He was going through his third divorce. He called me that afternoon upset about his life and I believe to confront me about some things I had done or said. His soon-to-be ex-wife had called me earlier that week concerned about my little sister...their five-year-old daughter. My father was bi-polar. That's hard for a kid to understand...I remember. Shoot, sometimes it's hard for an adult to understand. He was on one of his cycles and things had not been good. He had made some threats and said some things that were a bit disturbing and I was worried for Paige's safety. So I told his ex-wife just to keep some distance between them for awhile...that he'd come back around, but for now, she didn't need to be alone with him. I didn't want history to repeat itself.
That afternoon, when he called, he repeated a few things I had said to his ex-wife word for word. I hadn't said anything that was untrue or that I was ashamed of, but he felt betrayed. Like I should have been "on his side." I told him I loved him and I was just concerned for Paige's safety when he was in this state of mind. That just made him angrier. We argued back and forth for a few minutes, then he said something about making choices and that we are in control of our own lives. All I could see was the image of the towers collapsing on those thousands of helpless people. They certainly had no choice, no control. I shot back at him rather sharply with "We are NOT in control! What about all those people that just died today!" All he said was "Sure we are" and hung up. I was too mad to hear him. To really hear what he had just said. Usually I can read between the lines...even the fine lines...sometimes more than I want to. But this day my mind was distracted...and I was mad. How dare he blame me for the position he'd put himself in.
The next day, September 12, 2001, he went out to the garage and started his truck. Then he crawled to the back and propped himself up next to the exhaust pipe. The EMT's said this was probably so things would happen faster. They wouldn't even let us see him. The gas had been so strong it had eaten through the skin on his face. His last effort at controlling his life.
Although I know this is a decision he made, I can't help but feel some guilt. I should have listened. I should have known. I shouldn't have let it end like that. Why didn't I call back? Even if he wouldn't have answered (which was a game he'd often play...I guess another attempt at controlling the situation) I could have left a message telling him I was sorry and that I loved him and that no matter what was happening, he could get through this. We could get through this. Perhaps this is why I have such a hard time dealing with unresolved conflict. I'm worried there may never be a chance to resolve it.
My grandmother is living with us for now. And watching her go through this anniversary has been hard. I've buried a child as well. I know the unbearable pain it brings. But I would imagine losing your child to suicide must be even worse. To know that your only child felt so alone and betrayed that he had no reason to live. The confusion. The guilt. The "what if's." If you have a moment today, please pray for her. Pray that she doesn't lose hope completely. That she holds tight to Jesus. And that her grand-daughter would know how to love her through this.