25 years. That’s how long it has been since my dad took his own life. Yesterday was the anniversary of his death. The anger and anguish are still with, me even after all of this time. The questions that I had then, are the same questions that I have now, but there are no answers. There is only silence.
I remember the evening that I got the phone call about my dad. I was at the Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga with some friends. My mom paged me, so I went back to my car to call her back on my bag phone. (This was before everyone had cell phones). The first thing that she asked me was who was with me. I told her and she wanted to talk to the friend that was right beside me. I asked her what was wrong? She asked me several times to let her speak to someone else and I told her no, she had to tell me what was going on.
The next few sentences changed my life. She said, “it’s your dad. He shot himself.” I asked her if he was ok and she said, “No baby, he’s not.” I remember screaming and crying. I remember getting in the car to go home and talking to my mom on the phone all the way home. I remember the empty and sick feeling I had. I thought I was going to throw-up. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I might die because of the pain and shock my body was going through.
The rest of the night and following days were a blur. I remember sitting at the funeral home with my sister, aunts and uncles to make arrangements. I remember saying that I wanted to see my dad and everyone trying to talk me out of it. My sister stood up for me and told everyone to let me, it was something that I had to do. I was going to do it regardless.
The night of visitation I got to go back to a room and see my dad for the last time. Other than a bruise on his cheek, he looked like he was sleeping peacefully. The funeral director wouldn’t let me stay long with him. So every time I got the chance I would sneak out of the visitation room and go back to the room where my dad was. I got caught more than once being in the room with him. I spent that time talking to him, asking him questions that he was never going to answer, and stoking his hair. I didn’t know how to say good bye when I didn’t understand anything.
I don’t know if my dad couldn’t take the loss of his mother, she died just a few week before, or if he couldn’t deal with his dad being terminal with cancer. Maybe he was just tired and fed up with this world. I still ask why weren’t my sister and I enough? Why didn’t he love us more? Did he even think about us prior to his decision? Did he think that we would be better off without him? I wonder what lies the devil was whispering in his ear. I wonder what demons he was fighting. I wonder if he had been planning this all along or if it was a quick, snap decision that he made.
I think about everything that he has missed. He wasn’t there when I got married. He has four amazing grandsons who would have adored him and he has a great granddaughter who just turned a year old. He has missed Christmas’ and Thanksgivings. He has missed graduations and birthdays. He has missed those just because days that are filled with laughter.
I think about the impact that it had on me and my self-worth. There was a period of time when I felt that if my own father didn’t love me, how could anyone else love me. I felt that I wasn’t worthy of love. I felt like I was the problem and that I was bad for people. I felt like a failure. I cut myself off from others. I didn’t want to ever get close to anyone or love anyone because it just led to pain. And for years I didn’t let anyone in. I closed myself off from feeling to deeply for anyone, other than the people that were already in my circle. Sadly, I didn’t realize what a injustice I was doing to myself.
I now realize that whatever it was, my dad had some reason for doing what he did. It breaks my heart that he felt that was the only way out, but I have excepted it. I realize that we were enough and that the battle he was fighting won. I realize that it wasn’t us, but the lies of the demons he was battling. I know that he loved us and I believe that he knew we loved him too.
800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline