Joy and Awe

You guys!

I know I’m probably reaching here, I know– and yet, not striving to do so. I no longer believe in coincidences, I haven’t for awhile.

But here’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Most of yesterday I was sad. I’m mending from a cold that knocked me and my love on our butts. I was resting up and tending to my body. I’d had a good visit with my mom, good to be with her but sad, as we had talked about our struggles with losing Isaac and how our family aches.

I napped mid day and so when it was time to sleep at night, I couldn’t. My mind was racing with sweet memories and the contradiction of sweetness that came to life from losing Isaac so violently. It is not an uncommon nightly ritual for me to lament and light a candle and long for him. I was also beating myself up for letting winter pad my body and that is never a good combo. The sky was clear and the stars shine brightly and I tried to ease my pain, I even wrote myself a little love letter, trying to inspire change through a little loving kindness and just chill out! but it took a long time to finally succumb to sleep.

This morning I was still quite weepy. I was texting with my friend Mink about missing Isaac and remembering him as a sweet little boy. I had to run an errand for Joshua and as I headed back toward Frankfort a low flying black bird came and stayed right beside my car for longer than seems possible. I always say hi buddy when these things happen, when solitary birds find me especially with sadness as a companion. For a moment I feared it was a bad omen, and I know I’m admitting how all over the place my brain is at any given time!  I was also thinking about my new insurance card I just opened from the mail, thinking about how grateful I was to have insurance from work, thinking about how long I struggled to “make it” on my own as a small biz owner and provide for my child and I. I was taking in how things have shifted and how strange it seems to feel happy for health insurance and then how it was ok to be happy for myself to have become a worker bee. I was wrestling with the idea that it’s ok to be happy, period. I thought that specifically, as I frequently do, but in this moment I said a little prayer aloud; it’s ok to find small pockets of joy in life. I was in my head, driving. And then my eye was drawn to the car in front of me, the license plate said JOY1111. Some of you may know the eleven eleven story of Isaac but to keep this shorter, let me just say if you don’t, it was an important number to Isaac since he was 8 or 9 and we didn’t really know the fullness of it until the end. That’s another story. But it has been a steady presence for us, my tribe and I daily share screenshots with each other and, again, it has sacred meaning for us. But the license plate! In THAT moment! It was too clear to me that Isaac was sending a message. So I followed the car and tried to take a photo while driving. I know, I know, it’s illegal and dangerous but I had to, and it was a safe speed and…and. The photos weren’t great because we were both moving. So I thought I would follow it til it stopped if I had to! And in that moment, the words popped into my head “ours is not to reason why” and I kept thinking about that and I was trying to recall if that was more of a message from Isaac or just another “squirrel” moment in my wandering mind, and was it related to multiplication of fractions and was that also a message, because I hate math and Isaac knew that OR because I should just invert and multiply 1111?!?! Or was he saying that trying to reason was the thief of my joy? (You see what I mean about my brain?!) But it kept repeating, over and over in my head, this clear voice, not really my own, “ours is not to reason why”.

The joy1111 car put its blinker on and pulled into the gas station and as fate would have it I was driving on fumes from running errands and forgetting to stop for gas, so it would’ve been real hard to follow the car for very long!!! So I gassed up. But first I walked up to the driver as she got out of her car and I asked her if she minded sharing what it meant to her. She said “I am a deeply spiritual person and I try to live my life this way so it is a good and subtle reminder for me and message to share.” I struggled to decide what to say next, standing there with a stranger; but before I could speak she just hugged me– tightly and with love I could FEEL. I could feel it envelop me and open myself to receive it and share a little of the 1111 story with her. She was so tender and she said–I swear to God– “ours is not to reason why– but I absolutely believe our loved ones are beside us and send us messages and that all of life happens in accordance with a code we each follow but cannot understand until we  leave here”. At this point, I had tears and I’m sure that my chin was skimming the parking lot, astonished as I was I also wasn’t. Because this kinda thing happens now, a whole helluva lot. We parted after another hug and all my gratitude for her complete presence and openness to my random stalking. So thank you Connie from Interlochen.

When I left I kept repeating ours is not to reason why. I couldn’t stop so I googled it and, low and behold, I discovered right away a poem from Tennyson called “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which, even before reading I looked up to the sky with a smile, as I have been called a member of the light brigade over this past year or so more than once, actually, and never took the time to ask what it meant, I just liked how it sounded. So I read this poem and it is about soldiers in the valley of death; and Isaac chose a beautiful valley as his final place, and we have thought of how apropos it seemed, referring to the 23rd Psalm “yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me.” And so I’m feeling some comfort and connection because, a lot of the time when I have nights like last night, my thoughts return again and again to those final moments for Isaac, the pain he was in, and the actions he had to take to leave, and so the psalm and now the Tennyson poem seemed like a message from Isaac for me. [If you attended the memorial service we had for Isaac, you heard my mom read about the battle field that Isaacs mind had quickly become. None of us ever seek to glorify suicide in anyway, but because we knew Isaacs heart as a warrior for love, and his wishes to serve in the US military which were thwarted because of lifelong asthma, combined with the mental anguish he found himself in as being like a battle, it was easy to see Isaac as a soldier. My moms words at the service struck a chord, so there’s relevance…]

And then, and then. I saw the date– this poem was written to memorialize The Battle of Balaclava, which became known as The Thin Red Line, one of the most famous and ill fated military events in British history. This battle took place on October 25, 1854.

October 25 was the day Isaac left us.

Tennyson wrote:

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’ Was there a man dismay’d ? Not tho’ the soldier knew Some one had blunder’d: Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do & die, Into the valley of Death’

Fuckin A, right?!?!

I do believe we all have a sacred contract to fulfill. My faith has been put to the test because of suicide. But I will say that today, for a moment atleast, all signs point to my life and perhaps Isaac’s too, playing out in accordance to a code I cannot understand until I leave here, but a life which runs parallel to a deep mystery that supports and sustains us all if we can remain open despite the natural recoil that pain can lead us toward.

I’ll see you when I see you, Isaac.

Much Love & Deep Gratitude.


Published by: christinaryanstoltz

I write to touch the supple center of unguarded ache~ To release myself from the pressure of not knowing how to move forward from the unfathomable loss of my beloved son, my beautiful boy Isaac, to suicide, of not knowing how to release my grip on of the past, both the worshipping of it as well as the beating myself up for it, and letting go of the need to know what I could’ve done or what on earth I will do now. I write to heal.


4 thoughts on “Joy and Awe”

  1. This is so amazing and awesome and true. I printed this out and will carry this story with me from now on. Everything is connected, and it’s our job to see it and appreciate the beautiful phenomena. Much love.


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