The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Written
Today, Feb. 22, 2013, would have been my son’s thirty-first birthday. He’s been gone ten years now, but as those of you who are members of the club know, they never really leave us, do they? This is both good and bad, mostly good now. I enjoy thinking about him daily.
Nobody here knew him, of course. What follows below are a few notes I put together for his funeral. I thought it might be of some interest, maybe a way of getting to know me. Or maybe I just wanted you to know him.
THE PUREST SILENCE
Endyll Princeton McDaniels Feb 22, 1982 – Feb 25, 2003
We choose our truths the way we choose our gods, single-sightedly, single-mindedly, no other way to feel or see or think. We lock ourselves into our ways, and click all the truths to one.
We put our truths together in pieces, but you use nails and I use glue. You mend with staples. I mend with screws. You stitch what I would bandage.
Your truth may not look like mine, but that is not what matters. What matters is this: You can look at a scar and see hurt, or you can look at a scar and see healing. Try to understand.
–From A Gracious Plenty, by Sheri Reynolds
My name is Edison McDaniels and I am Endyll’s father. I could stand up here today and tell you about my son. I could tell you about his years spent growing up in Minnesota and ice skating on the pond behind our house, of playing hockey at 4:00 in the morning before school, of his speed and excellence on the track field. I could tell you how much he loved skiing and how good he was at it, although he never really got to do it all that often. I could tell you about his love of sky diving and how, from the age of eleven or so, he would spend hours designing, sewing, and then actually testing life sized parachutes (on the wind, not in the air). I could tell you about the day of his first real jump, about how we were all gathered at ground zero and how big the smile was on his face that day, about how that jump was a tandem jump with a guy named Brad Foster who was, even then, a good friend. I could tell you how distraught he was when Brad Foster was killed in a sky diving accident last May after more than 4,000 jumps to his credit.
I could tell you what an incredible voice he had for singing and how his dream was to be discovered. If I was going to talk about my son, I suppose one of the main things I’d want you to know is that he was smart and funny, that he smiled a lot and, that he liked Japanese Anime. I’d want you to know that he loved to play cards with his brother England and sister Ehvyn, that he and his brother Edison split the chore of cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes after dinner every night for years. I’d want to mention that he enjoyed going to the movies. In short, I’d tell you that his youngest brother thought he was “cool”, and that his sister said he was “just nice, always so nice.”
I’d tell you he was most of all a joy to have around, and that his mother and I were so proud of everything he was.
But I’m not going to talk about Endyll today. He has so many friends and loved ones here today and I’m sure we’ll all talk amongst ourselves and reminisce. And his mother and I thank you all for coming out.
What I want to talk about today…is silence. I want you to know about the two kinds of silence. About how one of them is just something called quiet, and how the other is what I have learned, over the last few days, to call “the purest silence.”
The first kind is the silence of an empty room, or it’s maybe what you hear when the TV goes off at night. Sometimes it’s a little spooky, but there’s nothing profound about it, nothing special.
I wish I could say the same of the second kind of silence. It’s what you hear when you’re lying in bed at night, with nothing to do but think about all the why’s and what could have beens. It’s what you hear in the afternoons when you sit for hours staring out a window, looking at the park across the street from your house, the park where they found your son the morning after he took his life.
It’s what you hear when you’re all riding in the car on the way home from the elementary school, after just telling your two youngest kids, who aren’t even teenagers yet, that their brother–their buddy, their best friend–is dead. You hear the tires humming against the roadway, the occasional clink of keys or coins, the raspy sounds of five people breathing as if they can never again get enough air. You hear all of this–and none of it. This kind of silence is absolute, it is so profound–so pure–it’s as if you are traveling in a void, as if you have suddenly been struck deaf. And it’s a painful silence, like a fever burning hotter and hotter and hotter inside of you. It burns down deep, in place you can’t possibly get at. It’s a pain you can’t cure.
In this silence—this purest silence—there are no voices, no words. No one speaks. Yet, suddenly, in the midst of it all, your daughter does speak, and you do hear her.
“We went from a loud family of six,” she says, “to a quiet family of five.”
And instantly, you understand the one thing that could work its way through this misery, the one cure for this silence.
But you will never hear his voice again.
He is gone.
Endyll had a lot of special gifts. He was just three days past his 21st birthday. He didn’t have nearly enough time in this world and we didn’t have nearly enough time with him. It is our most heartfelt prayer—his mother Jean, his brothers Edison III and England, his sister Ehvyn, and mine—that he has found the peace and tranquility in the next world that so eluded him at the end in this one.
England, our youngest son, said the other day that he didn’t even get a chance to say good-bye to Endyll. England, I’d like you to know that none of us did, but that here and now, in this place where God shines, we can say good-bye. I’d also offer that maybe we should just say goodnight though, because I’m confident that we will see Endyll again. And when we do, it’ll be like he was never away.