I haven’t blogged in a year. Something happened and I haven’t really wanted to write about it or anything else until now…so here I go.
It was a year ago yesterday that I heard my daddy say “I love you too,” for the last time. And it was a year ago today that I found out he had passed away. Actually, saying ‘passed away’ puts diamonds on what happened so let’s try this again.
It was a year ago today that my daddy shot himself. It’s such an ugly thing to say. It really is. And until you’ve been through the situation personally, lost someone to their own will, will you agree with me. I remember every ugly detail of that day. I remember my mom calling me to alert me what had been seen on Facebook. I remember other people calling me to see if I knew what was going on. I remember some calling to say, “There’s no way J.D. There’s no way.” I remember calling around to see if we could find him, because, I live five hours away…going door to door wasn’t an option for me.
And then I remember the squealing tires of a yellow school bus stopping in front of my house, my husband running through the door with fire and hurt and fear in his eyes. I remember the reluctance behind his face. He didn’t want to have to tell me what he knew, but he did. My poor husband.
I remember having to put my hand over my chest because I really thought my heart was going to leap from my chest. You read about that in books, and hear people say it in movies, but to experience it is a different feeling all on its own. I remember trying to take a shower and throwing up all over the place. I remember feeling as though someone’s hands were all over me and I pushed them away. It could have been an anxiety attack, but I could’ve sworn, in that moment, it was my daddy saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, forgive me.”
I didn’t want that though. I didn’t want apologies. I wanted him.
I remember pulling into Abilene, finding my youngest brother (who’s a foot taller than me), I let his arms wrap around me and I could feel the blood pulsing beneath his skin. And I cried. He didn’t. Not in that moment. Instead he was expressing his anger the best way he knew how and that was with silence.
I remember my other brother ordering me the strongest drink on the bar menu at Texas Roadhouse. He said I needed to not feel for a little bit. So I drank and actually felt nothing. Seriously. The alcohol didn’t effect me at all. I was already numb.
I’ll also remember how his family rallied around each other to be there for me and my brothers. I’ll remember the 400 plus attendants at the funeral. If anyone had tried to tell me my daddy was alone I would have laughed in their face. My daddy wasn’t alone. He had the world…he just refused to accept it…
I’m going to change the subject for a moment to talk about the ways I’ve experienced death recently. I’ve had the luxury to watch someone beautiful die twice now. The first time was in March of 2012. My husband’s Nana passed away after battling cancer. No, there’s really nothing beautiful in that, or death, but the experience…it was beautiful. I watched my husband’s family rally together, hold one another, sing her to her final resting place and bid her goodbye. Every time I entered the room, all eyes were on Nana, her every breath. You could tell everyone wanted each breath to be her last…but not really. If they had the option to hold on to her forever I know they would’ve. But. It was in the moment, when I was sitting on my husband’s lap, a few cousins were scattered around the room, and we were talking and gently laughing about something other than Nana did she slip away. It was as if she waited for the moment when everyone had a smile on their face, and when she knew all would be okay did she go.
The family fell, of course, on their knees, around her bed, into each others arms, to wail and pray. And in every heart breaking moment all I could think was, “this is beautiful.”
At this point in my life I’m watching my father-in-law wilt away due to the effects of ALS. Another ugly ugly situation. But again my in-laws are binding together and finding ways to hold on to every ounce of love they have. My sisters-in-law will smile the brightest of smiles to Gordon’s face and cry the moment he turns around. This isn’t weakness. This is strength and they have it. I’m watching my mother-in-law nurse another soul to the path of heaven with such grace that all I can do is lift her up in prayer. And I’m watching my husband stay busy, and loving, and act every bit as the man of the household…all the while knowing he will be losing two fathers in the span of two years. I’m watching this and again, there is beauty.
However, let’s get back to the ugliness.
I am past the anger phase. I truly am. I know it sounds like I’m still angry, but I think the bitterness is deserved. I loved this man with every beat of my heart. I was a daddy’s girl through and through and I’ve been marked with him quitting on life and on me.
My brother, David, has turned his life around in the last year and a half. I used to think he harbored a monster inside of him as a result of being in the army…which is partly true…but he’s found reason to live, to love others, and more importantly love himself. It’s a miraculously beautiful thing to see and my daddy is missing every moment of it.
Please please, I do not need to hear that “He’s in heaven’s balcony, watching the things we do,” bit. I want him here. I want him to see David. I want him to hug my brother and tell him that he is legitimately PROUD of how he is living his life. David deserves to hear that from his daddy because I don’t think he ever had. It’s one thing to have everyone else tell you, but to live your life in the shadow of your father and then to never hear those words from him is a story all in itself.
Now Michael. Michael has a lot of life left to live and experience. He’s nearly seventeen, and of course he “already has life figured out,” as all seventeen year olds do. Ha! He hurts differently than the rest of us. He has many vices and none of them are good. He finds peace in potions and I do raise my fist at my dad because that pistol caused a lot of this. He’d never admit this, but he lives life with fear taking control of most of his decisions. He’s afraid of new. He’s afraid of rejection. And he’s afraid to feel. He wasn’t like this a year and a half ago.
There is a future in my brother. I don’t doubt it for a second. He has the ability to find the value in his own life and make something of himself…but he has to learn how to deal with abandonment, and it’s not an easy thing to do. He’s going to graduate high school, college, get married, bring children into the world all without the wisdom and advice of his daddy. But, he was robbed.
And me. I’m pregnant. Something I didn’t expect, and I won’t lie, I didn’t necessarily want to happen. But it’s a little boy. Who’s going to teach this kid to pitch?! No that’s not my greatest concern, but hell, it was definitely a dream of mine to have my daddy teach a kid of mine the Slurve…or whatever that is. I am mad and angry and I do hurt, because a year ago when my daddy told me he loved me too, he had promised to come visit very soon. He told me he missed me and wanted to see the new town we lived in. He promised me the world in a ten-minute conversation, said he loved me and shot himself six hours later.
He had SO much to live for and so many people who loved him that I still sit here at a loss. Suicide is ugly! The people that love me will patiently sit by my side and listen to my words but it’s ugly and I hate burdening people with it. I miss my daddy and not one day went by for the last year where I didn’t think of his face, his last moments, and then wonder what more could I have done for him. Well, everything. I could have done more of everything. I could have stood up for his life when he was living and drinking his paychecks away with that woman. I could have told him how happy I was that they broke up because she was never good for him. No good person pushes that much alcohol into your life when you’re depressed at where your life is headed. She did that and I never stood up for my daddy’s life.
It’s possible that I was complacent with the fact that he WAS alive and now that it’s too late, I’ve worked the situation backward to see where I could go back and fix it. But I can’t.
I do know, that with God’s good grace I’ll be able to hug my daddy’s neck once again. I know that all the hurt he felt in the last couple years of his life stopped the moment he pulled the trigger. But it still sucks. And hurts.
I miss you, daddy.
This piece was originally written by JD Doty for her website, Doty’s Dish. Thank you, JD, for your willingness to share your story with us. So many of us can relate to your words.