On May 18,2003 my life changed forever. On May 18, 2003 my father passed away. A day of infamy for me; I will still remember the pain. The anger, the dismay, and questioning “what if”. “What if this” and “what if that?” A person can go crazy just asking “what if”. I know that I did.
I had been working at a factory third shift at the time – so I slept in late. I walked in the door that moring and my dad was making something for him to eat for breakfast. I talked to him for a few minutes. The last words I said to him was “I love you, Dad”. And I went to lay down in bed for another days restless sleep.
That day I awoke at 4:26a.m., and I remember that because I sat straight up and look at the digital alarm clock at the foot of my bed. At about that same time my sister had left to go to the store to get something for supper. In the half-hour time fram of 4:30 and 5:00 my father passed away.
I was awakened once again by my sister bursting into the room telling me that my dad was not waking up and that he was just sitting on the couch/chair. Well, I got dressed and went into the living room. There he was sitting in the couch/chair with both arms resting on the arms of the chair and his legs sprawled out before him. His head was lain back and vomit covered his chest and chin. As I approached I could see that his eyes were closed just as if he had gone to sleep.
I shook him. Raised his arms just to have them fall dead onto the couch. Even slapping his face didn’t do anything. We called the paramedics and let me tell you something, it is no fun watching your dad laying on the living room floor as the emergency officials working on him. We were later told that his heart was ready to start pumping but the burst valve in his heart wouldn’t allow any blood flow. To make a long story short, I was the one who had to call my other sister and tell her that our father wouldn’t be coming home.
Death is so profound that it leaves us feeling so many things. For me the first to come was shock. You wake up and expect to find that person in your home. Or you think that you are going to give them a call, but you can’t. You’re left in a cloud of confusion surrounded by dismay. All the while I am asking the big “what if” scenario. I blamed myself for my dad’s death. If I had gotten up at 4:26 he would still be alive!
I had come to blame and hate everything. Days after his death, my family was in mourning. I had held my anger, sadness, and every other emotion in because I wanted to try to stay strong for others. But it was hurting me. It had come to the point that I burst out of the front door and dropped to my knees in the front yard for all the neighborhood to see. And as my mom hugged me I wept.
“God did it!” I cried. “He let me down, mom, he let me down!” But I didn’t realize all the while that Jesus was saying, “Waylon, I didn’t let you down. I will never leave you or foresake you. My door is open, Waylon. Come to me.” And I so regret neglecting that.
Doctors have diagnosed depression as a symptom of chemical imbalance, and I am sure some of that is true. But for me it was a lack of joy. If you let it depression can lead to all kinds of things – hatred, self-loating, a hardened heart, suicidal thoughts, and emptyness. I had all of them. I’ll tell you, it is a sad place to be when you cannot even feel sadness or joy. You are an empty shell.
You start to think, well, so-and-so isn’t here so I don’t deserve the right to be happy. There were plenty of times that I would be happy and would purposely bring myself down. I would listen to the saddest songs possible, thinking all the while that if I make myself feel smaller and lower, maybe just maybe, I would cease to exist. Plenty of times I had the oppurtunity to commit suicide, but if we think about it, suicide is a selfish act. You’re only thinking of your pain. You’re not thinking about how your death will affect others.
I have dreamt often of my father since his death. One in particular. I had an 800 hotline number to heaven and while the receptionist was waiting to get my father on the line, I went into the next bedroom for quiet. Upon opening the door, a flood of white light hit my eyes, and in the midst of it all, there stood my father. I embraced him and as real as I am typing this right now, he felt real that night.
“Waylon, why do you search for me?” he asked. I can only reason this question because at the time I was struggling with whether or not he was in heaven or hell.
“Because I love you and I miss you,” I said. I could feel warm tears streaming down my face.
“Don’t worry about me, bub, I’m alright,” and he walked away into the light. Just as much as I miss him the day he died, I miss him just as much now. I wish that I could have had a bigger last conversation with him and could have said more than just I love you.
Believe me when I say that country music songs are not the best thing to listen to when you are mourning. Its no wonder why I read in USA Today once that suicide rates are higher among those who listen to country music. Music has a way of slipping past your mind and going straight for the heart.
It’s only been recently that I have come to grow a closer and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ that these voids have been filled. If you read this and you are hurting from the loss of a loved one or something else, I cannot tell you how to deal with it, we all grieve differently, but there is one man who does know.
That is God the Father. Accept the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ and the price he paid on the cross for you to accept. A free gift. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and bring joy back to your life. Christ’s front door is always open; just waiting for you to walk into his house. It’s up to you.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33