Losing His Necklace Feels Like Losing My Son All Over Again
I lost my son to suicide. Now I’ve lost the necklace I got to remember him.
After an unseasonably gray start of summer in the Pacific Northwest, a glorious stretch of sunshine and bluebird skies promised blooming wildflowers, pristine mountain lakes, and expansive views: perfect weather for hiking. My dusty, trail-worn, teal-colored summer daypack waited by the garage door, a faithful partner ready for the next outing, no matter how long the hike or how far away the trailhead.
My favorite hike for finding bear grass awaited. High on a mountain, the trail takes the lucky traveler through an expanse of giant stalks filled with dense clusters of tiny white flowers that smells faintly of lilac, and I was eager to explore this year’s blossoms in full display.
Before leaving, I opened one of the pockets to grab my necklace. I’ve worn it almost every day for three years, and it’s a must-have when I’m exploring. I reached in, pulled out a battered Ziploc bag with my son Ben’s dusty green hat, and noticed, with horror, that my necklace wasn’t there.
If you’ve ever lost anything of extreme sentimental value, you’ve probably experienced a similar moment of shocked recognition. Then, your mind raced to the universal question: when was the last time I had it? I knew the answer: Earl Peak, just a few days before, at the summit for the picture. I noticed I wasn’t wearing it on the descent, but I often put it in the bag with the hat, so I was unconcerned.
OhMyGod did I lose it on the peak? Did I leave it on the mountain? I’ve left many things on mountains: tiny sprinklings of ashes, big emotions, blood and sweat, money. Some of it deliberate, some of it accidental. But this?
Anything but this. I tore apart my backpack, emptying every stuff sack and pocket. I checked every article of clothing I wear hiking. Then I ransacked my car, pulling out mats and searching under seats.
The entire time, I knew — I just knew — that I was not going to find it. Horror blossomed slowly into despair, and instead of hiking, I curled up on the floor in tears, feeling sick and sucker-punched, gasping for breath, as lost as my necklace.