It was January 3rd, 2009 that my daddy put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger.
It was January 3rd, 2009 that suicide shot its way into my vocabulary.
That doubt, confusion and despair began to dance through my days.
That grief growled through my words and grimaced at any hope of understanding.
How does a 19 year-old-girl make sense of her hero’s body on a morgue table with a bullet hole through his chest? How does one ever come to understand that the cold fingers resting near are the same that twisted their way around the trembling trigger?
The same fingers and hands that tickled his baby girls, and wiped the sweaty hair and grass from his youngest athlete’s face.
The same fingers and hands that danced with his eldest and clapped for an encore at nervous piano recitals.
The same fingers and hands that held his wife tightly and wrapped their way around her knee on weekend road trips with the dearest thing he cherished—his family.
It is a temptation that twists through countless minds, yet the conversation no one is willing to have. It is an unspoken enemy that disguises itself as the easiest alternative and patiently waits in the darkness and the quiet and the fear. It is a friend to loneliness—the assassin to strength and courage and hope.
But even in the wake of suicide, in the wreckage of the battle waged, I have seen hope win. In the resounding love that rises up in response to darkness, I have seen strength restored. Amidst the countless, agonizing questions of “Why…” and “How…” and “What did we miss?” I have seen courage grow.
I have learned that where hurt dwells, healing inhabits. Where brokenness exists, boldness believes. And where tragedy attempts to finish the story, wisdom and awareness turn the page. And the story of life continues to be written. A little scarred, but confidently so.
In five years following the death of my father, I have learned a great deal about the healing and boldness and wisdom that exists in the aftermath of life’s storms. What if we truly began to believe that our adversity does not define us, but that our ability to grow in response does?
We do not have to be quiet about suicide.
I have seen lives changed and saved in response to giving hope a voice. I’ve seen individuals choose to persevere in response to someone simply listening. I have seen hearts connect in response to open conversation. And I have seen fates change in response to genuine vulnerability, attentiveness and compassion.
What would our community look like if we began listening?
What would our workplace look like if we opened up the conversation?
What would our families look like if we truly got vulnerable?
What would our future look like if community compelled courage, and suicide surrendered to selfless love?
Let’s start the conversation.