“April 1, 2016. I was in Hutchinson, Kansas, visiting my grandpa. He took me to McDonald’s because he loves to get himself a ‘dollar pop’ as he calls it. I don’t know why, but I suddenly had the urge to call my dad.
My dad lived in North Carolina at the time. He had moved away because the health care he was receiving here in Washington was not identifying why he was always sick.
When I called, my uncle Terry answered the phone, which was confusing. My dad always answered my calls.
My uncle told me he had to call my aunt, and that she had to call ambulance for my dad. I told my mom and she texted my aunt to get details. I didn’t really worry much because my dad was always in and out of the hospital for many years. I always remember always asking my mom and sister, ‘Will he make it? Is he going to die?’ I have always been mentally preparing myself for his death. He was just always sick and I felt it was coming.
When my aunt called, my mom looked at me with a faint smile. The kind you make when you are trying to hold back from breaking down. She had tears in her eyes.
‘Your Aunt Kim doesn’t think he’ll make it this time.’
I didn’t cry. I just prayed because this wasn’t the first time I heard this before. But his health rapidly deteriorated and he was quickly put on life support. This was April 2016.
My Grandad’s wife FaceTimed me to look at my dad. He was asleep with chords and tubes in his mouth. I just prayed. I knew he’d make it. There is a quote that says, ‘April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.’ April is the cruelest month, or so I thought.
On April 26th, it was my Grandma’s birthday. She told me she asked god for one gift and it was for my dad’s health to get better. And on April 26th, my dad was let off life support.
There is this theory of the brain surge, that people who are about to die get a release of energy to be able to say goodbye to their family, and that’s exactly what happened to my dad. He was ‘better’ from April 26th to May 3rd. On May 4th, he went in for amputation surgery for his leg, foot, and finger. Fortunately, they weren’t able to perform the surgery. Yes, I said fortunately. If he had gone into surgery and removed those parts of his body he would no longer be himself. If he would of survived, he would have hated the fact that he’d constantly need help. That wasn’t my dad. He loved to be independent. He was stubborn and wanted to do things by himself. He wouldn’t have been able to do the thing he loved most, making people happy with the taste of his food. He was a wonderful chef, and it would of been heartbreaking to see him unable to do that.
On May 5th, my mom flew me, my brother, and my sister out to see my dad. My family told my dad to stay strong because I was coming to see him. His last words about me before he was put back on life support were that I was his sunshine and I can make him smile any day. I was a daddy’s girl and he was my best friend. I knew he would wait for me.
When we got there, he realized who was in the room with him. He looked around and recognized me, my siblings. And when he saw his wife (my mom), he knew it was okay to let go. Seconds later, he went into a major seizure. I witnessed my dad have 30+ seizures in 2 days. I would sit and watch him seize. I studied his movements to the point where now when I see people breath or even move their mouth a certain way it gives me a sensation of witnessing that day again. When it was time to leave, I begged my mom to let us stay, but we had to go home.
On May 9th, we landed in Washington. It’s crazy because I remember exactly where we were on the freeway when my grandad called to tell us the doctors told him, ‘You need to decide if you want to pull the plug or not.’ We decided not to because it’s not our choice to decide if it’s his time to go. If it was God’s plan, he’d take him while he was on life support.
On May 11th, I got signed out of class around 10am to go down to the guidance office. I knew something had happened because my mom was in the office, which was weird because she never comes in to pick me up. When we got in the car, she went to say something to me but I stopped her. I told her I already knew already; my dad had passed away.
May 12th at 9:24 am. I didn’t cry. I actually laughed because in my head there wasn’t any possible way my dad passed away. I don’t think I ever cried till I saw his body lying there cold during his viewing. Everything after this day is kind of blurry to me. The last thing I remember is stepping out of my grandad’s truck to go see him at the viewing, everything else isn’t even a solid memory. I don’t even remember his funeral. It’s like a groggy dream, it’s like you remember it but the more you think about it, the more you forget it, eventually becoming a figment of your imagination.
Losing my father changed me in every way. I had become so numb to humanity. Four months later, I was secluded to my bedroom, chained to my bed by grief, and cuddled up with depression. I subconsciously postponed my grief for four months. I refused to grieve. I felt like I needed to be strong for my siblings and my mom. My mom, my poor mom, lost her husband. The love of her life. The man who gave her everything she needed after leaving her abusive ex husband. ‘How dare I be so cruel to her and not be strong?’ I thought to myself. That type of thinking messed me up. Now, I felt dead.
It wasn’t blood running through my veins anymore, it was anxiety. PTSD took over my heart and depression now owned my brain. I was in counseling, but that didn’t help me. I eventually left my high school and enrolled into an online school because I fell so far behind. I stopped caring about my work, my grades, and my future because I was so wrapped up in grief. Nothing really helped me until June 5th, 2017. This was my awakening.
This was the day I tried to take my own life. I was on my way to a job interview. I changed my mind and decided to instead go home. I just turned around and walked home. I had this thought that I stressed my family out so much. I was sure of it. What was getting this job going to prove? I wasn’t worth anything.
I walked inside and made my decision to walk in my room and pop open my bottle of my antidepressants and swallowed them all. And I did. Afterwards, I realized what I was doing and I knew this is when I needed help.
I called my sister and she called 911. The police came to my house first. I remember crying, talking to the nice officer. He tried to keep me calm as the paramedics came in. They were taking my blood pressure and asking me all kinds of questions I don’t even remember. My sister and my aunt walked in through the middle of all of this. The paramedics were going through my medicine cabinet making sure I wasn’t lying about what I took. Even though I was honest about what I did and did not take and how much I took, I was still taken to the hospital and was put on suicide watch. They had to do tons of blood work on me to see what was in my system. Seeing all of my family come visit me, and cry for me, showed me how loved I am. Even when I felt like I wasn’t.
With all this I still suffer, but not in the same ways. I think the main thing I’ve learned is that no matter where I am or how I feel, there is always someone or something there to help me. There are so many outlets, you just have to find the one that’s right for you. I’m not saying what I did was right. But for me, it was not a mistake. I know what I did was bad, but it made me realize in that moment that there are others things in this world I can do to stop my pain.
So, I started intensive counseling services. I made up all the classes I failed and caught back up with my classmates. I made the choice to re-enter my high school so I could walk at graduation with the rest of my class.
I used coming back to school as a platform to share my story. My school doesn’t have valedictorian speakers like most schools. Seniors compete to speak on stage. I decided that I wanted to speak. So, I wrote a speech and auditioned. Soon after, I discovered I’d earned the opportunity to speak my story in front of the whole class of 2019!
At this point in my life, I still suffer from the loss of my dad. It’s a touchy subject and probably always will be.
I don’t think anyone can fully heal from losing their parent at 15. I still suffer from anxiety, PTSD, and depression. But I’ve learned to not let these events define me as a person. I am extremely strong minded. I am will-driven and spiritually aligned, and that’s all because I’ve suffered. Suffering can be made a good thing. You have to take advantage of it and make something out of it. When times get rough, I remind myself of this:
‘It’s not what happened to you, but how you react to it is what matters.’ – Epictetus”
[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Adrianna Brown of Tacoma, Washington. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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