I still remember the day. I had gotten in a fight with my parents, specifically with my dad. I don’t remember what we had argued about but I defiantly packed a weekend bag to stay over at my boyfriend’s house which was not allowed. As I walked out the door and down the narrow walkway my dad had built to our house, I heard the door close and looked around to see my father behind me. He tenderly said, “Grace, I love you.” The look in his eyes said “I’m sorry, just stay, lets talk about this.” I responded, mostly as an instinctive reaction than out of deep feeling, “Yeah, I love you too.” I walked away and drove out of the driveway. That was the last conversation I ever had with him.
I lasted all but an afternoon at my boyfriends house and after a phone call with my mom telling me that my sister had gone into labor and was at the hospital, I decided to return home. I can’t remember why I looked in the rear view mirror but on the way home I saw an ambulance behind us. No lights were flashing. It followed us all the way home, even pulling in behind us in our driveway. I jumped out of the car and ran inside, fearing the worst–something had happened to my niece while my mom watched her for my laboring sister. A flood of relief came over me as I saw her being safely bounced in my brother’s arms. Feeling confused, I looked to my mom for the answer. She tearfully pronounced, “Grace, your dad is dead…”
The next moments are still a bit blurry but I remember being knocked to my knees overcome with the weight of the news. As I heaved through heavy sobs, my mom wrapped her arms around me and tried to offer any comfort she could. Blinking through my tears and finally coming to, I demanded to see him or “it”, as a spirit no longer occupied my dad’s body. I was gently ushered outside by my friends dad, an EMT who had been one of the first to respond to the 911 call. There, lying just outside of the woodshed, my dad’s lifeless body, growing cold and starting to get covered with the snow of a fierce blizzard that was only in it’s early hours. Once again I fell to my knees, completely helpless and overcome by the gravity of the situation. The EMT kindly helped me up and urged that I get inside. I was hesitant to leave, knowing that this would be the last time my father and I occupied the same space. The last time his presence would not just be felt but seen.
Looking back, I can’t imagine what my mom went through as she was the one who discovered my dad in the woodshed, the place he had chosen to end a near 20 year battle of pain and suffering with a simple tie of a rope. She solicited the help of my brother as his body was much too large for my mom’s small frame. I won’t go into detail about what happened exactly but the bravery and courage of my mom and brother at this time still strikes me today.
At just 17 years old and a few months away from my high school graduation, my father’s suicide hit me hard. I numbly finished up my high school career and managed to finish at the top of my class–only by the help of some gracious teachers and a few diligent friends. The next year of my life was a blur and difficult, to say the least. I remember feeling bitter, lonely, angry, sad, and at a complete loss for what to do, who to be, and where I should be headed. I don’t know what pulled me out of that dark, grey period but I can only credit my loving family and my Heavenly Father for getting me through that much needed time of grief, however destructive it may have been.
10 years later and with a family of my own, it feels like this day was a lifetime ago. A lifetime of grief, doubt, pain, anguish, and the deepest sadness but through it all, growth. The growth of love between a family that has gone through hell and back together. The growth of my character, resilience, determination, and long suffering. The growth of my strength of a woman, daughter, sister, friend and now wife, mother. The growth of a person who hardly recognizes her 17 year old self. 10 years ago I was just a tiny seed, waiting for that abrasion that is required to bring forth the beautiful blossoms we stop and admire. I could never have become the person I am today without the trials and struggles that ensued after that day.
We can’t control what happens in life but we can determine our reaction. Your life, Dad, brought about more than you could ever know but your death, Dad, shaped me to become who I am today. And for that I am grateful. I love you. I will see you again, soon. Until then, lets keep up the work.