It’s been almost two years. Two years since my dad pulled the trigger and ended his own life. Two years I have lived with this dull ache deep in my heart. Sometimes I forget the pain. Sometimes it feels like everything is ok, and then when I least expect it, a wave of sadness engulfs me.
On the evening of the 4th March 2010, I got a call from my sister saying that my father was not at home. He was supposed to be there. His cell phone was just ringing. My husband said he would drive to their house and help search for dad. Instinctively I knew that I needed to go too.
I remember the 15 minute driving feeling like a lifetime. I remember walking into his house, where we’d had a lovely dinner a few nights before, and it felt unwelcoming, cold. I remember seeing his asthma pump, his watch and his silver pen he always wore in his top pocket, lined up neatly on his bedside table – three items he would usually never leave the house without. I remember thinking “I’m never going to see my dad again.” I just knew. I remember pacing the house waiting for someone to find him. I remember the tears in my husbands’ eyes as he walked towards me and held me tightly. Without him saying a word I knew. My dad was dead.
I was shocked. I was confused. I was sad and irrevocably heart broken. But most of all, I was calm. Eerily calm and in control.
I was 6 months pregnant with my baby boy the night my father died. It had been a difficult pregnancy with a Cystic Hygroma picked up on our baby’s neck at our 12 week scan. Even though the tests had confirmed our son was chromosomally healthy, we were still not sure what lay ahead. I was completely in love with the baby that grew inside me and was terrified that if I let myself go into the darkness of mourning my father, my baby would suffer.
My 7 year old son who was the absolute apple of my fathers eye, was lying on his “Papa’s” bed watching cartoons, waiting anxiously for him to come home. He knew something was wrong. There was sadness and angst in his beautiful blue eyes. I wanted to tell him everything was ok. I wanted to tell him that his “Papa” would be home soon. I wanted to lie and protect him from the truth forever.
I felt like I was watching my life from above as I stood strong and barely shed a tear. I watched myself as I climbed into my dad’s huge bed with my son and cradled him in my arms as he sobbed after I told him his “Papa” was gone. I let him shout and cry and soak my shirt. I just held him tighter. I was too scared to cry. I needed to be strong for the child in my arms and the child in my belly. I was scared that if I started, I might never stop. Ever.
The next two days went by in a blur of family togetherness, phone calls and sorting out my dad’s affairs. My husband was my rock and held me together. As the oldest sibling, again I felt I needed to be strong. I needed to hold my sisters while they cried, to comfort my brother. I couldn’t let them see me hurt. I couldn’t let my son see me break down.
On the third day, in my own house, while my husband and son were sleeping I got into a hot shower and screamed into a towel. I screamed and shouted until my throat was raw. I sat on the floor of the shower with the water streaming over me while I sobbed and punched the wall. Having never been religious before, I remember speaking to God for the first time. Pleading with him. Asking him WHY? Shouting at him for taking the wrong guy. He had made a mistake. My dad was never supposed to be dead. I sat on the shower floor for more than an hour. The water had long gone cold and my body was shivering, covered in goose bumps. That day I grieved. I mourned the death of my father in private so that no one else could see my devastation.
Since that day I broke down and let go, I have come to terms with the fact that my dad lived a full life. He loved. He laughed. He lived. He was this huge man with a jovial outlook on life. He wanted only the best for his children and grandchildren. He was a proud man. He was in a dark place in his life and nobody knew because he was that proud. He always called the shots. And he decided that his time on this earth was done. And two years down the line, I am ok with that.
It has been a long road to recovery in getting over the suicide. I’ve often watched my boys and shed a little tear knowing that they’re growing up without the most awesome grandpa that ever was. I still touch his wooden pipe and Zippo lighter lovingly and open the old tobacco bag to see if I can get a whiff of his scent. I still hear his voice in my head occasionally when I’m making decisions. I still get sad sometimes.
But mostly… mostly I remember my dad laughing. I remember how it felt when he hugged me. I remember how he would play with my son for hours, never showing a second of impatience. I remember his naughty giggle. I remember the way his eyebrows almost knotted in the middle when he frowned. I remember how he would bite his shirt collar at the sight of blood. I remember the way his hair was soft and coarse at the same time. I remember how he would do this little dance when he was excited about something. I remember the good. And my heart is happy when I think of my dad.
In 2 weeks time, my mother, brother and sisters are going down to the coast to finally scatter his ashes. I have decided I will not be going. Having his ashes scattered at the sea was his final wish, and while I feel morally that I should be there to see through his final wishes, I feel that emotionally I cannot do it. I was the one who has delayed it this long, always saying that I was not ready to do it. The thought terrifies me. I cannot even put down in words how emotional I have been over making this decision. I have kept putting it off, hoping the day will never come. But the time has come. And everyone else is ready. I don’t know if I ever will be. I know that I have mourned. I have grieved. I have said goodbye in my own way. But somehow the thought of scattering his ashes on a beach gives me chills, and I know that I just don’t want to do it.
I don’t know if what I have decided makes me a bad person. I don’t know if my dad, wherever he is, would understand. I don’t know if my brother and sisters will ever forgive me for abandoning them during this final ritual. But I do know that since I made the decision I feel lighter. I feel calm again. I feel like this is the right thing for ME.
And I do know in my heart that my dad always wanted me to do what was right for me…
I love you dad!