“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms 23:4
It is hard to understand how someone could sum up their life on three-quarters of a page of paper. But my daddy’s suicide letter did just that. It was vague, empty, shallow. As my mom sped through town, stopping at every location she could imagine that my dad may be, my sister made desperate phone calls to the police, my dad’s friends, and co-workers. With life moving 500 miles per hour around me, I found myself frozen in the back seat. The world surrounding me took on an essence of molasses, slowly flowing by in a foggy, glazed state. I couldn’t peel my eyes from the letter in my hands.
He first wrote an apology. He explained, in complete brevity, that he could not overcome his own personal demons. He referred to himself as a lone soul and he offered his guidance for how we could move forward without him. Then, he wrote a small paragraph to my mom, followed by a brief paragraph about my sister. And lastly, a short series of sentences about me. His words were generic. His words were gross–stripped of any sincerity or passion. As if he were a shell, void of emotion, when he composed the piece. As if he had already accepted his fate.
When I snapped back into reality, we were pulling up to his office building and all I could see were police lights and uniformed officials. Upon my mom’s instruction, we sprung from the car and ran straight into his office, hysterically searching for any shred of evidence that might provide a clue as to his whereabouts–frantically trying to find my daddy before my daddy gave up. We were in a race against time, and the seconds seemed to be ticking by faster with each passing moment. The police filled his office building, fielding calls and tracing clues. There was so much noise–so much commotion. Phones ringing, people yelling, doors slamming. There was so much desperation.
I will never forget the moment when everything stopped. My mom, my sister and I were all behind my dad’s desk, shuffling through his files. Suddenly the air hung thick with silence. The three of us looked up at the same time and saw three officers step into the doorway. The looks on their faces were indescribable. My mom stumbled back and demanded they walk away, demanded they get back to work and keep searching. Demanded that they find her husband. But the officers stood stationary.
“Ma’am, we have found your husband…”
A flicker! A relief, oh what a sweet relief! A moment of utter joy, a moment of—
“Ma’am, we have found your husband’s remains.”
It was then that my world froze. No child should ever have to endure the sound of their mother’s heart breaking. No child should ever have to watch their sister shatter and fall broken to the ground. The sound that I found resonating from the deepest depths of my being was not a cry or a scream. It was a sound of utter anguish. It poured from me with such ferocity, I could feel the heat rise from my soul. I felt a numbness overwhelm my body and expand in the crevices of my being. In that instant, our perfect family was shattered. Our perfect lives were destroyed. Normal was an illusion.
It was January 3, 2009 that my daddy put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger.
His delicately built world had crumbled around him in a matter of days. The secret my mom had stumbled upon was a lie woven through fourteen years of life’s tapestry. It was all so avoidable. There was no infidelity, no impurity–but there was deceit. My dad allowed his personal issues he protected so privately to snowball. By avoiding handling the “tough stuff” of life in a day-to-day manner, and instead allowing it to accumulate through time, my dad lost his way. Too proud to reach out for support, too ashamed to reveal his weaknesses, too much of a “man”, by society’s standards, to simply ask for help. He was overwhelmed, overstimulated, and found himself in a hole insurmountable in depth…