National Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)'.
On Friday, April 13th, 2001, two days before his 70th birthday, my dad took his own life. He drove to the cemetery where my sister is buried, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Why, and what could I have done to help? Those are the questions that haunt me every April as the anniversary of my dad’s suicide approaches. That’s the torment that suicide leaves behind.
I had just returned to work after buying Dad’s birthday gift on my lunch break when the sheriff came and told me that my mom needed me. When I got to her place I was told what happened. Nobody saw it coming, but as I struggled with trying to figure out why, I saw little signs that he had probably planned it several months in advance. He had made sure that he and mom were set up in a nice retirement community where he knew she would be surrounded by other widows who would take care of her. He was never very demonstrative with his love, but on my birthday in February he had brought a single rose to me while I was at work and had given me a hug. My dad rarely gave hugs. In March he had come by my place and cleaned my lawn mower and sharpened the blades. I believe those little acts of kindness were his way of saying good-bye.
He left a 6 page letter for my mom, trying to explain why he had decided to commit suicide. He had suffered a minor stroke a few months earlier, and even though he had fully recovered, he couldn’t stand the thought that he would have another and possibly be left unable to care for himself. I know that, indeed, the stroke was part of it. However, Dad was an alcoholic. I believe the main reason for his suicide was untreated depression that he self-medicated with alcohol. Dad was a very proud man, and would never ask for help for what he saw as a weakness. I believe he had been depressed most of his life, and when my sister succumbed to cancer at the age of 28, his drinking increased. There seemed to be no way to rescue him. I wish that I had been more educated as to the signs of suicide and had known about the Lifeline number. The heartbreak left in the wake of Dad’s suicide remains unhealed. I cannot visit my sister’s grave without the memory of his last awful moments on Earth.
I don’t write this to scare anyone, or bring anyone down. Rather, I hope that maybe somebody contemplating suicide will read it, and get the help they need. Addiction and depression do not have to be terminal. Please don’t suffer in silence. There is hope for those who somehow find the strength to ask for it.
I’ve posted the poem I wrote for my dad’s funeral, but I’m re-posting as a tribute to his life. I love you Dad.
How hard it is to bid farewell
To you, my dearest Dad.
All my life you’ve been right there
If I just reached out my hand.
A strong pair of arms to help me,
When mine were just too weak.
An open door to welcome me,
When shelter I did seek.
How I wish I could have helped you
The way that you helped me,
And given you the comfort
That your troubled heart did need.
But sometimes the world is just too much
For a tender heart to bear.
You could find no respite
In your hour of dark despair.
So rest now my dear Father,
Enjoy your well-earned peace.
And know that you live on
In the memories I keep.
I will see you in each sunrise
That God paints across the sky.
I will feel you in each cooling breeze
That gently dances by.
I will hear you in the springtime songs
Birds sing to greet the day.
And I will not forget you, Dad
Or all your caring ways.
Stay safe within our Savior’s arms,
Until we meet again.