“I just adored him.”
Frances Moore (1998)
Stereotypically, my father was the breadwinner; he was the person my mother used to threaten to tell of my misbehavior when I was a child; he was supposedly the man in control. I felt he was my protector, too, and even though I am an adult now, that child-like feeling is still within my heart. I felt he could handle anything. I loved and adored my father.
Some may not care for their fathers. Some fathers are bastards. Really there’s no easy way to deny that reality. Either way, the loss of someone so instrumental in getting you into this world is a major event.
To lose my father to a death of his own decision created a lot of different questions in my mind. Could suicide be something that I might choose to do because I have his genes? Did I mean this little to him? Did I not love him enough? What the hell was he thinking?
Your father’s decision to die is not the sum total of his life. If you adored him; allow yourself to feel the heartbreak. If you were mixed up by his treatment of you; allow yourself to feel the confusion.
It took me a long time to go back to the cemetery after my father’s funeral. I went alone not sure what my feelings would churn up. Disbelief, anger, sadness, worry, fear, stress, all filled me.
I brought a single rose and a shell. One had soft, vulnerable pedals and a stem full of thorns. One had a spiny, barbed shield surrounding an empty hole. Both represented my heart. I laid them against his monument. The cemetery was quiet. Except for several crows squawking as they jumped on the ground and then back into a tree and a muffled road noise from the busy highway, I heard nothing but the sound of my own thoughts.
“Oh, Daddy,” I cried out, “You broke my heart. Why did you do it?”
Just as he left nothing explaining why he killed himself, no great answer rang out from the clouds or even in my head. I heard only the shouting crows. Presently, their lively game of tag gave my grieving mind and aching heart a release from the emotional turmoil. I smiled and went home. Throughout the rest of the week the sounds and games of the crows stayed with me—especially after I read this bible verse.
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:24-26.
You might have called my father an adventurer. Certainly his suicide caused me to explore a new whelm of thought. Before he ended his life, death to me was something that came swift or slow either unwanted or welcomed. The key idea, though, was that death came; it wasn’t an option. Something innocent in me had the notion that no one person had that much power as to end their own life. Death, like birth, came from God.
The first few years after Daddy died, I went through my own depression. I suffered through countless child-like angers at family and friends. Little problems or stresses brought about a thought of how easily death now could be called upon. Suicide or perhaps more the fear of it carried a heavy weight in my thoughts.
The fear that I could simply kill myself sat upon my shoulder like a maliciously smiling monkey, chattering extreme suggestions into my ear. I was scared of my own thoughts. Dangerous thoughts came from the mile-wide crack in my soul; I wasn’t in full control of myself. I felt no one in my family would understand, but they, too, were just as shocked by my father’s death.
Rather than death, I sought help. I began talking, first to counselors, then to a priest, and then to friends. It was important that the people I chose to talk with about my father’s suicide and my fears were not dependent upon my being ok—that I didn’t have to put up a front for them. I needed to tell the truth; I was horribly afraid that suicide was genetic. These trustworthy, objective people allowed me to safely expose my fear and be as weak as I felt. They listened, nodded, and assured me that I wasn’t crazy—and that I had more strength than I realized. The fears eased up as I shed light upon them.
The thing about suicide is that its bleak aftermath wants to spread like a bad cold or influenza. Get help. Talk to someone immune to your pain.