Morning, everyone! Welcome David N. Walker!
If you need some encouragement or want to feel like you matter, get to know David. He’s great at both! I was honored to be his very first guest blogger a couple of months ago.
He does a series called memorable moments, all of them are touching. Today he’s talking about hope and that’s it’s never too late to give it up. I agree! Not all memorable moments are happy ones. Some are forever burned in our hearts as tragic, as this one is from David.
David, thanks for sharing such a deep and personal experience in your family!
The call came in early on an October morning. I was scheduled to drive to southeast Texas that day to visit my daughter and son-in-law and two-year old grandson, and it took me a moment to realize my sister was calling. I couldn’t imagine why she would call me at that hour of the morning, but I knew it wouldn’t be good news.
In the 51 years I’d known her, I’d never heard so much anguish in my Barb’s voice. She told me her daughter Donna, her oldest child, had disappeared and that she suspected she’d gone somewhere to commit suicide. I don’t remember much more about the conversation except that she told me she’d call back as soon as they either found Donna or her body.
I never got back to sleep that morning. I didn’t know whether to proceed with my trip—which included several business calls also—or to cancel and stay by the phone. I decided to go on. The business calls needed to be made, and if I needed to make and emergency trip to Montana for a funeral, Lynn would want to go with me, so I might as well be at her house if that call came.
We’d had a family reunion in the mountains behind Ogden, Utah, that summer, and I thought back to Donna’s behavior at that time. Normally a very sunny person—or so I thought—she was moody and kept to herself the whole time we were there. I thought she was being rude at the time, but it was so foreign to her normal behavior I didn’t fuss at her about it.
My mind wandered back to happier times with her. She was my parents’ first grandchild, born my senior year in high school. We all doted on her. When my sister and brother-in-law took Donna and left Fort Worth to move to Billings, Montana, I felt like I was losing a piece of myself.
Finances and distance kept my visits with them to a minimum while Donna was growing up. When they adopted their other three kids—all at once—they came back to introduce them to various family members. I was in OCS at Fort Sill at the time, and I got permission to visit them in the company dayroom for one hour—the first time I’d seen Donna since they moved.
We went to visit them in Three Forks, Montana, where they’d moved a year or two earlier, when Donna was nine. Then I was up there twice the summer she was 13. I think that’s when she and I began to develop a real bond. She hated having to wear glasses, and I bought her the contact lenses her parents couldn’t afford on a small-town pastor’s salary.
At the time she got married, my finances and my domestic situation prevented me from attending her wedding. I always regretted that. She and my sister Barb came to Texas to show us her first-born daughter Ashly, and I spent Christmas at Barb’s when Donna’s second daughter Kelsy was a few weeks old.
She brought her whole family to Texas for Lynn’s wedding, and Ashly served as a beautiful flower girl. The importance of their participation made me regret all over again not attending Donna’s wedding.
By the time we made our next visit to see Donna, she was raising her sister’s daughter Brittany as well as her own two. This was the family she’d be leaving behind if indeed she’d taken her own life.
Barb and I talked several times over the next couple of days while I was on my business trip/visit. Lynn and I were visiting in her den on Wednesday afternoon when Barb called to tell us the sheriff’s office had found Donna’s body. We called Lynn’s husband Gary to come home and take care of Austen, the grandson, while Lynn went with me.
We drove back to Fort Worth, where I quickly arranged for my wife Sharon, Lynn, my sister Kay and her son David to fly to Missoula for the funeral. We left Thursday morning, arriving in Missoula sometime that afternoon.
We spent most of that day and the next sitting at Donna’s kitchen table visiting with the three girls, Donna’s husband Dana (the girls’ father), and an uncle and two aunts on her father, Charlie’s, side. Barb and her husband Jack, and Charlie and his wife Carol were with us part of the time and out making funeral arrangements part of the time.
Through all the hushed conversation I couldn’t keep my mind off the great surprise and horrible tragedy. I suppose if a person gets depressed enough suicide can seem like the only answer, but it never solves anything. It just complicates everyone else’s lives.
Donna’s best friend Coco took us up into the mountains to the site where Donna took her life. She’d parked her car, run a hose from the exhaust pipe through a cracked window and sat there waiting to die. What an abomination.
Although all three girls are now grown, responsible women—all three happily married and two with families of their own—they all went through hell getting there. Life became so unbearable for them that each one left home to live elsewhere while finishing high school.
My niece has been gone for 17 years now, but I still miss her terribly. After all these years, it still doesn’t take too much to bring tears to my sister’s eyes thinking about her. Our entire family suffered great pain from this, and her three girls suffered the most.
If you’re now contemplating—or ever have contemplated—committing suicide, DON’T. It’s not just your life. Think of all those around you who would be crushed by it. Depression may make you think you’re of no importance to anyone, but YOU ARE.
If you have a close friend or relative who’s been touched by a recent suicide—or even one long ago—hug that person and realize he or she is suffering a pain that never quite goes away. It will fade with time, but it will always be there.
I’d like to add this scripture, David, if I could.
“Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we
hope in You.” Psalm 33:22
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather and a grounded pilot. He co-founded Warrior Writers Boot Camp with Kristen Lamb. You can read more of his posts HERE or follow him on twitter.