Men's Virtual Chat: Healing Alongside Other Surviving Fathers
Author: Timothy Jabin
My son, Tyrone Anthony, died by suicide on July 10, 2020. The last time that I spoke to my son was on July 4, his 25th birthday. After Ty’s death, I was contacted by Don Lipstein with the TAPS Survivor Care Team. Don invited me to participate in the Men’s Virtual Chat. Two Wednesdays a month a group of about 20 to 30 surviving men gather in this virtual chat to honor our loved one, who is typically, but not always, a son. Sadly, there are always new faces. During one of our meetings I typed a message into the chat: “sympathy is great; empathy is a blessing.”
Airman Apprentice Tyrone Anthony Jabin. Photo Courtesy of Timothy P. Jabin.
The Blessing of Empathy
The TAPS Virtual Men’s Chat is a safe, welcoming space. We are men of different ages, different life experiences, different socio-economic backgrounds, and different faith experiences. The common thread is that each of our loved ones died while serving their country. There is certainly sympathy for each other and the loss we have suffered. But more importantly, there is empathy.
These men are not only walking the same path that I am walking, but they are walking in my shoes. They have received that quiet, early morning knock on the door by two uniformed men; they have fallen to the floor in disbelief; they have received an Honor Flag and heard Taps played; they have sorted through their son’s gear; they have celebrated birthdays and sacred holidays with an empty chair. No matter how long each of us has been grieving, we honor and remember a son that we will never again hold in our arms.
Our Loved Ones Gather Too
Not too long ago, I shared with Don a vision I had after attending the funeral of another of our nation’s fallen warriors. I envision that when we dads gather on Wednesday evenings, our sons gather too. They are a rowdy bunch! Whether the most senior of the bunch gives the others the high sign or they just sense that we are gathering, they settle down and gather around an eternal campfire. As we dads meet, I envision each of our sons extending their hand and resting it on our shoulders. They are present with us. And when we conclude our meeting, they are right back to their rowdy heavenly behavior!
None of us want to belong to this club. But, we have each other in the TAPS Virtual Men’s Chat and that has made all the difference.
Timothy P. Jabin is the surviving father of Airman Apprentice Tyrone Anthony Jabin, U.S. Navy.