Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Epilogue

None of us really had any warnings about my Dad's death. I mean, in retrospect there were a few things, but nothing that any rational person would have paid attention to. And you can beat yourself up all you want about "I should haves" and they won't change a thing. He was obviously depressed, but none of us ever suspected he'd go that far.

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."


56 comments:

Suze said...

Dr Grumpy,

While my heart mourns for you, and it really does, I am glad that you were given time to say goodbye. I swear it is never easy but perhaps it does help. Life is full of moments that are tragic and full of rainbows and happiness too.

I reread yesterday's posts and and comments. One thing struck me; someone had written that you are not to blame. I don't think survivors can hear that enough.

Take care and be gentle with yourself.

Heidi said...

Thank you. For everything you give us.

So very, very sorry for your loss...

Myrrha said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Suicide is different than any other kind of loss. Not better or worse. Just has its own kind of struggles. I lost my husband to suicide. My thoughts are with you.

Mari-Ann said...

I am struck this morning by how very, very brave it was of you to share this story. I've been reading your blog for years and I remember a time when you suspended posting due to a family emergency. It was probably this and it makes me so sad. I lost a sister (a nurse) to an accidental drug overdose. She had hurt her back lifting a patient and was going through custody battles with her ex, thus the meds..I had talked with her that night and was flying to see her in two days time so I know it was an accident but our family is still consumed with "We should have..." discussions. She was a great nurse, a mother of four boys and smart and funny and desperately missed.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my husband the same way several years ago. Praying for you and your family - for comfort, peace, and no feelings of regret, to always know it is not your fault! Depression is awful, and people die awful deaths from it. Thanks for sharing your story and helping increase awareness of this. Peace be with you.

mostly cajun said...

this sounds so much like my own dad's passing. Mom had died a mere four weeks earlier from fast-moving cancers, Dad had just gotten out of the hospital with yet another complication of fifty years of cigarettes, was tied to an oxygen cannula, couldn't drive, couldn't care for himself.

And there was great-grand-dad's sad old pistol. We too had hours at his beside.

Sympathy? Absolutely.

MC

Anonymous said...

So Sorry for your loss, wishing you long life.

ogie16 said...

Condolences. I hope you and your family can recover from this shock.

I hope that your writing about it helps you reach some solace. Your articles have amused and entertained and counselled your loyal readers for many years. I hope the act of writing, which was very courageous, helps you now.

Anonymous said...

I sit here with tears in my eyes. I know you and your family have shed many more tears, but I also know of the love and good memories and all the other healthy ways you cope from reading your blog for years. Thank you for giving the rest of us more tools to help us do the same.

Unknown said...

My heart goes out to you, Dr. G. When the natural order of things is disturbed in this way it's very hard to reconcile.

Thank you for sharing your story. As someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts it's important to be reminded of the people who are left behind.

Packer said...

Could I have done something differently ? In 1968 when I was little more than a boy myself, on a cold winter day while playing outside on our front lawn my younger brother collapsed and even though I ran to his aid, he died in my arms and the arms of my father. Could I have done anything differently? That question came to haunt my being. Had I done something differently would my parents and siblings been spared the awful pain. Takes some time to realize that there is no answer to the question, Could I have done something differently ? Knowing that released me somewhat from my own . My own was the Black Dog which followed . Be Well.

HeroHog said...

Doc, it took me a year or more to stop the "Dad would get a kick outta this, let me..." thing. It's been decade or so since he's gone and just thinking of him brings tears to my eyes even now because he means, not meant, that much to me. My dad died of emphysema and cancer Doc. We knew it was coming, had plenty of time to "prepare" and while we didn't face the shock you surely must be facing, the pain and loss aren't lessened a bit. Hang in there though and hang on tight to all the many memories I am positive you have of your dad. No one can ever take them from you. Try not to dwell on the negative (yeah, right, easier said than done). it WILL fade as time passes if you let it.

God bless you and your family.

PS: Grief counseling helped me. It may not help everyone but when/if you think you could use it, I would give it a shot.

Anonymous said...

I was most struck by your decision to resist interfering. I can't imagine how difficult that decision was. My sincere sympathy to all of your family, especially your mother.

Don said...

My Wife was only 13 when her mother committed suicide.

It's been 25 years since then, and my wife still isn't over it. She still misses her mom horribly.

My condolences on your lost Ibee

Hattie said...

Condolences. My cousin's father did this, too, and it is heartbreaking.

Moose said...

It never ends the way it's supposed to. Nothing ever goes according to plan.

"The supreme irony of life is that no one gets out of it alive."

Stay strong, Dr G.

bobbie said...

I'm glad you didn't move him... you did the right thing.

Ms. Donna said...

So very sorry. My best to your family. Be sure to take care of yourself and the tribe.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fairly new reader of your blog (only a month or two), but I wanted to extend my deepest condolences to you and your family.

Do take care of yourself and may your family and loved ones find comfort and support from each other -- and from other resources if warranted. I'm sure you've heard that chances of repeated occurrences in a family are high. I don't know if that's true or not, but it bears repeating.

Praying for you all....

Mitzi said...

My grandfather (who half reared me- I was the only thing that could make him smile, according to family, so I was on the farm every week-end) died of a heart attack after repeated suicide attempts when I was seven. I dedicated my PhD thesis to him, as he never got a chance to go to college. My Dad still gets wistful every time I talk about my passion for gardening. Almost 40 years after PawPaw's death, I still honor his memory every spring by getting out there and digging.
Love and prayers for you and your family, Doctor Grumpy. Talk to your kids about your father. Tell them his stories. They will remember.

LSU Tigers Fan said...

My dad did the same thing in 1985, so I understand at least some of what you're going through and feeling. I'm sure you're probably already aware of this, but you'll find that you miss your dad the most on the day of significant events such as when your kids graduate high school, and then college; when they get married, and when they give you grandchildren.

It's a feeling that never totally goes away, but it does become bearable over time. Yet on those significant days, you'll probably find yourself saying "Damn it dad; you should have been here too. You would have gotten the biggest kick out of this."

Sapphire said...

Life never ends the way we think it should. No matter how grown up we are we never stop missing or needing our parents and loved ones. I still talk to my mom, dad, sister, and husband and they have all been gone for varying years.
You were so brave and compassionate to let your dad go and that was your final act of love for him on this earth. So glad that you were able to be with him at the end. Please be gentle and kind with yourself. Sending prayers and warm thoughts to you and your family.

Just Me said...

I'm still a bit pissed off my 92 year old grandmother died 2 years ago from old age. I keep finding things in the store that I want to buy her.
I still want to call my grandfather and he died 20 years ago. I don't think that goes away.

Hugs.

Renee said...

I don't believe in those things either, Dr. Grumpy, but I know those musical notes were from your dad. Always remember he loved you.

Shawn Stratton said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's a measure of comfort for other survivors to know they aren't alone with their sadness, guilt, and anger. My dad committed suicide with a pistol when I was 2. I never really knew him but over 50 years later it's still weird. How awful and lonely it must be to have people you love more than anything and yet not be able to bear the pain of living. To despair so much in that moment that there is no glimmer of hope things will get easier. I think many people just get too tired of fighting, like someone with cancer who can't bear one more round of treatment to save their life.

gpuester said...

My parents died of natural causes (cancer, heart) over 40 years ago. No matter what the cause, grief is a personal thing with its own timeline. No one can tell you when enough time has passed to forgive him and yourself.

Every Father's Day, every birthday and other holiday is gut-wrenching for many years until you give yourself permission to say "I'm OK. I can live with this. I can be a good father to my own family and know I am strong enough to not put them through this kind of heartbreak."

Your father is where he wanted to be. He wasn't thinking about what his act would mean to the rest of you. At the funeral of a suicide, the officiant said "Imagine him being on the high ledge of a burning building. None of us knew what demons were behind him. Forgive him for doing what he had to do."

Anonymous said...

It's been three years this April since I last hugged my father. Though I did not say 'good-bye' in so many words, I tried to mentally capture the moment forever of our hug. He'd been a strong man, intellectually, emotionally, physically, determinedly, persistently, and ever so gentle. Yet, it was a godspeed hug and we both knew it.

Those things are a moment to recall, but I forget it occasionally. While the thought of 'gotta remember to tell him in our next phone call' still occurs, and I have to swallow a lump, I tell myself, it was he who ensured I would have wings, and a solid earth under my feet. He paid it forward.

It is hard, because we are sentient beings. We have evolved to be this way, and we have experienced love.

Anonymous said...

Not only do I have the deepest sympathy for you, I sincerely thank you for sharing this poignant story with us. It reads to me like a great man raised a great man. God bless

charles said...

Nothing to offer but anonymous condolences over the internet.

It couldn't have been easy to share this personal/family tragedy. Hopefully, just writing about it has helped.

Take care, and may blessings be with you and your family.

jen said...

thank you for sharing this piece of your heart, dr. g. simply, thank you.

Cathie from Canada said...

What a tragedy for you and your family. I am so sorry to hear about your dad.
Suicide ideation is now known to be a side effect of a number of drugs including some anti-depressants. This happened to a young friend of our son, who was on antidepressants for depression and hung himself one summer afternoon with no warning. But its not only young people who can be affected - several years ago I started on gabapentine for shingles and then continued taking it because it cleared up my hot flashes. After six months suddenly one day I found myself thinking about committing suicide. It was completely out of the blue. So I looked up gabapentine side effects and there it was, suicide ideation occasionally experienced. Needless to say, I never took another gabapentine pill.
Now when I hear of a unexpected sudden suicide like your dad's, i wonder whether the suicide ideation effect caused a mental "heart attack" which the individual couldn't control anymore than they could have stopped a physical heart attack.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.
Thank you for sharing, Thank you for being real. For talking about something so common yet that is alienated and alienates so many - sufferers and their loved one alike. Thank you for sharing something that is so personal and raw to you and your family; yet I believe that you know in sharing your life with us that the value of the weird wonderful strange & anonymous internet it will make just one person talk. One person think. One person check up. To make that one phone call.To take that breath and be brave and share their own story with someone. To talk. To reach out.To make us think.To know it wasn't their fault. We all know at least one person we need to check in with. Writing is so very cathartic.Reading is too.Thank you. You will never know the depth of where this post will end; but to share it means you've reached at least one person. Bravo you. Bravo for sharing the love of your family and your father with us.Thank you. x

Anonymous said...

IBee - I admire you for doing the important job of telling your father's story. I hurt for you with every re-reading and with every commenter. It amazes me how many of us have been touched by this type of loss - I too remember the call...


To gpuester @ 3/16-5:47 - I will not share the awful thing I heard an officiant say but I wish our family had been ministered to by yours.

MBee

D. said...

Condolences and sympathy.

Thank you for this remembrance.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss and sympathies to you and your family.

Thank you for sharing your story. Your father sounded like a wonderful man.

Marjie said...

My mother died in 1983 and I still talk to her. Keep talking to your dad. It's good for you and, who knows, he might be listening. After my father's death in 1977 my sister-in-law and brother had a baby named after him and when he was brought home from the hospital and was sleeping in a crib next to their bed my sister-in-law awoke to the smell of my father's pipe tobacco and saw him standing at the foot of the crib looking at his namesake. He then nodded to Trish and disappeared. Wonderfully strange things happen and we must believe them. My best wishes to you and your family. Many happy memories.

ireflect said...

Dr. Grumpy, it was very brave of you to share this.

The alarm clock going off is nothing to wonder about. As rational and skeptic as I am, I have experienced way too many coincidences to ignore a presence beyond the physical realm. Can't defy that energy may be transformed, but not ended. That could have been him saying his good bye to you.

It is a tough lump to swallow that you won't hear his voice on the other end, or feel the warmth of his hug.
In your heart though, the conversations will go on. And become more and more real with time.

"Death ends a life, not a relationship. -Mitch albom

Take care, and cherish the memories.

Pam M. said...

My sister committed suicide. It almost destroyed my parents, and one of her daughters has never recovered. Almost 30 years has passed and my niece still wants to talk about it. I let her - it's the kindest thing I can of for her.

Death is always painful. Suicide is the worst.

Be well, and hug your children.

N said...

Thank you for sharing yourself. I really admire you.

lost lenore said...

Depression is a brain illness and as you know even the best treatments are not always effective. I have had more than one patient say if they were serious about suicide I would be the last person they would tell. Your wife was right. His illness claimed him as surely as an MI but suicide takes a little of us as well when our loved one dies. My deepest sympathy.

Old NFO said...

Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts. I knew the exact minute my dad died too. As others have said, it isn't your fault, but you must deal with the consequences. From what you've posted, it seems that you are taking those first steps. Thoughts and prayers for all of y'all.

Stark Radio said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss.... my mother made the same choice, when I was only 19. It's very hard. I finally realized, there is no understanding, for me anyway. It's just... the same as if she went for a walk and got hit by a car.

My sympathies to you and yours.

Shash said...

My condolences to you and your family Ibee. It wasn't supposed to end that way is right.

Until we can beat depression in general, there's still going to be a lot more of that. It sometimes amazes me that in 25 years of fighting the evil beast myself, I am still here to fight it. And fight it, I do. Thank you friends, therapists, and the occasional good night's sleep.

Though it gave you and your's a lot of pain, know that your dad is out of his pain. And for those who think suicide is selfish, it happens because the struggle becomes so damn hard that you can't see your way beyond it.

So, forgive, love, and remember the good.

Renard said...

As others have said, you did all the right things, including going to the reunion. Your dad obviously was a man who understood the circle of life and lived it to the fullest while he could. My deepest condolences for your loss.

Mad Jack said...

I'm very sorry you had to go through this. You and yours have my most sincere condolences. I wrote a blog post dedicated to you; read it or not as it amuses you to do so. You may find it here, On Death and Suicide. I hope it helps.

ASM826 said...

My son committed suicide in November of last year. He was 30. I understand. I am so sorry for the loss of your father and what your family is going through.

Louise said...

My deepest condolences on the loss of your father. May he rest in peace. And may fond memories give you and your family some comfort.

Moe said...

I have stood on top of a bridge, mentally and physically, a few times in my life. It is very much like running from a disaster. Sometimes you run the right way, sometimes you don't. Others have said this, but I'm sure it can't be said too often - there was nothing you could have done to change things. He would have been so proud of you, his fine doctor son, taking care of him in his last moments of life. Don't let the decisions you had to make cause you pain.


Geno said...

You are a great son and an honor to your father. Thank you for your words they mean a lot to me.

massageon said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. Depression is a cunt.

merinz said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. But also, thank you for sharing your Dads story. By doing so you may well have helped others.

Mrs. Higrens said...

I'm sorry for your loss Dr. G.

Anonymous said...

So, sorry for your loss. Suicide is so tough on the survivors. I was an ICU nurse gun shot to the head came in. I didn't know who I was working on until I looked up and saw my Mom and my brothers and sisters looking on with shock. He lived 7 hours more as I sat at his bedside. I just can't do ICU anymore....

Marni said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing with us.

Arzt4Empfaenger said...

My deepest condolences, Dr. G. Highest respect for you honoring his wish and lettign him go, even though it was too early and shouldn't have been this way. Thinking of you and your loved ones.

Lynn Kendall said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss.

 
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