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Posts Tagged With: death

Today We Bury A US President

Can We Also Bury Anger With Him?

I remember the years after Ronald Reagan very well. My parents were still alive, I was young, and times were different. Times were very different then. There wasn’t access to the news at the spur of the moment because smart phones had not been invented. If you wanted to read the news, you went out and got a newspaper. You put your quarter in the machine on the corner and walked back home, past the telephone booth. In my neighborhood, you waved at the local hooker and gave a head nod to the guy across the street who you knew was selling drugs out of his house. You kept your head down and you stayed out of trouble. 

The Early Nineties

The year was 1991 and I had just moved to St Pete, FL. I was working as a waitress in a place that still required me to wear a dress and pantyhose each day. I walked to work or rode a bicycle. I had a car and it was broken down more than it ran. It stayed parked most of the time. It was a brand new Dodge and to this day I won’t own another one. 

I had moved to the coast because my parents lived in Ocala. I had not been very wild about the fact that they sold their house and followed me to FL in 1987. I considered it my mother’s final attempt at ruining my life and continuing her efforts at manipulating everything she could. Of course, she wasn’t all bad. As an adult now, I can admit this. At that time, however, I had just come out as gay and she and I were not getting along at all. 

The AIDS crisis was in full swing. Being a young lesbian, I was aware of it and was fearful of contracting it myself. Even though it predominantly was an issue that affected gay men, women were not totally safe. I read “And the Band Played On” from cover to cover and was somewhat horrified. It would be many years before that made it to the big screen. Gay people knew. We were living in it, neck deep. 

The Real Reagan Legacy

Ronald Reagan didn’t acknowledge the epidemic for what it was. It was never funded. It was, to be blunt, completely ignored. Gay men were dying at astronomical numbers. These deaths were long and painful. Most of the people I personally knew who died passed away from breathing complications – typically pneumonia. I remember one friend the most. His name was Christopher Gomez. Chris was a wonderful person. There were times that he’d see me walking home after work, or on the way to work. He would do a big U-turn in the middle of crazy 4th Street North, stopping traffic in the process, in order to pull-over and yell, “Get in, I’ll drive you!”

He was a nice person. He had dark hair, brown eyes, a pale complexion, and he was short. Chris probably didn’t stand over five feet, six inches tall. He worked as a waiter and he made good money. Like most of us in those days, he spent more on beer and having fun than anything else. We lived in neighborhoods that were seemingly small in the middle of a large city.

I had several  friends, a different life back then than the one I live now. I was more social and could more easily deal with loudness and chaotic situations. As I’ve grown older, my spectrum disorder has become increasingly a challenge. I don’t react well to intrusions into my quiet time, I do not socialize outside of the home much because the recovery time for me is lengthier than it used to be. I get grumpy if I feel intruded upon too much. It unnerves me. I do look back on those times fondly, in part because I was able to be social. People don’t realize that those on the spectrum want to be social. We just cannot be social all the time

George Herbert Walker Bush was our president in 1991. I do not remember ever hating him back then. I disliked his policies and I disliked the fact that we were at war in Iraq. The Middle East has never seemed like a place for American soldiers, in my opinion. Those people don’t like each other, and I don’t think they ever will. Why we have to get in the middle of it all the time is truly beyond me. I am 28 years older now than I was then, and I still don’t understand our constant involvement in the Middle East. It seems a never-ending circle of death for American soldiers to me. 

Times Were Hard

My mind still goes back to a time when I held the hands of dying friends, like Christopher, with tears in their eyes, knowing there was absolutely nothing that could be done. Watching someone die, resigned to their fate, is a very difficult thing to when that person hasn’t led a full life. You mourn the years that should have been.You wonder whose lives they should have touched, the loves they should have had. . . 

What was extremely troubling, and has haunted the legacy of President GHW Bush, was his continuation of the Reagan administration’s neglect of the AIDS crisis. So many in the LGBTQ community hold them personally responsible for the deaths of countless people in our community. As recently as a year ago I was accused of being a single-issue voter, which I’m not and never have been. The accusation was because of my concern over gay rights issues. That just happens to be a life or death thing for me! As is healthcare. As is social security being there when I am 67 years old one day. As is the housing crisis. As is gerrymandering and voting problems, lobbying, term limits, and a nauseating list I don’t want to focus on at this moment.

I digress. The AIDS crisis is still held against the senior Bush. I have recently seen many people bring this up the last two days. I’ve seen some very hateful things said and shared on social media. I’d be a liar if I said that it didn’t make me sad because it makes me weep for the society we have become. We are just very hateful now! 

Human beings are imperfect. Our special qualities have always been in our ability to forgive, to love, and to understand that none of us is perfect. We all struggle with our demons and we all make mistakes. Some of us make bigger mistakes than others. What I base my judgements of people on is whether or not they intended to harm others. I also look at whether or not the individual has done anything to redeem themselves. 

Should Four Years Determine Your Legacy?

The patriarch of the Bush family has left behind a legacy of charity work that most of us will never achieve. George HW Bush worked in every way he could to do bipartisan work with Bill Clinton, to bring humanitarian aid to others. He supported and founded the Bush Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund. He also supported the following charities: Covenant House, FC Harlem, Heifer International, Save the Children, Smile Train, United Nations Development Program, and the Vijay Amritraj Foundation.

President Bush was a man who could reach across aisles and do what he thought was best for the country. He lied about his age so that he could fight for his country. He is guilty of imperfection. Aren’t we all? Has he fully made up for the lives lost to AIDS? I’m not sure that he could ever have done that. Is it so hard to believe that in the early days of AIDS many people made bad decisions? They did. It caused a loss of life greater than what it probably should have been. Is the man responsible or was it the era that we lived in? We have learned more and we have moved on. Have we not?

I can tell you that Christopher would say that ‘the guy did a lot of great things the rest of his life. He made his peace with his own God.’ Forgiveness is the only way forward. Today, I’m making the choice to forgive him and move on. While we shouldn’t use our current administration to normalize anything, I do believe that it certainly must be a basis for clarity.

We can say a lot of good things about the senior Bush. We can say that he was a man who made mistakes but tried to do much that was right with is life. We can say that he was a sensitive man, a family man who loved his children and his grandchildren. He was one of the last truly moderate Republicans who could listen and work with democrats. He was from an era that wasn’t all that bad, even though it wasn’t totally good. 

The older I get, the more I want peace. I have learned to pick and choose my battles and I’ve learned when to forgive. This is a case that I will choose the latter and show my respect to a man who gave most of his life in service to his country. An honorable member of the armed forces, he never shirked his duties. He knew what decorum meant. Even in death, there is a calm, quiet dignity that we are not accustomed to anymore. I can welcome this return to tradition and values today, with my hand over my heart. 

“Thank-you for your service, Mr. President.”

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Categories: aging, American government, death, equal rights, gay lesbian, lesbian, life lessons, love, Politics | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Live Like I Do – Blown By the Wind

Great live version!

 

All My Dreams Pass Before My Eyes of Curiosity

Nothing lasts forever, but the earth and sky….no truer words were ever spoken. My philosophy on life, the actual process of living and the purpose for our existence, is far removed from that which most people feel. Firstly, I don’t believe that this is our only ride on the pony. I believe that we come back many times to this earthly realm and we learn more and more as we progress up a ladder, so to speak. In all honesty, I think it a little bold to believe that you could learn all there is to know from living only one lifetime.

I have nearly died a few times. I’ve known others in the same place. All of my life I have been very intuitive and after my parents passed it became very strong and I had to work with a woman to help teach me how to ‘turn it down’ when I needed to. I feel emotions far more deeply than many others do for this reason. I also tend to know when I am being lied to. What makes me different than most people is that I’ll forgive the lies and try to get straight to the root of the thing that is causing you to tell the lies. I am not like most people. Some might call me crazy…that’s okay. I can take it. I forgive them too. I am actually very quick to forgive, but I don’t necessarily let everyone back in. I weigh the circumstances and I wonder whether or not I can help them…or if there is another lesson for me at hand. This determines my decisions.

My belief is that before we are born, we actually plan this life out to a large degree…like an outline. You are still free to write the story the way you wish, but the general outline will guide you. I believe that we choose the battles that we are going to be facing, based on the lessons that we need to learn this time around. I was told by a psychic in 2007/08 that this was my last time to be reincarnated and that I had asked to make this lifetime to be a very big challenge. In her words, “You really wanted everything possible thrown at you so that you could really go out with a bang this time. You wanted to experience it ALL.”

To be perfectly honest….at that time, I thought she was little bit full of shit. She knows it because I sort of told her that. She’s still on my Facebook friends list and she’s honestly really good. As it turns out, I believe her now. It took me a while – it was a slow progression and almost like a game…to see what else could possibly happen and what would I survive. You see, I have complete faith now that I’m SUPPOSED to just keep going through more shit and that I will survive. I also know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I have a reward of some sort coming. I know that God is going to give me peace and rest, love and somewhere to put down roots. I can feel it moving towards me. Faith. This is my only explanation. I’ve survived many things that should have killed me. I know that I am SUPPOSED to be here, sitting in this booth right now, writing this. Someone out there is being moved by every word and their life is beginning to make more sense to them as they read on. YOU! You may be that person I am supposed to be helping right now. Have some faith and know that you are not alone. I’m aware of your pain and many others are too. You can and will survive, my friend.

My days are spent attempting to touch people with a dose of reality and trying to show others that humility is a good thing. Yes, I get confused and I get scared. You see, while my soul knows the outline I am following, I have no memory of it. For now, I’m just a human being that is also making mistakes and getting by through much trial and error. I’m simply trying to trust that I’m being shown opportunities to grow and given chances to rise above. I’m challenged and tested each and every day. We all are! Some just don’t understand it.

Same Old Song…Just a Drop of Water In An Endless Sea

I’ve risen above homelessness, hunger, my father’s suicide, near death experiences, child abuse from my mother, being cheated on by at least two people that I loved, lied to by people that I trusted with my life and being put in harm’s way, having no family in my life at all…I’m a complete loner, being diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, put on psychotropic drugs that actually caused me to lose my mind for a long time, watching someone die in my arms, being beaten half to death by three grown men just because I was a lesbian, having an older brother come to live with me and take me for money, hit me and break everything I owned for going on two years, having a younger brother go to work at the job I helped him get and tell everyone that as far as he was concerned he didn’t have a sister as long as I was gay, living in a cabin in the winter of 2011 with no running water, no heat, no electricity and surviving by letting the dogs sleep on top of me on those nights when ice formed on the inside of the walls. I’ve tried to help a lot of people who burned me badly. I’ve had people tell lies about me and others judge me. I have been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and auditory processing disorder, anxiety, agoraphobia and a few other things. All of those issues come and go. I had a panic attack last night and my chest hurt. I knew that it would pass.

In the last month, I came to IL to help someone. She told me she loved me and she tried to hide a lot from me…but I already knew she was lying to me. Again, like I ALWAYS do…I forgave her. It just isn’t worth being angry anymore. I let go of all my anger last summer. God showed me that my life was my own and that He had honestly given me every possible chance to turn things around. This is when I realized that my purpose…my TRUE purpose in life was to help other people. Even if it is a kind word and nothing else…I feel that I can touch people in a way that can change their life. This is what I try to do each and every day now. I don’t hold onto anger and I don’t let things keep me down. Yes, I get down because I’m human, but I quickly recover and remember that I have a purpose and a meaning to my life. I move on.

These days, I’m being tried and challenged with each breath that I take. I’m single and it looks like it’s going to stay that way. You cannot help someone who refuses to be helped because their path has not yet led them to have any faith in themselves or in the world around them. I weep for her, not because she’s hurt me…but because I could not help her. I have still offered to be here and be her friend, but one thing I have become very good at – turning my feelings for someone off. If I choose not to let you in, then you are done. I only resort to this when I feel that the damage I am incurring is greater than I can heal. One of my very first lessons in life was how to save myself, even when it was very traumatic. Honestly, that trauma has followed me for many years and only recently I believe that I was forgiven for it in a way that was meant to help me move on from this current experience faster as well.

I don’t tend to regret much, as I know it is a learning experience. I do regret when I can’t help someone…but it is time for me to move on. It is time to let the wind blow me again. I place it in God’s hands and where I end-up, I trust I am supposed to be there.

~ all we are is dust in the wind….

 

Categories: abuse, ADHD, child abuse, death, equal rights, gay lesbian, lesbian, life lessons, love, self-help | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

What Suicide Looks Like To the Ones Left Behind – Please, Find Another Way

“Some people misinterpret my stories of my father’s death as my reliving it and living in the past too much. The truth is that I’ m very much moved beyond this story and the pain.

What I honestly hope for, more than anything else, is to use graphic descriptions and the sadness to reach out to anyone else out there who has or is currently contemplating suicide as a way out. This is what you’ll do to those left behind. No matter what you think, people really do care and no matter how flawed your life may be…you are still valued and they still want you in their lives.

The world is ALWAYS a better place with you in it. You may not see your purpose or your reason for being here now, but it will become clear to you soon. Hang on long enough to see what you are capable of. You might just be surprised what you can do and how strong you are. “

Trevor Lifeline: 866 488 7386

National Suicide Hotline – 

1-800-273-8255

Dad had been missing for four days. His body had been hanging from a tree until it had decomposed and fallen to the ground below. It was my understanding that his head was detached from his body. The Florida heat and bugs had made him nothing more than rotting, bug infested flesh that was falling from bones that had been nibbled at by wild animals in the region. This was no longer our father. This was something that used to be a home to his soul and nothing more.

The coroner told us, “Don’t let your son see his father like this. It will give him nightmares the rest of his life.” We agreed and my mother gave the go ahead for the body to be moved to where it would be cremated. My brother never really forgave either one of us for that decision I don’t think? It’s sad that he held my mother responsible for a lot of things, including my father committing suicide in the first place. All along, she tried to protect him and in the end, he was just simply awful to her.

The events that followed were very surreal and I only vaguely remember the days that immediately followed the finding of his body. I know that the funeral for my dad was tiny. There were less than a dozen people there. His own family didn’t come. Two of my mother’s brothers were there and so was her little sister. I was bitterly disappointed that a man who was fifty-eight years old and had touched the lives of so many people only had a handful of people show-up to say good-bye to him.

I had to go pick-up the flowers. My brothers and I were supposed to split this. They both stiffed me. I grumbled to my mother about it because it was so typical and because I was also worried about paying my rent with all this time off work I was taking. I wasn’t going to receive any bereavement pay because my company didn’t offer it.

My mom’s sister, my Aunt Jenny, insisted on giving me money for them. I remember how I felt then. I had rent to pay and it was due in a week. I couldn’t afford the $300 for the wreaths and such. I was relieved that she gave me the money back but I also felt like a heel. It was one more thing that added to the grief and the stress.

Eventually came the day that we had to go collect Dad’s possessions from the sheriff’s department. Mom and I went together. I remember walking back to the window that we were directed to. Everyone seemed to keep looking at us and I felt that they knew who we were. I felt like they felt some sort of sympathy that they couldn’t express. It came out as an awkward silence.

The man behind a window pulled out an envelope. In it was my father’s wallet, his wedding ring, his keys to his car, and his watch. It was the watch I had given him just the year before for Christmas. He’d loved that watch. He always wore it. This thought made me smile.

My mother opened his wallet and began to look through it. I’m not sure why exactly, other than it was probably some connection to him that she felt. She turned it over in her hands, rubbed it and opened it. In a way, it was almost as if she was trying to conjure his spirit from it, as one would call a genie from a bottle.

She pulled out a photo and she gasped, “My God, … you always thought your father didn’t care but look.” In her hand was a photo of the three of us kids, from many years in the past, and on the back of the photo were our names and our dates of birth, in his handwriting. Again, it made me smile, but it was bittersweet. My father had never been the kind of guy to look at you and tell you he loved you. He showed it all the time, but he never ever just came out and said it.

Growing up, he’d been the guy who would cut you a hockey stick out of a sheet of plywood and sand it and paint it, just so you could go out back and play with some other kids and knock around something that we had used as a makeshift puck. He never missed a ball game while I was growing up. He never missed a birthday or an important event ever. Now I was coming to terms with the fact that he would be at nothing else for the rest of my life. It hit me like a rock landing in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why my mother said I thought that he didn’t care. I knew he cared. I didn’t know why he had never protected me from her, but I knew he cared.

A deputy who had worked the investigation came up and tried to be comforting. I really cannot say enough nice things about the Marion County sheriff’s department during this time. They treated as like human beings and not just a case they worked. Another deputy walked-up behind him and she said, “Well, at least you have the note he left.”

“Note? There’s a note??” My mother’s face looked shocked and hopeful. She seemed so excited.

“Yes,” the deputy went on, “he left a note. No one told you?” The deputy seemed genuinely shocked and concerned.

“My God! NO!” Tears started to form in my mother’s eyes.

The kind deputy told us to wait where we were. A few minutes later, the female deputy came back. The male deputy walked with her. In her hand she held a paper. She had made a copy of the suicide note and she handed to to my mother. She caught Mom’s hand and squeezed it as she released the note to her. I’m sure she must have realized what this mean to us. These were his last words to us and while they didn’t explain much, those words gave my mother so much comfort and for that I was very thankful.

We poured over it. It was short. It didn’t really make any sense other than to show he wasn’t in the soundest frame of mind when he wrote it. He also stated that he would miss us and loved us all. I’d never heard or even seen these words written from my father, in his own handwriting, in my entire life. Still, I did not cry.

Mom made copies for all of us. My copy is folded and lying in the bottom of a jewelry box to this day. Every now and then I will pull it out and look at it. It helps me feel close to him and to remember his handwriting. There is something in seeing his handwriting that gives me a little bit of comfort from time to time. It is like I still hold a piece of him.

Finally, the last business was that I had to drive my father’s car home, following my mother. It was the longest drive of my entire life. Mind you, I’d driven all over the country already. I’d driven from Florida to Illinois a dozen times and sometimes straight through. Yet this drive, alone with the ghost of my deceased father, was the longest drive of my life. I laughed, I yelled, I asked him “why?” and I sincerely wanted answers. None came.

At the funeral, my brothers both wept. I saw my younger brother’s shoulders heave. My older brother has always been a weeper and he had tears streaming down his face the whole time.

My mother was seated right next to me. I was the only one of her children who sat next to her. I remember thinking that was strange. Why me?

Nearing the end of the small, graveside service there was a twenty-one gun salute and then we had to endure Taps. This had come at the insistence of my younger brother. Being in the marines and my father having been in the army all those many years ago made this meaningful to him.

Never mind that my father was drafted and never had one nice thing to say about being in the Army. He hated it and could hardly wait to be discharged. I remember him talking about it from time to time. He’d been drafted as a young man who had been married already for a few years and taking off to basic training hadn’t been his idea of what he wanted to do with his life.

It was Taps that finally caused silent tears to stream down my cheeks. Still, I never openly wept. There was never any shoulder heaving, nose blowing, sobbing that seemed ready to come out of me. Perhaps I was still in shock or perhaps it was just that I had made a lifetime of holding things in and stuffing things down a little deeper? I just was shoving this all down into the abyss that I didn’t realize I was tethered to. The more weight I shoved down there, the further it drug me down with it.

Four days from the time I had first been told about my father’s death, I was back at work. I tied my tie and put on my vest as if it was any other day and off to work I went. I had a job to do and I was ready to get back to life as usual, and so I tried. I was now driving my father’s car. My mom sold it to me for a few hundred dollars. Leave it to her to make me pay for it. She would, just a few short months later, give my younger brother her Lincoln when she got the insurance money from Dad’s death. She bought herself a different vehicle and started spending that money as fast as she could.

I was finally back at my place and staying in my own bed again, leaving my mother to her lonely house. The first night that I was back in my own bed, the strangest thing happened to me. I had a dream that I was sitting on the branch of the tree that my father hung himself from. I was sitting there, swinging my legs. I was trying to talk him out of doing what he was doing.

He never looked at me. He just continued with his work of tying the rope over the tree limb. He ran the rope under the car and anchored it on the front axle of the car. The other end, he had already carefully tied a noose that had a perfect not. I knew this instinctively because my father was a master at tying knots. He taught me to tie a knot and to this day, people who knew him and see me tie a knot will comment that I must have learned that from my father. I’m sure that they mean nothing by it, but it stings a little.

As I begged him not to do what he was doing, he put the rope around his neck and he jumped. I awoke with a start. I was sweaty, had tears running down my face and I was deeply disturbed. I’ll never forget this dream as long as I shall live.

In a way it was healing because it made me realize that there was likely nothing I ever would have been able to say to him to change his mind, even if I’d have known his plans. He probably was going to have done what he did anyway. I adopted the philosophy that it was his life and he owed me nothing. If he was in pain, he had the right to end it. Right or wrong, this is what got me by for sixteen years after his death.

A few days later, I had a second dream. This dream, I would later come to understand was a ‘visitation dream’ and they are frequently bestowed upon those whom the deceased wishes to have some final contact with of some sort. Whether this dream is meant to clarify, give closure and instructions of some sort, it is a way for the loved one left behind to have some answers and to know that the person who has crossed over is in a better place.

I remember going to bed. My dog, Cheyenne, was sleeping next to me in the bed like she always did at night. It felt as though I had barely closed my eyes and drifted-off to sleep when suddenly a sound outside caused me to wake with a jolt.

The room was dark, but the moonlight streaming through the windows rested on the fog that had engulfed my bedroom. There was a waist-deep fog in my entire apartment. It was a blue-gray haze that seemed eerie yet I was not afraid in the slightest.

Again, I heard the noise from outside. It was an engine revving loudly, as if someone was about to drag race outside my back door. I hopped up and put my feet on the wood floor. I made my way to the back door, which led to a porch and another screened door. I walked to the screened door and peeked outside.

In the parking lot, which was just across from the driveway to this house which had been renovated to have two apartments in it, was an old, black Plymouth. It had a chopped top and it was raised in the rear end. This was a fast car, no doubt. It was quite an impressive hot rod and it was still rumbling.

There was an arm resting on the driver’s side door, and it led up to a short-sleeved, white tee-shirt. The arm looked vaguely familiar to me. I ducked my head down for a closer look and the face came into view for me. It was my father. He was much younger now. In fact, he looked like he was very close to my own age. I was twenty-eight and he looked about thirty.

“Dad?”

“Hey. Yes, it’s me. I need to talk to you,” he said as his arm motioned me to come closer.

I stepped out onto the wooden steps. I was barefoot and I could feel the steps on my feet. I remember thinking to myself that this had to be real because I made a mental note of what the steps felt like. I even felt the gravel as I tip-toed across the driveway to the parking lot and I could feel the relief of the grass on the other side. When I was finally standing next to the car, I was within two feet of my father’s arm. I looked back and forth at this old car. The words, “nice car,” escaped my lips.

“Thanks! Its your Uncle Kenny’s. I borrowed it.”

I remembered thinking to myself that Uncle Kenny had passed before I was even born. I was happy that Dad was able to see his brother again after all these years.

The ghostly specter that seemed so real spoke again, “I’ve got to talk to you. There are some things that are going to happen because of what I did. I need you to keep an eye on your mother. Can you do that?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“Listen, your mom is going to have a really hard time. She’s in danger and she’s going to die much sooner than she was supposed to and it’s all because of what I’ve done. I’ve started this all in motion. It can’t be changed now.”

“Okay. What do you mean ‘danger’?”

“You’ll know. Just promise me that you’ll be there for her and look out for her.”

“Okay. Are you okay, Dad?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Everything here is great. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Okay.”

“I’m never far away if you need me,” were his last words to me.

Suddenly, I was wide awake and the sun was shining. The dog was sitting there looking at me as if she had been awake already for a long time. I couldn’t help but feel that everything that had just happened, had really happened.

This dream would haunt me for a long time. It bothered me a great deal. It let me know my father was okay, but it also told me my mom wasn’t.

It seemed so typical of my family, let’s not do anything easy or the ‘right’ way. Let’s turn the nice, sweet good-by visitation dream into some ominous foretelling of gloom and death. I remember shaking it off and going about my day, but that dream would come back over and over in the next couple of years that were to follow.

Categories: abuse, death, life lessons, self-help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Excerpt From My Next Book “Falling Into the Abyss”

This is an excerpt from my new book, “Falling Into The Abyss”, which will be released next month. This is my personal story, a short autobiography, which recalls traumatic events from my life that have led me to where I am today. This details the tragedy of my father’s suicide and the years that followed, while digging into my past and my childhood for answers. It’s a compelling story of finding your way back from the deepest griefs.

Set to launch October 17th.

Dad had been missing for four days. His body had been hanging from a tree until it had decomposed and fallen to the ground below. It was my understanding that his head was detached from his body. The Florida heat and bugs had made him nothing more than rotting, bug infested flesh that was falling from bones that had been nibbled at by wild animals in the region. This was no longer our father. This was something that used to be a home to his soul and nothing more.

The coroner told us, “Don’t let your son see his father like this. It will give him nightmares the rest of his life.” We agreed and my mother gave the go ahead for the body to be moved to where it would be cremated. My brother never really forgave either one of us for that decision I don’t think? It’s sad that he held my mother responsible for a lot of things, including my father committing suicide in the first place. All along, she tried to protect him and in the end, he was just simply awful to her.

The events that followed were very surreal and I only vaguely remember the days that immediately followed the finding of his body. I know that the funeral for my dad was tiny. There were less than a dozen people there. His own family didn’t come. Two of my mother’s brothers were there and so was her little sister. I was bitterly disappointed that a man who was fifty-eight years old and had touched the lives of so many people only had a handful of people show-up to say good-bye to him.

I had to go pick-up the flowers. My brothers and I were supposed to split this. They both stiffed me. I grumbled to my mother about it because it was so typical and because I was also worried about paying my rent with all this time off work I was taking. I wasn’t going to receive any bereavement pay because my company didn’t offer it.

My mom’s sister, my Aunt Jenny, insisted on giving me money for them. I remember how I felt then. I had rent to pay and it was due in a week. I couldn’t afford the $300 for the wreaths and such. I was relieved that she gave me the money back but I also felt like a heel. It was one more thing that added to the grief and the stress.

Eventually came the day that we had to go collect Dad’s possessions from the sheriff’s department. Mom and I went together. I remember walking back to the window that we were directed to. Everyone seemed to keep looking at us and I felt that they knew who we were. I felt like they felt some sort of sympathy that they couldn’t express. It came out as an awkward silence.

The man behind a window pulled out an envelope. In it were my father’s wallet, his wedding ring, his keys to his car, and his watch. It was the watch I had given him just the year before for Christmas. He’d loved that watch. He always wore it. This thought made me smile.

My mother opened his wallet and began to look through it. I’m not sure why exactly, other than it was probably some connection to him that she felt. She turned it over in her hands, rubbed it and opened it. In a way, it was almost as if she was trying to conjure his spirit from it, as one would call a genie from a bottle.

She pulled out a photo and she gasped, “My God, … you always thought your father didn’t care but look.” In her hand was a photo of the three of us kids, from many years in the past, and on the back of the photo were our names and our dates of birth, in his handwriting. Again, it made me smile, but it was bittersweet. My father had never been the kind of guy to look at you and tell you he loved you. He showed it all the time, but he never ever just came out and said it.

Growing up, he’d been the guy who would cut you a hockey stick out of a sheet of plywood and sand it and paint it, just so you could go out back and play with some other kids and knock around something that we had used as a makeshift puck. He never missed a ball game while I was growing up. He never missed a birthday or an important event ever. Now I was coming to terms with the fact that he would be at nothing else for the rest of my life. It hit me like a rock landing in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why my mother said I thought that he didn’t care. I knew he cared. I didn’t know why he had never protected me from her, but I knew he cared.

A deputy who had worked the investigation came up and tried to be comforting. I really cannot say enough nice things about the Marion County sheriff’s department during this time. They treated us like human beings and not just a case they worked. Another deputy walked-up behind him and she said, “Well, at least you have the note he left.”

“Note? There’s a note??” My mother’s face looked shocked and hopeful. She seemed so excited.

“Yes,” the deputy went on, “he left a note. No one told you?” The deputy seemed genuinely shocked and concerned.

“My God! NO!” Tears started to form in my mother’s eyes.

The kind deputy told us to wait where we were. A few minutes later, the female deputy came back. The male deputy walked with her. In her hand she held a paper. She had made a copy of the suicide note and she handed to to my mother. She caught Mom’s hand and squeezed it as she released the note to her. I’m sure she must have realized what this mean to us. These were his last words to us and while they didn’t explain much, those words gave my mother so much comfort and for that I was very thankful.

We poured over it. It was short. It didn’t really make any sense other than to show he wasn’t in the soundest frame of mind when he wrote it. He also stated that he would miss us and loved us all. I’d never heard or even seen these words written from my father, in his own handwriting, in my entire life. Still, I did not cry.

Mom made copies for all of us. My copy is folded and lying in the bottom of a jewelry box to this day. Every now and then I will pull it out and look at it. It helps me feel close to him and to remember his handwriting. There is something in seeing his handwriting that gives me a little bit of comfort from time to time. It is like I still hold a piece of him.

Finally, the last business was that I had to drive my father’s car home, following my mother. It was the longest drive of my entire life. Mind you, I’d driven all over the country already. I’d driven from Florida to Illinois a dozen times and sometimes straight through. Yet this drive, alone with the ghost of my deceased father, was the longest drive of my life. I laughed, I yelled, I asked him “why?” and I sincerely wanted answers. None came.

At the funeral, my brothers both wept. I saw my younger brother’s shoulders heave. My older brother has always been a weeper and he had tears streaming down his face the whole time.

My mother was seated right next to me. I was the only one of her children who sat next to her. I remember thinking that was strange. Why me?

Nearing the end of the small, graveside service there was a twenty-one gun salute and then we had to endure Taps. This had come at the insistence of my younger brother. Being in the marines and my father having been in the army all those many years ago made this meaningful to him.

Never mind that my father was drafted and never had one nice thing to say about being in the Army. He hated it and could hardly wait to be discharged. I remember him talking about it from time to time. He’d been drafted as a young man who had been married already for a few years and taking off to basic training hadn’t been his idea of what he wanted to do with his life.

It was Taps that finally caused silent tears to stream down my cheeks. Still, I never openly wept. There was never any shoulder heaving, nose blowing, sobbing that seemed ready to come out of me. Perhaps I was still in shock or perhaps it was just that I had made a lifetime of holding things in and stuffing things down a little deeper? I just was shoving this all down into the abyss that I didn’t realize I was tethered to. The more weight I shoved down there, the further it drug me down with it.

Four days from the time I had first been told about my father’s death, I was back at work. I tied my tie and put on my vest as if it was any other day and off to work I went. I had a job to do and I was ready to get back to life as usual, and so I tried. I was now driving my father’s car. My mom sold it to me for a few hundred dollars. Leave it to her to make me pay for it. She would, just a few short months later, give my younger brother her Lincoln when she got the insurance money from Dad’s death. She bought herself a different vehicle and started spending that money as fast as she could.

I was finally back at my place and staying in my own bed again, leaving my mother to her lonely house. The first night that I was back in my own bed, the strangest thing happened to me. I had a dream that I was sitting on the branch of the tree that my father hung himself from. I was sitting there, swinging my legs. I was trying to talk him out of doing what he was doing.

He never looked at me. He just continued with his work of tying the rope over the tree limb. He ran the rope under the car and anchored it on the front axle of the car. The other end, he had already carefully tied a noose that had a perfect not. I knew this instinctively because my father was a master at tying knots. He taught me to tie a knot and to this day, people who knew him and see me tie a knot will comment that I must have learned that from my father. I’m sure that they mean nothing by it, but it stings a little.

As I begged him not to do what he was doing, he put the rope around his neck and he jumped. I awoke with a start. I was sweaty, had tears running down my face and I was deeply disturbed. I’ll never forget this dream as long as I shall live. 

Categories: abuse, child abuse, death, gay lesbian, lesbian, life lessons, love, self-help | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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