perfect.
As the months passed I would often take he and his older two brothers to the grocery store- Madsen was a show stopper. All of the other shoppers were taken by his quick smile and friendly personality- simply put, he made me popular. As the years passed, Madsen was our best sleeper and the most easy going of his siblings. He followed his daddy around with tools and was always his best helper. After my second miscarriage, Madsen was the one who cuddled with me on my bed and rubbed my cheek with his pudgy little hand. He has always had the biggest heart and has equally demonstrated the most compassion and empathy. Even as a little tot, his spirit was quiet and good.
When I took him in for his kindergarten assessment, I admit we were hesitant to send him to school with his late birthday- August 25th. But the following the assessment, his teacher simply said, "It would be a mistake to hold him back. He is very smart." I have replayed that moment over in my mind so many times... did I do the right thing? Would his life be better now if I had kept him home one more year? It is a REGRET that haunts me nearly everyday. Don't we all wish we had a crystal ball?
I remember Madsen and Stockton arguing. They must have been maybe 5 and 7. Madsen turned to me and asked, "Mom, when I make it to the MLB will you come to my games?" I immediately responded, "yes of course." He turned back to Stockton and said matter of factly, "see, I told you she would. Playing baseball won't be hard on my family."
I don't remember being more awestruck... even as a tyke his ability to reason and master rhetoric was impressive.
Madsen found refuge on the baseball diamond. The dirt gave him a sense of belonging. It became his home where he could set aside his mind and truly be at peace. I loved watching him play. I was so proud. Baseball came easy for him. My prayers as a little league mother (if you have every had your little guy up to bat you know what I am talking about) were thankfully few. Madsen excelled on the diamond at a young age. He tried other sports and enjoyed them for periods of time, but baseball was his home.
He enjoyed playing years of baseball with his travel ball team NASH. Rigby and Coach Zobell were great with these boys and the parents and players became our family. These were great years.
Somewhere around 6th grade things began to change. Madsen would hide from social situations, he would disengage, he no longer enjoyed praise from his teachers, and he would resist situations in which he felt uncomfortable. I tried to play it off as his "easy going" approach to life. But I was his mom- I should have been there for him- where was I?
When Madsen was in the third grade Rigby had a stroke and then two years later I had a near heart attack followed by heart surgery. Life was difficult, We had a new baby, a new business, Seleck was struggling with anxiety- A LOT. My head was barely above water... and my little blue eyed, bright eyed, baby boy was left to circumvent his challenges alone.
It has only been in the last year, that Madsen has shared with Rigby and me the extent of his challenges, poor choices, isolation, and lack of hope. After which, we sought help and he was diagnosed with clinicial depression.
Now remember this is the boy whose only solace was found on the baseball diamond...
COVID- 19 rocked his world in ways unimaginable to most. His senior year...baseball- his life focus was GONE. COVID- 19 has taken so much from all us- from Madsen it robbed his whole heart- his will to persevere.
Yesterday my phone rang, Madsen's familiar voice had a little smile in it, "mom, can you grab me a gatorade and a snickers? Coach said I can join the team on the diamond today."
During the game, coach pulled Rigby and me aside and asked how Madsen was doing.
"Honestly," I responded. "It's been Hell."
Madsen will get one last chance on the baseball diamond on June 23rd. I will bring him a gatorade and a snickers and I will sit there and soak in every moment of watching my little guy now grown tall playing on the dirt, his dirt, his home.
The next day I will wake for my morning running and draw strength from the solitude of my "free therapy." When I return home, I will descend the stairs and wake Madsen. And the battle of a new day will begin. He will fight. He won't quit- I won't allow it... remember he was the little boy who cuddled me and rubbed my cheek with his pudgy little hand when my world went dark- his world is dark now- it will probably be for quite some time, but we will find glimmers of sunshine and turn our faces toward it and press forward. Quitting is not an option.
How can you help someone with clinical depression or any form of mental illness?
1. Be there, take notice, get them help.
Sometimes, Madsen will open up and talk to me, but other times I just have to be there. Like last night after being on a "high" of feeling good for a few days- he crashed. Madsen had enjoyed most of the evening with friends, but as the evening went on, he withdrew socially and his mouth got him in trouble. And then his heart broke. I sat there on the bean bag with him until the early hours of the morning. He talked a little, shared a little, and then his mind finally let his body sleep. This morning was hard- I had to play the "bad guy." I had to fight for him until he could fight for himself.
2. Encourage your children to reach out to their friends when they become distant or seem to "change."
Up until about age 12 Madsen's buddies were always at the house. It was fun to have them around. Madsen was an "includer." But when he could no longer play that roll, those he "included" no longer included him. As a mother, if you have reaped the benefit of having your child included by others, PLEASE take the initiative to reciprocate- I promise it will be the answer to a mother's prayer.
I can count on one hand those that have been there for Madsen (outside of our family)- one of his original buddies (thank you Trevor), two girls (sisters), one cousin (Jeep), and the family of those two sisters. These individuals are the sole reason we still have Madsen with us.
3. If you are a coach, teacher, or church leader, BE aware- BE There-REACH out, NOTICE- make EVERY kid feel like they matter. Set your ego aside and put the needs of the student, child, player, first. A Select few did this for Madsen- the majority did not.
Depression is not a choice- it is an illness. It is a monster that steals, lives, memories, moments. It is COVID-19 to the billioneth power. Don't be afraid to talk about it. If someone close to you struggles with depression or any mental illness, do not go quiet. Educate yourself. If you don't know what to say just be there for them. This go for the support group to of those that struggle with this illness. It is both exhausting and terrifying.
Depression is a HEAVY subject. Difficult for most teens to handle. They want to be a part of the "in" crowd. They are haunted with FOMO- Social media paints a life with mostly smiles and good times. They want to experience that-- I don't blame them. But remember- EVERY LIFE MATTERS. Be a part of the change- you will be glad you did.
Sometimes Madsen is down right mean- this is the part of the "monster" I hate the most because it is not my Madsen. In these moments, I look that "monster" right in the eyes and fight for Madsen. Sometimes I want to run... but it is then that I know he needs me the most.
So if you really have wanted to know how I have been lately or why I have withdrawn over the past few years- there you go- this is your answer. If you have questions or comments- reach out- you are not ALONE.
EVERY LIFE MATTERS
The following article was published on Feb. 29, 2020 in the Standard Examiner by Connor Richards.
Utah lawmakers at both the state and federal level are working to reduce suicide rates in the state and gain a better understanding of what factors lead someone to end their own life.
With a suicide rate of 22.2 per 100,000 persons, Utah had the fifth highest age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States between 2016 and 2018, according to the Utah Department of Health. That averages out to 647 suicides per year.
Suicide is particularly a problem among young Utahns. It was the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10 to 17 in 2018 and the second leading cause of death for Utahns ages 18 to 44.
U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, is aware of how big an issue suicide is in his home state.
“Every suicide’s a tragic loss of life and affects families and communities and leaves so many people grieving,” McAdams said in an interview on Feb. 12.
Alongside his colleagues in Congress, McAdams is working on a bipartisan effort to “spur research on how to scan the alarming rise in Utah, and nationally, of our suicide rate through science-based answers.”
McAdams is sponsoring the “Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act” to encourage research across disciplines into the factors that lead to depression and suicide.
I love you Madsen-- HANG ON - I promise you there are great things ahead. I have the snickers and the gatorade.