When I write my genealogy based blog posts, I’m usually writing about one of my many ancestors. This time, with a heavy heart, I’m struggling to write about one of my young descendants, my son, Magnus Bartholomew Black.
We lost our Magnus this past Monday. I won’t go into the details of his death other than to say it was unexpected at the age of twenty. Magnus leaves behind his family and many friends and acquaintances.
Isn’t it strange that when you bury your parents, you are an orphan. When you bury your spouse, you are a widow or a widower. When you bury a child, there is no word for what you are because you aren’t supposed to bury your own child. I can tell you that you feel empty and soulless and that you don’t think you can go on without your child.
Magnust was special, I know all children are special, but he really was. I was 39 when I was pregant with him and we were told to expect him early, I was ill with eclampsia, also known as toxemia. We named him after a popular strong man, Magnus ver Magnusen and gave him a family name for his middle name, Bartholomew. He was born one week after my father’s death, on the same day as his funeral. It was a family joke that my father was in there, and the physical and personality resemblance between them was astounding, despite that Magnus had never known him.
Magnus was born in 1997, three months premature, 16 inches long, four pounds, three ounces. A tiny boy with a huge name. For being premature, he was huge and only spent one week in an incubator and one additional week in the hospital, he suffered no complications from his prematurity, or so we thought. When we took him home, he became the light of all of his sibling’s eyes.
He was immensely loved by my husband and myself, as well as his four older siblings. His eldest brother, James, was twenty years older than him and was frequently mistaken for his son. His brother Mateo was away at Marine boot camp until after he was born, Magnus wondered who the homeless man was sleeping on the couch. When we informed him it was his brother, his simple response was “Oh, Okay, if he needs somewhere to sleep, he can sleep in my bed.” He begged to be included in anything his brothers did. You could spot him perched on the side of the games that his brothers played, sometimes late at night.
His two sisters, Samantha, 10, and Alex, 7, when he was born, doted on him and he loved to be carried around by them. He was sometimes subjected to dress up sessions, where they would go through his wardrobe and pick several of his outfits for him to parade around the house in.
One of my fondest memories is his tiny body fitting into my husband’s hand and his giggle, as he held him up above his head. He grew into a young boy full of mischief and light. He read extensively, huge books about history, devouring the details that he could recite off the top of his head. You could ask him anything about history, past or present and he would give you the information in his huge brain, even at an early age. He made cartoons using a software program, something that teenagers had difficulty doing.
He was a happy, loving boy, we called him Skippy because he was usually spotted skipping in the backyard, at the playground in school, when we went to the store or the mall. His eldest brother dropped him off at childcare in the morning and he would latch on to his leg and beg to be taken with him and not left there. My eldest son spent a lot of time feeling guilty about leaving him at childcare. Later, his teacher’s told me, he would skip away and play with his friends as if nothing at happened.
He was honest and would say whatever came into his mind. His sister nearly drowned him the day he called her names at the local swimming pool. He could pick apart a situation, tell you every detail about it, and participate in conversations with adults. He was an amazing young man whose death has left a hole in our hearts and souls.
How will I answer the question when people ask me how many children I have? How will my children answer how many siblings they have? How will my mother tell people how many grandchildren she has?
So many memories flood my thoughts. One of my fondest is a video my eldest son has of he and his niece at Easter. They were blowing bubbles together, waving the wands in the air. She called him Uncle Dork because she couldn’t say Magnus. She dipped the wand in the bubble solution, asked him “Ready Uncle Dork?” Then they would wave the wand around in the air furiously until they ran out of solution. She would repeat this process until we were all hysterically rolling on the floor in laughter. He told me he loved children because they were honest and non-judgemental.
Magnus’ advanced maturity and his brightness began to be a problem for teachers to deal with as he advanced in school. He spent quite a bit of time explaining how wrong they were about a subject they were teaching and Magnus would never back down. I spent lots of time arguing with the same teachers once the realization came about that he was right and they were wrong. One teacher actually apologized and told him he was right.
We nearly lost him at 13 when he had a health crisis that could have cost him his life, but he rallied. He was bored at school, and in junior high school and high school. He struggled with keeping his attention on his school work and getting through to the next level. It wasn’t his ability to get school work done, it was his inability to trudge through the material. His intelligence and brightness were sometimes a disability, all of his teachers were amazed at his level of intelligence and abilities, but he struggled with manual dexterity and dyslexia.
In high school, he joined ROTC and he appeared to enjoy it, but as he grew older, even that became a struggle for him. After three years of struggling through high school, he rallied when we enrolled him at Montecito High School, an alternative education program. HIs principal, and the teachers, in particular, Mrs. Ketterer, took a special interest in him and he finally felt accepted. Had I known about the loving people that made my son feel so welcome, I would have enrolled him in the school earlier and he wouldn’t have had to struggle earlier. He graduated at 17 after a long, hard road of four years of high school. Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?
He battled depression from an early age. He carried the weight of the world on his skinny shoulders. He was concerned about genocide and wars in various countries an in particular, how those wars affected the children of the country. Yet, he also had a fascination for rulers like Hitler, Augusto Pinoche, and many others. He would talk about intricate details of their lives and accomplishments. He was an atheist, an agnostic, a Christian, a Muslim, a Catholic, he couldn’t put his finger on his beliefs, they all had something that interested him.
He frequently brought home friends that needed special attention because of things they were struggling with. He spent hours counseling them on getting through family problems, their own depression, relationships or just teenage angst. We had many of them stay with us so that Magnus could get them through the issues. They all loved him, he drove them all crazy, he gave them everything he had.
I thought he would be a teacher or a counselor or even a psychologist. His own psychologist felt the same about him. Everyone, adults and especially children spotted his intelligence and abilities to help others. He couldn’t seem to help himself though.
The past few years after high school, he was attending online college courses, battling with himself about what he wanted to do with his life. His depression weighed heavily upon him and we took him for treatment several times. This past weekend he seemed bright and eager to go out with some friends on Monday to see a movie and go to the local mall. My husband and I left Monday morning, confident he and his friends would be going out for some fun time.
He’s gone now and I can’t seem to cope with him being gone. I know time will help me to cope, but for now, there is his empty room and an empty space I can’t fill in my heart. I can’t knock on his door and hear him asking me was I want from his bed. I expect him to walk down the hallway with one of his favorite curry dishes in his hand ready for the microwave, usually at 2 in the morning. Just recently he had told me that he might open a curry shop because he loved curry dishes so much. I see him standing in the doorway of my office, I see him in the hallway, with his odd popping walk that he shares with his brother Mateo and they inherited from my father. I see his mop of chocolate brown hair, his deep chocolate eyes. I hear his funny laugh and his impish smile. I see him every waking moment, I see him in my dreams, as fitful as my sleep is these days since his death.
I will bury my son in the next few days. I have to make decisions about how and where to deal with his body now that he is gone. I have to figure out how to fill the empty spot in my heart with the huge soul of my son so that I can carry him there forever.
I cannot say goodbye, I won’t. Farewell, my love, my little boy, my Mags, my Magpie, my Magster. I hope you are at peace wherever you are, and someday we will be together again. I will tell you that I love you and you will tell me “Love you too Ma.” as you go skipping off.