I got the call at 9am, the day after memorial day 2015 at my office. I had spent the weekend with friends at various pool parties telling myself id call my dad on Tuesday. See how his weekend went like always.
The 505 number came in, new Mexico area code. I had a feeling it was my dads property management company, they had called before; they were having disputes with my dad. I rolled my eyes, answered and it was them. She told me my dad had been found dead in the house, he had taken his own life.
I think i said what, she gave me the number to call someone else and hung up. I called a few people, friends included. One was on their way to my house. I hit the ground and just started sobbing, the moment you see on tv where people say time stands still and your head starts spinning – is true.
The next few hours consisted of packing, debating whether to bring a black dress, and trying to keep it together long enough for a 45 minute flight. My mom picked me up, let me cry in the airport and then we headed to my dads house. In the mix was a lot of phone calls and facebook messages.
One message stood out, from my dads closest friends. Five words: tell me its not true. I called him, told him it was and he immediately asked what can he do. I asked him to meet me at my dads house. I had a mission in my head; search house, locate documents, find will, find life insurance, find phone, find ipad, find computer. The misson proved difficult. The owner of the property management company wanted to hold all his stuff, store it, make me sit in court for months to prove im able to do what i need to do without a will. My dads friend is smart, level headed, knows real estate, knows contracts. My mom was a mess, she couldnt push aside her grief to be there for me, it was too much. The owner and I came to the agreement that i sign and agree that i am liable for everything, I give him his money owed by my dad and i can take my dads belongings – but i only have 48 hours to do it; he had new people moving in over the weekend. I fought the urge to just walk away from it all – but i was so desperate for answers i needed to, i needed to scour laptops and accounts, and files. I needed the why.
I remember in my first years of business taking everything so personal. I remember me telling my dad that i just didnt understand how they could say thats its just business and its not personal. That used to piss me off, how could it not be personal?! Fast forward a few years later and i found myself saying that it is just business, no emotion. So in the next fews days, it was business – no emotion. I had to call the family, have them come and take what they wanted. I had to naviagate whether i do probate, what i wanted to take, locate the missing cell phone and field calls from everyone. I watched and observed the stages of grief in others and took it all in. I had to call my brother, who chose not to come.
You realize in that moment as you watch the flux of your dads stuff being loaded up and hauled away that in death – there are only two things we amount to. Stuff and how people remember you. And the stuff really means little. I read a quote that said that in your worst time you see everyones true colors, the ones you expect to be there arent and the ones you never expected to be, are. My support system consisted of my dads friends and my clients. I sort of laughed and looked up towards the sky, thinking how my dad was always worried i would work too hard and not make a life beyond it, and in darkest of hours the work and the clients stepped up. Every day has been worth it and in that moment i understood why. I handled my business, i did conference calls, i designed at 2am when I couldnt sleep. When my clients said no and why are you working – i begged them to send me work, give me that moment of feeling distracted and useful.
There was no will. There was no life insurance. There was no money to be found or any other documents.
I had to talk with the medical examiner, i had to make mortuary decisons; cremation was what people told me he wanted. My dads friends came and my very first client I ever had; came to the mortuary with me. I made more decisions, I signed more docuemnts, I paid more money and I left. I ended up having dinner with my client and his wife. He had to leave for a speaking engagement and her and i ended up sitting in her backyard. We didnt talk much, it was nice. She was ok with just sitting in silence. She gave me the best advice however, she told me to take care of me, do what i need to do, no one else matters. I felt inspired leaving their house.
Day 2 started wth an argument wth my mother, a conversation with my borther and me ending up not allowing anyone back into the house. I hired professional packers to pack up what i was taking back to phoenix, it all fit in a smaller uhaul trailer. I had to make decison after decision after decsion until i almost broke. At the end of day 2, my dads other good friend pulled me into the bathroom and we practically sat in the bath tub and she let me download my previous days. Certain people couldnt push their own grief aside to make room for me, they couldnt fathom the thought. Death is scary- but suicide is unimaginable.
I ended up staying with my dads friends the rest of the trip. My mom wanted to hash up arguments that happened when i was a teenager and make this about her and her feelings. I told her none of this was about her and i packed my bags and left. That night we finished a whole bottle of tequila – finally i could just be sad and it just be about me.
I couldnt wait to get back to phonex, thats where my family truly is. My brother said it so eloquently in a text: “have you heard the term blood is thicker than water? Well it turns out it is an old roman saying and proverb and it actually meant that brotherhood formed through the shedding of enemies blood were stronger than those formed in the water of the womb.” They are my Fight Ready family.
I got back to Phoenix, my garage was a mess, my dogs adjusted to me being home, i went back to work, i went back to the gym. I talked to my dad every day sometimes twice a day. We solved problems, and laughed and he was there for me. I felt bombarded with peoples opinions and the “you shoulds” and “the you have to’s.” I found myself constanlty asking myself why do i have to? I really didnt. I opted to stop talking to particular people about what i was going through. I think my dad would’ve been proud – he always told me I was too nice sometimes, I didn’t speak up enough. The cold exterior that’s my shell I’ve gotten used to – but when something like this happens, you can’t do it anymore – I wasn’t up for being the strong and stoic Angel with no voice, I had to be vulnerable and trust and rely on others and speak up – as bad as it might be.
I stayed quiet to resolve my own issues, death does something else to people. They search for answers, they search for blame they search for reasons. You learn that people do say the wildest stuff around death. Most think they are helping when they really arent. I loved my friends even more when they just said they were there and sorry and they didnt really know what to say but wanted to say something. Theres something so pure about a person like that.
I’m a realist and analytical – I quickly came to terms with the action that my dad chose – people had to beleive illness or something else, I got more and more comfortable shurgging my shoulders at people and saying well, he did it. That’s it, he did it. I cried to a now ex-boyfriend a few years back, about him hurting my feelings and being so inconsiderate. He got mad at me, blamed me, asked me where the cool, confident business owner was – it took me years later to realize that people will try and lay their insecurities on you and blame you when it really has nothing to do with you but its easier to go after someone else or refuse to look at what the facts truly are.
I wasnt going to do a memorial but a few of his friends really wanted something. So i made it casual and potluck style at my dads friends house. I brought re-enforcements from phoenix and we called it the best/worst road trip of all time. We stopped at every tourist thing we could, took pictures, made videos, fed llamas and more. The final piece was writing his obituary. My dads friend carefully messaged me that I needed to do it. I wrote it on a random morning in my office – I googled how to write one and what to include then quickly spouted some words from my heart. How myself and others saw him, what he meant to us all and how to remember him. I only sent it to review to one of his friends then proof approved it – finally shared that piece of my life on Facebook and went to dinner with a friend.
I have his ashes with me, in a black, plastic container. I’ve been mad at him, so I put him in my hallway closet until I could figure out what to do with them. I started seeing a grief counselor – I like going to her, it helps – if I think about what happened for too long it becomes suffocating and I can’t breathe. I am sad and lonely – surrounded among friends. When business wins ocurr, or interesting meetings or problems that pop up I have no one to call. That is what makes it the toughest. I leaned on him for so much guidance, I feel lost at sea.
Of all the bad and negatives that happened there is also something remarkable that ocurred. When you’ve already had the worst day of your life – anything else that happens seems trivial. I had to distance myself from some because I couldn’t listen anymore to the job hating, or complaining or being too busy or involved in drama.
The second thing that ocurred is the amount of people who have contemplated or attempted suicide – that I know. It’s this darkness that exists and that no one talks about – and who can you talk to about that other than someone who has had experience with it?
Most people who have told me about their contemplation or attempt was they were hopeless, they felt the world was better off without them. That in that moment the pain and hurt becomes so great that they just want it to go away. I observe social media and these “staged” and “perfect” lives and relationships people protray – I wonder if there were a narration inbetween the lines if there would be fighting or hurt or unhappiness. I’m not as bold as some on social media, I stay private, I limit and control what I share – I contemplated the sharing of this – but it’s been in my head for a few weeks now. Every time I go to bed or take a shower, the words to this blog flow through my head. I don’t know if it gives any insight to myself or if it helps someone else who’s hurting to know that they aren’t alone, that things happen and not everything has to be “perfect.” But most importantly – its not the solution, and there are people that care and they would miss you very much if you were gone.
There are days I have pity parties and ask the world what I did to deserve this. But it wasn’t anything that I did – this is the messy part of life that no one wants to talk about. I know I’m strong enough to listen, and be there for others. I refuse to become a hallow shell of a person and I also refuse to be the victim to this tragedy and let it control my life and how I live it.
I have no idea how to exist in a world without my dad, I have no idea how I get up, get dressed, act like a boss and get through some days. I know I hate to let people see me hurt and that I only cry when no one’s around, sometimes in my car to the gym or from the gym, sometimes in bed or in the shower or in my office or leaving a meeting. But then I crack jokes and try and make people laugh, help my clients, and mentor younger individals – and that boosts me up, I’m serving a purpose.
I don’t really know how to add a conclusion to this piece. It’s on-going although I’m not sure if I will continue to write about my journey, but I at least hope, it gave someone a little piece of faith or a smile. I know I can listen – I can speak of the other side – maybe this is my solution to finding his why and why this happened to me.