I looked around at all of the faces while my other Mom and I stood in line to check out. The young couple with the brand new baby; the man who had to get around the store in the motorized scooter; the lady with the long weave that was red and yellow and the lady behind us with the adorable little girl. Everyone was living their lives, buying Easter baskets and candy, greeting cards, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, toilet paper….all of those things that make life, well life. Just another day at Walmart!
But as I stared at those people, I wondered how they could go on with their mundane tasks of Walmart shopping when I was standing here surrounded by my grief. When my heart was overwhelmed with sadness for my Mom and my family. When a limb from our family tree had broken off in the abrupt and deadly wind. Didn’t these shoppers know I was mourning? Didn’t they know that they needed to not be so normal? Didn’t they know that inside I was screaming?
On Saturday, March 19, 2016 my Stepfather took his own life. He had dealt with depression for quite a while. His job was very stressful, especially in the last two years under different supervision, his relationship with his parents was broken, and he used alcohol as medication. I know that the demons inside of his head, mixed with vodka is what caused him to take that final step. The one that made him say “enough is enough”; “I’m done”; “no one will care anyways”; “I’m worthless”; “I’m a burden to my family”.
At times, he was a burden. You didn’t know which guy you were going to get. The sweet, funny, quirky helpful one or the one who had self-medicated and slurred a few words. But he was never worthless. Never did we want him gone. Never did we want him to say “I’m done”. And the demons were wrong….we do care. And so many others do as well as evidenced by the over 200 people who showed up to his Celebration of Life Service.
He was a smart man. Brilliant many have said. He worked tirelessly to make the lives of our soldiers better. He developed projects that helped to save their lives. Besides his family, his entire world revolved around the Green Suiters. The military has lost one of their more formidable advocates. Our family has lost a presence for the past 26 years.
The saying “he’d give you the shirt off of his back” was created for him. That’s the kind of guy he was. Always wanting to help. Always wanting to make life better for someone. I remember one time making a dumb comment about a waitress in a small town restaurant. I don’t even recall what it was but I do recall how upset he was at me and how he defended this young woman he didn’t even know. He was always a proponent of the underdog and fought tirelessly for them.
He has, in one way or another whether financially or through physical labor supported everyone in our family. If someone was in need of a computer, he found one. A car? He gave one to someone for minimal cost because he cared about her future. Food? Always handing someone food. Always trying to feed someone. Always wanting to nurture. The times I tossed him out of my kitchen for “helping”.
He was a quirky guy but much of that can be attributed to the fact that he was truly brilliant. We’ve all been around people like this. So smart that they can’t hold a regular conversation? That was him. He would try to explain something to you but you’d tune out within minutes because he used words that you never heard of. He wasn’t doing it to show off his intellectual superiority. He was doing it because it was all he knew.
Depression started to change him and it finally took full hold. He is at peace now but has left behind a slew of people who are wondering what happened. Why. Him? No way. Not him. Scratching our heads. Wiping our eyes. And wondering how to move forward.
Worthless? No. Loved greatly? Yes. Not cared about? No. Missed terribly. Yes! The demons have lost control over him and now, he can truly rest in peace.
And when we see him again, and we believe we will, I believe he will have finally realized how much he was loved and cared about.