I am having a difficult time starting this post because I want my words to be perfect for my friends Pat and Julie Anderson. I want them to know how much I love them, but mostly I want them to know how much I respect them for accepting and loving their child.
A few weeks ago my college roommates came to Muskegon for a weekend visit. JacLynn lives in Colorado and Pat and Julie live near Detroit. Like most reunions, it was wonderful, but this one was extra special because we all had a chance to spend some time together and share our stories with each other.
The story you are about to read is about Pat and Julie’s son, Matt. I asked them if I could share their story because it’s a story about two parents that loved and accepted their child no matter what. I asked them to write their version, so they sent me the following letter.
October 2, 2013
Dearest Mark and Rosemary,
Thank you for sharing Corey’s story. Many families face these issues and your experience resonated with us because we too wish our son could have come to us earlier with his struggles.
At 19, instead of going to Kendall College of Art and Design as planned, our son Matthew suddenly enlisted in the Army. He served early in the Iraq War and was never the same after that. The terrible war memories resulted in PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Despite our many efforts to stay connected, Matt chose to keep his distance from us. This was extremely painful and confusing. A few years later he told us he was separating from his wife and was in the process of hormone treatment and surgery to become a woman. It was a surreal journey, beyond any words we could send you and it deeply affected our entire families. But we were adjusting and learning to love in a new way. There were letters, calls, visits and a new hope. Kat, short for Katrina, was finishing a tattoo apprenticeship in Washington state and making plans to return to Michigan in July of 2011 to attend art school in Grand Rapids. But as the personal issues began to settle, the PTSD and war issues rose up even more and a terrible week proved too much for this fragile soul. We lost our Matt/Kat to suicide on March 20th, three days before her 27th birthday. Sometimes we feel we’ve lost the same child twice.
This may be hard for some to understand, but believe us it is true; in being willing to stay connected and have our family love Kat, we got our Matt back, too. Never give up on family love, it is God’s love.
We miss our soldier, our tattoo artist, our photographer, our sweet dyslexic kid. Our son Erik is very angry. That makes things harder. We miss our family the way it used to be. But we receive special signs now from above that comfort us.
As parents we sometimes struggle to understand all the pieces of our childrens’ lives, but God understands all and all He asks from us is to love our children. God understands all the pieces and offers His peace.
Pat and Julie
Kat loved photography so Julie shared a copyrighted picture from her collection. Pat and Julie made a photo book of Kat’s beautiful photos to remind them of the beauty their child possessed.
Dear Pat, Julie and Erik,
Words can’t explain what our hearts feel. I wish your story would’ve ended differently because of your love and acceptance for Kat.
Thank you for letting me share your intimate story on my blog. I know it was difficult for you but maybe by sharing Kat’s story, you will help others. If you are able to help another parent or child maybe someday your story will make more sense to you.
We want you to know that we love you and we’re willing to listen to you and cry with you if you ever need us.
Mark and Rosemary