Remembering My Dad

By Deborah Graham

My Dad was the only child of a broken marriage. Many times he told me “my Father never did anything for me, but he didn’t do anything against me either. He was just my Father.” I believe that my Dad’s childhood played a significant role in the man he was to become. Dad could be described as outspoken, hard to please, unhappy, controlling, and somewhat of a loner. He certainly wasn’t the “optimist” he said he was. However, I also know that he could be a giving person as well and I know that he always meant well regardless of his demeanor.

My Dad met my Korean born Mother during his service in the Korean War. They married and she became his lifeline for 50 years until her death in 2005. He was broken hearted, lonely, lost and depressed. His pursuit of happiness and choices only brought more sadness, loneliness, and deeper depression. He ended up losing his home, his job and his financial independence. He relied on me to help him, which I am grateful I was able to do, but it also caused some anger on my part for the choices he made that put him in this worse position. For me that became history. Apparently for my Dad it was something he couldn’t live with.

Over the next couple years, he began to lose interest in living. I tried to be there, but he was somewhat stubborn and he refused much of the help I tried to give him. Instead he turned to drinking more to get through his lonely, empty days and nights. His health began to deteriorate along with his thinking. He wouldn’t take his medicine as directed and he didn’t do much to help himself.

July 4th, 2011 was supposed to be our annual family get together and celebration of Independence Day and to celebrate my Brothers birthday the day before. That day is now scarred with sad memories as the last day and evening I was to spend with my Dad. It wasn’t a good day for my Dad as he had been stopped, but not arrested for DUI on the way to the family outing. He was quiet and said he was embarrassed. The “talk” I had with him about drinking and driving was a “talk” that I felt I would have with a friend, a child or other family member had this happened to them. I know now that this was the final straw in the days and years of his loneliness, unhappiness and depression. The next day I found my Dad after he took his life by a self inflicted gun shot. I am still haunted by that image and memory. There are TV shows and movies and even common expressions that cause flashbacks.

I didn’t realize the amount of pain he must have been in, a pain so great that he chose death over living. I wish I could have seen it then. I am now a survivor of suicide with questions never to be answered: Why my Dad? Why did this happen? What could I have done different? Why I did I say what I did? Where did I go wrong? Why couldn’t I do more?

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end. There was still so much ahead, so much to do and say. But my dad is gone and part of me is gone too. It doesn’t change how I feel about my Dad. I loved him then and I love him still. His choice to end his life wasn’t selfish and he didn’t really want to hurt us. He was just human with depression and saw no other way out from his pain. He needed help.

So, if you know someone in pain, is ill or lonely or depressed, reach out to them and maybe they will reach back. They don’t need to feel alone. They are not alone. There are people who understand and are willing and able to help before it is too late. Also, you can give the gift of time…a phone call, a visit…to listen…this too may help.

Hopefully, with more awareness and understanding, we can help save lives and no one else has to feel ending life is better than living life.