Monday was the day my son Nick died of suicide. I will never forget that Monday. I had texted my son that morning and heard right back from him. Typically he would get right back to me. I had shared a joke with him that I heard on the radio that morning. “Ha ha.” We weren’t using LOL at the time. As the day progressed, I found it more and more difficult to concentrate. By two o’clock that afternoon I threw in the towel for the day. I was literally unable to work, so I grabbed a book and headed for a local coffee shop to take a break. No sense sitting at my desk staring at the collection of binders, papers, pens, phones and other paraphernalia atop my desk. None of it was making any sense.
Off I went in my little Mini Cooper that Nick while sitting in the back seat one day described as an “urban assault vehicle” due to it’s hard, feel-of-the-road ride. He always made fun of my vehicles. Never thought I’d miss that so much.
I jumped onto a local highway ramp and headed to the coffee shop. It was a perfect day in May, at least when I left the house it was. Once I was on the highway, I became lost in thought thinking about nothing and suddenly realized I didn’t know where I was. All I remember is that it started to pour and I was on the highway, a little car along side big tractor trailers, trying to figure out where I was and trying to remember where I was going. Normally this feeling would have been unnerving, but for some reason I felt nothing. A big truck passed me on the right. It was difficult to see with the water the truck was kicking up, so I decided I’d slip in behind the truck and get off at the next exit and figure out where I was. I had gone by the exit I wanted and became so confused that it was best to travel side roads, get off that highway. It continued to pour buckets of rain for another ten or fifteen minutes as I drove back home to safety. The sun was out when I returned to the house. What a strange day. By now it was about four o’clock in the afternoon. I texted Nick as I had promised I would earlier in the day and then took our dog Ben outside. Our second dog Ruthie was staying with local English Mastiff breeders who were helping us. Ruthie had just had puppies the week before. My husband and I had no experience with newborn puppies, so it made sense to have the breeder take care of Ruthie and the pups.
A little later my husband arrived home. I told him about my day, how I couldn’t concentrate and had this strange uneasy sense of being, not living in the moment but living outside of myself. We decided to go out and grab a bite to eat and then go for one of our frequent visits to see the puppies. Little did I know that at 4:45 Nick was hit by a train.
That was the beginning of an incredible journey into unchartered territory. How does one respond to such a traumatic event?
When the police showed up on my doorstep, I already knew something horrible had happened to Nick. I had no problem speaking with the detective in a calm, controlled manner. It helped that I loved to talk about Nick. I was so proud of his accomplishments and his moral character. I’ll never forget my husband Buddy asking me that unforgettable, “How can you stay so calm?” I learned many years ago how to “let go” of anything that is not in my control. My son’s death was not something I could have controlled, but it was something I could choose to process and recover from, in my own time. But my immediate answer was, “It’s my job. I need to do this for Nick. He has left me with the biggest challenge of my life.”