Death is inevitable for all. We grow up knowing that, in all likelihood, our parents will go before us and we'll go before our own kids. That's the natural order of life on Earth. There are exceptions, but, for most people, we know way in advance that the day will come when our parents aren't there. My parents watched their parents pass on, now it's my turn to watch mine do the same, and someday my kids will do the same with me. The physicists can argue all kinds of cool things about the nature of time, but here on Earth it pretty much has the same affect on all of us.
But nothing can really prepare you for the actuality of it really happening. Suddenly finding you can't email or call your Dad, like you just did the day before. I still see articles and think "I'll forward this to Dad, he'll love it..." and then stop.
Nor can it prepare you for the shock of what mine did. The phone call from my mom that fortunately came in the few minutes between patients. The tone of her voice and exact words. The frantic conversation with Mary about rescheduling the rest of the day. Seared memories that I'll carry with me to the end.
Dad was successful in life. He had health, family, and money to enjoy. All the reasons we think of for someone to kill themselves... he had none of them. But depression. And it can kill.
One thing I come back to repeatedly is the "why?" If he'd died of a heart attack... that would be so much easier to handle. The fact that a loved one would intentionally do something like this, to themselves and their family, is just devastating. You understand that they're not themselves or thinking clearly, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Of course, the gun didn't kill him immediately. Mom, my sister, and I stood at the bedside in ICU that afternoon, with various friends and other relatives who arrived. How word spread I still have no idea. I reviewed his CT scan myself. I kicked around moving him to a hospital with a neurosurgeon I trusted, but was stopped by the realization that this is what Dad wanted. Even though a good neurosurgeon would have been able to save his life, I've seen enough of this stuff to know he'd never be my Dad again. To this day that decision still haunts me, even though I know I did the right thing. It always will.
So, we let him go. Even with the tube out, and a shitload of Morphine and Ativan, his body wouldn't give up. So we all finally decided to say goodbye and leave forever. School was getting out, and I had to pick up my kids and figure out how to tell them.
Months before my wife had found an old alarm clock in the attic, and set it up in her home office to have a clock there. The alarm had never been set.
At 8:39 that night, we were all startled by a loud noise we'd never heard before. A search through the house found it was the clock's alarm going off, for no clear reason. The kids denied having touched it, and when I checked it was set for the default alarm of 12:00.
After staring at it for a few minutes, I called the ICU. "This is Ibee Grumpy. Has my Dad died yet?" "Why, yes, we were just about to call you. He died at 8:39."
We have an old musical wind-up cable car in the front hall that my wife picked-up on a trip to San Francisco 20 years ago. Nobody ever touches it. But for the next several nights it would randomly play a few notes after midnight and wake me up.
I'm a scientist. I don't believe in these things. But, on the other hand, I admit there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. Who knows?
The next day, while at my parent's house, I read through Dad's internet browser records. A lot of sites on how to beat depression, what to expect from your depression medications... not a single page about suicide or guns going back over a year. Oddly, the last internet site he'd visited was the day before he died... and it was this one.
I'd spoken to him a day or two before, and exchanged emails with him the day before. I sit and wonder why he didn't call me in his last minutes to ask for help. My wife's answer nailed it: "Because he didn't want to be stopped."
I still talk to him a lot. I probably always will. I'm not angry at him. But the one thought I'm left with more than any other will be with me for the rest of my life:
"Dad, it wasn't supposed to end this way."