For me, these suicidal moments didn’t last long. Every morning, waking up to the nightmare I was now living with and that wouldn’t go away. Endless cups of coffee followed by whatever drugs anyone handed me (thank God for the well-stocked medicine cabinets of my friends), followed by endless glasses of wine. I still couldn’t escape this horrific scene that was now my life. My ex-husband flew to Switzerland to pick up our son. I stayed behind with the girls as I was terrified the plane would crash and we would leave our girls orphaned. I will forever regret not going to get my child. To hold him one last time...

His belongings arrived with my ex. The things he was wearing on him when he crashed were bent and smashed beyond anything I could comprehend. My son’s German Shepherds wouldn’t get off of his duffle bag. Even they were a confused mess.

The people I call — my friends, some close, some acquaintances, some I had just met — saved me, quite literally. A neighbor slept in bed between my daughter and I that first night. And because I didn’t want them to see all of the blood and mess if I slit my wrists with my son’s sword collection hanging above my head, I didn’t kill myself that first morning. I went outside to scream instead. The women who sat at the dining table every day surrounding me and talking amongst themselves, (I wasn’t speaking much), the collective energy from them literally kept me from falling deeper into the crevasse. I could physically feel their energy. Food was brought. Schedules were made to keep me company. Time stood still and yet I was furious that time went on without my son. My life stopped and I expected the world to stop. I couldn’t be mad at my son. He was the most pure and authentic soul I have ever met. I couldn’t be angry at a sport my son loved so much. I certainly couldn’t be mad at the wind. I could however be mad at the man I was dating.

He gave us all someone to be angry at. The anger we felt toward him served a purpose. His behavior was sick beyond words. I kept my anger under wraps as I knew I would dump him the minute we returned to Utah. (That gave me a small plan for the immediate future and any plan under these circumstances is a good plan.) I haven’t seen him since. Johnny’s memorial was beautiful even though I was angry that I had to attend. I believed that if I didn’t show up, it wouldn’t happen, and therefore he didn’t really die. I shouldn’t have to be at Johnny’s funeral. This isn’t right. Attending your child’s funeral will never be right. It was however, a party my son would have liked. When the sheriffs showed up (as per usual when Johnny Strange threw a party...) because there were a lot of (some drunk) people jumping into the Pacific Ocean. I was already gone.

Not one for crowds in any situation, I couldn’t handle all of the people and the grief. I had to get out of there. I had stayed pretty close to a former adventure racing teammate and his wife for most of the service. We had lost touch over the years but they too had lost a child. They stayed by my side and talked me through what their lives had been like after the death of their baby girl. The mom couldn’t look into a mirror for five years. Oddly, I completely understood that as I too was unable to look into a mirror. I couldn’t because it wasn’t me anymore. Dianette had disappeared. I was no longer the mother of a son. I didn’t know who I was. It took months before I could actually look at my eyes in a mirror. I got high the night of the memorial. Which was a good thing as I couldn’t form a cohesive enough sentence to tell the man I was dating how much I hated him. This was the time to bite my tongue, even though he was screaming at me because he thought some man was flirting with me. Yes, at my son’s memorial, he was focused on some man looking at me...

I woke up the next morning and couldn’t board the plane fast enough to get out of Malibu. Away from all of the memories. Away from the reality. I wasn’t sure how I would function back in Park City, but I had friends who flew with me and gave me the courage to leave the idiot. And probably to make sure I would eat, drink, and not kill myself. Living in a new town where only a handful of people knew me and knew that I had a son was incredibly helpful. And at times a hinderance. Sometimes, I really just wanted to talk about Johnny during those rare moments when I could handle it without breaking down. Little by little I could let reality in. Sometimes only for minutes at a time. Denial worked fabulously the first three months. He has secretly joined the CIA, was one scenario I told myself over and over. Or, he is on vacation flying (wingsuiting) in Europe. Whatever could get me through the next five minutes...

I also focused 100 percent on moving out of the house I had just sold and into the new one I had just bought. Physicality of any kind was what I needed. I had hired movers but moved everything I could personally carry myself. I did this until I was completely exhausted at night. The next seven months were a blur of packing, unpacking, packing and unpacking to go with a major remodel of the house. I didn’t have the wherewithal to move into a rental while this remodel occurred. I lived in the basement and construction dust. I was mentally and physically in a basement. It was a pretty awful existence and I didn’t care. Even my animals looked at me like, WTF? Nothing mattered and I didn’t care about anything. I rarely called people. I survived the new existence by hiking with my dogs. I discovered that posting a picture or two of my dogs hiking with me gave most people the impression that everything was fine and I could more easily be left alone. Being in the cold weather would snap me out of my down times. Having these two dogs and two cats gave me purpose. They loved me and depended upon me. I lived alone and so I was it for them and they were everything for me. I HAD to get up to feed them, walk them, etc. It wasn’t possible to not get out of bed.


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