I was at work, making Coach calls during a quit tobacco campaign at work. It was a rare time for me to be on the phones. My cell phone rang, it was my Grandpa, when I didn't answer my desk phone rang. Also my Grandpa. As soon as I was off the work call, I called my Grandpa back. I remember sending a text to my best friend that said, "I think my Dad is dead".
I had been waiting for that call for years. He had been in and out of mental hospitals battling PTSD for so long. He was diagnosed when I was in high school, and had been going downhill for the 20 years since then. It had really only been a matter of time, as he had tried so many times before.
The days that followed hearing that my Dad had taken his life went by in a blur. I broke down only after my Grandparents left, after I had sent a text to my friends and after I emailed work. I remember wiping away the tears after realizing that I needed to tell my mom. I remember that things had to be done. I broke down in spurts. I was newly pregnant, and ended up hiding in bed for a little while. It was the start of over a month worth of work on his apartment. It was my heart breaking, and finding a way to be strong for my mom, myself and my unborn child. It was me realizing that I had an amazing man in Nick who I could lean on. You can read more about everything that happened in the main post and 4 prior posts here.
I still feel guilty, I still feel anger, I still miss him more than anything in the world. I am still so glad he isn't in pain, that he isn't haunted by the lives he couldn't save during his military career as a medic. He went out on so many plane crashes and did his best to help people, but in the end he couldn't help himself. I wish that I could have one more day with him, to have his fatherly counsel, to hear his voice that wasn't in a voice mail.
People ask me what they can do. You can advocate for change to the status of mental health care. You can support Veteran's Organizations, you can vote for politicians and policies that stop the revolving door of mental health care. But more than anything, you can reach out and offer to help someone who you worry about. You can not shy away from the person who has mental illness. Be their advocate. Champion for the care of the disabled.
In short, don't let people with mental illness suffer alone.
This week I'll be celebrating all that is my Daddy. This means German beer, bratwursts, liver wurst, grilled meats and salmon. I'll be planting trees, roses, and other plants in his memory, and hanging new bird feeders; this was what he loved.
I'll be taking some time this weekend to spread some of his ashes at Mt. Rainier.
I'll also be celebrating all of my good memories of him, and building new ones with his Granddaughter.
Here's to you Daddy, I miss you.