Happy Birthday Daddy, I wish you were here. I would give anything to celebrate this day with you. I still miss you. Normally, I give the tribute to you on the anniversary of your death, but this year, that day is the release of my book and it will be a day of celebration, for the first time since 1979. I will not share that celebration with your suicide. It's the end. It's a new beginning. New life. I have a wonderful husband, and two great kids that you should know, and a beautiful house and a new career starting ... and February 5, the day, that marked for so long, the end of life as I knew ... once again, will mark the day of life changing .... but this time, it will be a celebration. I love you Daddy, and I forever will. The year it hit 25 years, I wrote you the following letter ...
It's the end of 2003, in a few weeks you will have been gone from my life for 25 years. I doubt that there has been a day that I have not thought about you. For many of those 25 years-- I have fought the emotions that try to crowd out my brain. I think a part of me feels that when I face it- 'it' you will be gone and then you are REALLY gone, or worse ... I will have to face the anger I have never admitted to having.
Dad, I never wanted to face this, but now I have friends whose lives are in danger and I can face it and be there for them -- or I can run from them and never know if they made it or not.
I don't know where to start, so I'll walk you through my day, the day my life changed forever. The day, you changed my life forever.
I got up that morning and you gave me a ride to school. The last words I ever heard from you were "Peggi, I love you" I went into school that day, wishing desperately that you'd get rid of that awful blue Ford Truck that we had! After all, we lived in the big city of Pueblo now!
I had an exceptionally good day in school that day. I had challened for chair in clarinet and actually won! I will never forget the two songs. "Dust in the Wind" and "Don't Cry Out Loud" I can't stand those two songs now ... especially "Don't Cry Out Loud" ...would you still be here if you'd been willing to cry out loud?
I went into my math class - I hadted that class! We'd taken a test the friday before. I was doing awful in math that year. I knew I was going to disappoint you again. The math teacher handed out the tests - on the top of mine was a big A- ... a 91%!!! I couldn't believe it! I couldn't wait to show you!
The test, challenge for my chair .. a successful challenge! I was finally NOT last chair! You were going to be so proud of me! I couldn't wait for my hug!
School was FINALLY over and I RAN all the way home. I saw the truck in the driveway and burst through the door yelling for you.
You weren't in the living room.
You weren't in the kitchen.
or your bedroom.
I ran down to the basement.
I ran back up to the kitchen and on the dining room table was a note on a yellow note pad. A legal pad.
You must have gone for a walk.
I read the note.
I didn't understand it! But through my confusion, I started to cry. I got to the bottom - "You wil find my body in the shed" I started to run out back.
I could hear someone off in the distance, but I couldn't understand what they were saying. I got to the shed door. The screaming continued. I opened the door, and I could still hear that screaming off in the distance.
You were there.
I have never described this to anyone - I guess it's time. I don't know how long I stood there ... listening to the stranger in the distance screaming ... it seemed like forever.
(triggering for trauma)
Did you know that hanging yourself would grossly effect your appearance? Did you know your eyes would be open and buldging?Did you know your lips would be filled with blood and the lack of oxygen turn them bright blue? Did you know that I would be the one to find you? What were your thoughts? Did you regret your decision before you died? Did you know that the image of you hanging there would be forever emblazoned on my mind?
I slammed the door and ran back into the house. The screaming in the distance had never stopped! I called the police, the screaming finally stopped. My throat started to heart, and my ears started to ring ... somehow, I became aware that I might have been the one screaming.
I called the police ... or was it 911? Not sure. They had to calm me down from the screaming ... when they finally got me calmed down I told her that you'd killed yourself. She asked me how I knew -- did I find the body? I told her 'no'
I don't know why.
not sure I ever will I don't think any amount of introspection could reveal the why of a traumatized 14 year olds answer to denial. She asked me if I heard a gunshot. I cried "no, he left a note"
Soon, the neighbor, next door, he worked nights, came to the door. He'd heard me screaming. He came and talked to the operator on the phone. She had him take me next door till the police got there.
The next hours are filled with memories of terror. I only remember so much - and yet, it is all so clear. I remember trying to comfort my mom with quoting Romans 8:28. I am still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. I cannot see any way shape or form how things are better with you gone from my life. I think you would like who I grew up to be. But I think I would be better with you being a part of my life.
Here is where I stop my story, no matter why I'm telling it, writing it, or thinking about it. I never let myself dig deep. I can't handle the thoughts and feelings it leads to ...so I just don't go there. I've put the facts down but not the feelings, so I guess, it's time to talk about those feelings.
How could you leave me? Did you know my world revolved around you? Didn't you know that you made the fact that my 'real dad' didn't like me ok? Didn't you know that I didn't mind mom ignoring me because you loved me? Didn't you know that I was safe because you were my Daddy?
The memories you gave me have carried on. I can still hear your voice when we sing hymms like When the Role is Called up Yonder or Amazing Grace, or Old Rugged Cross or What a Friend We have In Jesus.
I can still HEAR you sing praises to God and hear you read the Bible verses at the dinner table!
I felt lost without you. Nothing sounded right, smelled right, taksted right or looked right. You're gone, so it's not the same! You were always the one to stand in the gap betwee me and the rejections I got ... from Debbie ...from my real Dad ...from Mom.
When you died, mom got upset and said "who is going to eat the heels" I can remember being very upset. Now, as a mom, I realize it's the little things that count.
At the time, I was mad, I wanted to scream at her that it wasn't about her ... this was about you.
But somethings never change ... it is still about her. Her loss, her grief (which, is real) I can remember when I finally told the teachers at my school that I didn't just find a note, but I found you, (In a traumatic flashback) I heard Mom on the phone with a friend asking for prayer ... she called all of her friends asking for prayer for her ...because she was so hurt that I never told her. She told Judy that I was trying to protect mom, that's why I denied finding you.
Mom went to counseling to help her deal with the knowlege that I'd kept this secret. But she didn't put me into therapy. YOU would have been the person that would have to have helped me through this type of crisis. But you were gone. Worse, you were the cause of the crisis. You were the one who kept the family balanced and you left. You chose to leave!
I learned to hide my grief and fears and sadness. You're not there to help me, so I stopped growing the day you died. Many things that I have had to face in therapy all come back to when I learned to hide from myself -- the day you died. When I denied seeing you.
We had a closed casket funeral. Everyone else wanted open but I couldn't bear to look again. I didn't know at that time that they could fix the grotesqueness that you hanging yourself had caused. I never saw you after seeing you hanging there in your tourquoise pants and shirt with swollen lips that matched the clothes. I never have gotten to hear you sing hymns again.
I have never been the same and to to this day the words 'suicide' or 'kill yourself' or anything of the like sends chills down my spine and a flash picture of you in my mind ...of you hanging there ... in the shed ... and me ...helpless ...someone screaming off in the distance.
I can't bear the thought of loosing someone else by their own hand so I protect myself. If the person I am close to starts talking suicide, I run ... I am no longer friends. So, if they do, I've lost nothing. I cant' feel the pain of grief.
I'm mad your gone Dad! I'm mad you chose to die! I'm mad that you put me in a place of grief. I'm mad that when I needed you to protect me the most, when you had the biggest opportunity to protect me from something you not only didn't protect me but it was YOU that put me in harms way. Daddy, when I needed you the most, you betrayed me. You failed to protect me from the ulitimate rejection: your chosen death.
So, here I am, a dozen pages (hand written) still sitting on the couch and nothing has changed except that I finally admitted that I was angry that you left. Maybe now that it's out I can face my friends grief. Maybe now I can trust myself to protect myself through prayer instead of denial ...to place my heart into the hand of God.
I admitted that you made me angry Daddy. But I still miss you. I will forever miss you. I will forever love you. Harold Wayne Pearson January 31, 1929 - February 5,1979
Left Behind, Suicide is Not Painless
Pulling in the parking lot,
The hymn you're belting out,
I am aware of nothing,
But my Daddy's praising shout.
A walk in the woods together,
On Thanksgiving day each fall,
It gives my mom a needed break,
As we ran and talked or played ball.
When my peers would tease me,
And I thought my heart would break,
It was in your arms I found comfort,
You knew my future was at stake!
Then one day I ran home,
A good day at school I'd had,
Excited to share my joy,
I didn't know I'd lost you, Dad.
The time will stand forever,
A memory never to be erased.
A vision of horror and pain,
Abandoned, now pain, with anger laced.
You left me when I needed you,
Your pain stronger than my love,
I was still a child at heart,
But that day - into adulthood, shoved.
What pain could you have had,
That made it worth changing my life.
Did you understand my heart,
Would be shattered under this strife.
"Get over it already!"
I heard from those around,
I learned I could not grieve,
Show only a smile, never a frown.
So instead of healing pain,
Denial became my game.
Never show the broken heart,
Being sad brings only shame.
It's time for real healing,
That means reaching out to show,
Christ's love to the hurting,
Through healing, brings a time to grow.
How can I tell others,
That what you did was wrong?
If I cannot face the loss and pain,
Can I help them understand the new song?
Let's finally face it, Daddy,
Your choice for death was bad,
Not only did you kill yourself,
But you broke my heart, made me sad.
Your temporary depression,
Caused for me a life of grief,
I must choose God's healing,
Only He can bring true relief!
Your death I tried to bury,
But I have friends looking down your path,
Somehow I have to show them,
They would leave behind pain and wrath!
A permanent deadly solution,
To a hearts temporary pain,
It is not the real answer,
It will bring heartache, not gain!
Real healing will only come,
When in God's able hands they leave,
Their own pain and desperation,
In God's mercy they must believe.
From a father who chose death,
To a God who breathes life,
An experience to share with all,
Proof God can heal a heart's strife.
So while I know their pain is real,
And I don't mean to lessen their grief,
I do want to be an example,
That only God, not death brings relief.
I will shout it from a mountain,
Write the words on many a page,
Till others know of God's grace,
And choose life, not death or rage.
© Peggikaye Eagler