Fifteen years ago this week, I was sitting in my brand new apartment with a content and happy feeling. I had weathered some rough years, both as a kid and young adult, but things had begun to change. I had already made steps that would set a course for a new life.
Fifteen years ago I had spent the weekend moving to a new apartment which I loved. It had a separate entrance, almost like a townhouse, and washer and dryer in my apartment (which was the first time I had such a luxury.) The place was small but so perfect for me.
I had spent the weekend moving in, getting settled, and on Sunday night pulled out a book and sat in a big, comfy blue chair that was positioned directly under a window. I started to read, but closed my eyes to feel the breeze on my face, and just as I did, the phone rang.
My world changed with that phone call.
I’ve talked about my dad, my upbringing, my childhood, many times over the years. Why I talk about my past is because I want to give people hope. (Here’s more about why.) I don’t do it because I need people to feel sorry for me or because I’m still in that sad place.
But on weeks like this, on the fifteen anniversary of my father’s death, I think about him. His death, and the way he chose to live his life and then end it, breaks my heart. It taught me about loving someone abusive, someone that struggled with demons and addiction, and about how other people respond.
I’ve written poems and articles about alcoholism and what it does to a family. In my latest poetry book, Yes, You, I wrote a poem called “The Suicides” that starts:
They break our hearts
with their inability to see
the beauty in life,
the small moments
that catch your breath
remind you what God created,
and make you stop long enough
to pull yourself from
the dark abyss of hopelessness
and press on.
I’d like to think that God has taken care of my father. I don’t want to argue about what really happens when someone you love takes their own life, but I do know that my father was a troubled man even without the alcohol. I’d like to think that God, who gave me a strong spirit and pulled me up and out of that world, has my father somewhere safe, where He is teaching him lessons about grace.