He was born to Bob and Marie in Panama City, FL on September 10, 1946. When he was 2-years-old his mother divorced his father on the grounds that he was physically abusive. After the divorce, she moved back to her hometown. She remarried and had two sons with Bill. His father remarried and had three sons and two daughters with Ann. When he was in high school he played football, and he went on to play semi-pro football for a few years when he was first married and after he became a father at the tender age of 20.
He and his wife had two daughters. Most of the time he was a fun and loving dad, worked hard in carpentry, construction, and driving a truck. However, he drank a lot of alcohol and had difficulty managing his emotions. When his wife divorced him after 14 years of marriage, he moved to Florida where he sold drugs and lived a life of alcohol, using, and partying with his friends.
When he was only 41-years-old, his doctor told him he had to have surgery on his back or he would become disabled. Instead of doing what the doctors at the VA counseled him to do in order to become eligible for surgery (stop smoking, drinking, and lose at least 30 pounds), he only drank more rum and did more drugs.
His oldest daughter lived in Oklahoma, and she called him one February night when the winters there were more brutal, from a phone booth not far from where she lived. They had been estranged, and she had not talked to him nor seen him for over a year. He told her he was sorry that she had to go through a divorce at such a young age, and that he wished he could be there for her and help her more. Then he added, offhandedly, “You know I’m not going to be around much longer. But don’t ever forget I love you and your sister.”
He died in his bed, alone in his tiny apartment on a Saturday the following May, while his second wife was at work. Apparently, he took all of his pain pills and muscle relaxers and combined these with alcohol. There was no autopsy. His grandmother managed to stop any investigations into his death, and the reason for death was deemed, “Died from unknown causes.”
His youngest daughter lived in Florida. Her husband drove her from Fort Lauderdale to St. Petersburg to see him in the morgue. She could not go far as she was just a couple of weeks away from having her first baby. He was flown back to his mother’s hometown and most of his family and a host of friends buried him—including his mother, step-father, two brothers, grandmother, grandfather, and his oldest daughter.
He was born in Delaware…maybe it was New Jersey…on November 30, 1955. His father was of northern Italian descent and his mother was what he referred to as “Pennsylvania Dutch.” He had brothers and sisters, most of whom he left behind when he moved to Florida in the early 1980’s after divorce. He also left behind three daughters.
He remarried in the late 1980’s and they had four children. Despite their 12-year age difference, they somehow made their marriage work for a while. He worked hard, and moved up to a district management position with a food service corporation. This allowed his wife to stay home with their children, where she thrived. She went to college and obtained a degree in education and began to teach school.
Despite these successes, their marriage was a leaky vessel. She was quite young when they met, and despite all her efforts, she was unhappy. They actually divorced after the first child was born, when she was around 6-years-old. After some time, they reconciled and remarried. He got a promotion and they moved away from home, away from her mother, and lived in such places as Joliet, IL; Stafford, VA; and Jacksonville, FL. Eventually, her wish to move back near her mother and his to be near his kids from his first marriage, who had moved to Florida with their mother, led them to St. Cloud, FL.
After over 20 years of marriage, she finally said enough was enough. She was home with him that morning in December after the kids had just left for school. They talked about trying to “make it work” and she could see no way. He implored her to stay. She said she could not. Her mother called, so she went outside to talk to her on the phone.
It couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes, but when she went back inside, she found her husband hanging in her closet. He had used the belt to his robe. She cut him down, desperately tried to perform CPR, and called 911. He was pronounced dead only minutes after the paramedics arrived. He had just turned 55-years-old ten days before he killed himself.
She was born in Chattanooga, TN on an early morning in late September of 1966 to Fred and Faye. The oldest, with one sister, she grew up in a chaotic environment where there was a lot of alcoholism, drug use, domestic violence, and broken families. Despite so many hard times, she had some good memories of her family and growing up.
She married young the first time in Stillwater, OK in December 1985, at age nineteen. She was pregnant. It was the “right” thing to do, so she did what she could to make the most of the situation. The marriage lasted just under 2 years. In the meantime, she also lost her father and lost any control over how and when she would be a mother to her baby.
Devastated and confused, she moved back to Florida where her family lived and tried to make sense of her life. She met her second husband there. They had two children, and he had a job as an engineer with a large oil company. This enabled her to stay home with their kids. However, after several years, she realized she married him out of fear—a need to feel secure and safe. As much as she cared for him, she couldn’t stay. They divorced but remained civil, making sure their kids were a priority.
She met another person and they had a heated romance, and she found herself pregnant, even though she used protection. With three kids under the age of nine, she didn’t want to set a bad example. She married him, not sure that she should, and it was something she came to regret. He was verbally and physically abusive to her, and threatened many times to take their child and make sure she lost all three of her other children, when he was in one of his rages. Finally, after three years of this chaos, she filed for divorce. It took over a year to get it granted. Even so, her ex took her to court nearly every year for several years afterward until he was able to get custody of their child when she was at her lowest—no job, no place to go, and having just had major heart surgery. Her oldest had graduated high school. Her other two kids moved to California with their dad. Her youngest was now in the clutches and full control of her ex, one who had it in for her for leaving him.
Depression took her down fast, and all she wanted was to go to sleep one day and not wake up. She considered several ways to kill herself. She thought of running her car as fast as possible into a sturdy tree or overpass. Driving was an exercise in fear and temptation. She thought about taking a blade and cutting her wrists, bleeding out all the pain and sorrow. Finally, she held a bottle of pills in her hand, and a photo of her four children, now scattered, in the other.
Instead of taking the pills, she called the National Suicide Prevention Line. After two hours, the man on the other end of that conversation convinced her to go to a hospital. She drove herself through a snowstorm to the local emergency room, and admitted herself into the behavioral unit there. After about two weeks she was released and began the long road to recovery, to thriving instead of surviving, and to becoming whole again.
The first story was about my dad, Bobby Freddy Bailey, Jr. The second one was about my brother-in-law, Robert Anthony Rago.
The third story is my own.
Suicide is not a subject anyone wants to know, especially in such a personal way.
And you know, I did not want to write about this subject. No, I wanted to push it down, shove it off, and try to come up with something witty, charming, beautiful, or inspirational.
The more I resisted this story, the worse I felt inside. I wanted to eat everything in sight when I got home from work this week. I wanted to purge the food and restrict my food during the day. I wanted to smash windows with bricks, scream until I became hoarse, and cry until no more tears would come. I wanted to numb out. I wanted to forget.
On Monday morning my husband and I learned that a friend of ours had attempted suicide. His wife called John while I was getting ready for work. Apparently, he took an entire prescription of phenobarbital. She told us that a couple of weeks before this happened, he had cut his wrists. So, I tried to wrap my head around her commentary and actions when he told her on the night he tried to take his life, beforehand, that he was going to take those pills, “I’m just tired of it all.” Her response? “Well, if you do, I’ll just call the ambulance.” As she recounted this story to my husband and me when we went to the ICU on Monday afternoon, she said, “Well, you know how he is. He’s always saying stuff like that. I just went in my bedroom and watched TV.”
She shrugged when she said this. I was livid. Later on, I thought it over and I realized it’s possible she simply had no idea what to do. At least, I try to give her that much. Maybe she didn’t understand depression or suicidal ideation. It’s likely she has never lost anyone to suicide or thought of it herself.
Still, those reasons aren’t good enough for me. I suppose I’m being judgmental, but in my mind, she should have fought for him somehow. Take the bottle and flush the pills. Call the cops. Tell him he either gets help or she leaves him again. Call my husband, tell him to come talk to him. Something. Anything but what she did.
I’m sure she is going over everything in her own mind as she sits there, day after day, and watches her husband in a coma. He’s unresponsive for the most part. He is on a ventilator and has more tubes pumping medication, saline, and liquid protein into his body than—as my dad would have said—Carter has little pills.
So, what is the takeaway here?
We all need to understand that depression is a serious illness. Suicide is a final consequence of depression, and when people talk about wanting to end their life, or “go to sleep and never wake up again,” or “I just can’t go on anymore,” we need to fucking listen.
Moreover, we need to act.
Sometimes loving others means telling them things they don’t want to hear. We have to get in their faces, tell them to stop and think, insist they do whatever it takes to get better. We have to put them before ourselves. We have to say to them, “I don’t know what to do, but we can go to someone who does and get you help.”
When we are willing to do and say these things, we are saying to a person who is depressed and who no longer wishes to live, that we love them and care about them.
We are saying, “YOU MATTER.”
According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
“There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions lead fulfilling lives.”
Also, AFSP sites warning signs and risk factors, such as change in talk, mood, or behavior. Moreover, “This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change.”
Not all people who talk of suicide or “ending it all” or “going to sleep forever” actually have a plan, nor do they follow up on their words. Many are crying out for help. To some, this may seem like a way to get attention, or it may have been said so many times it is like that proverbial “boy who cried wolf.” However, it is imperative such talk and behavior are taken seriously by loved ones and addressed immediately.
If you or someone you know is depressed, under a lot of strain, anxious, and/or having thoughts of suicide, please seek help.
I can tell you from my own experience, as a person who got help and as one who has lost two very important people in my life to suicide, that as uncomfortable as you may feel talking about this with someone and getting the attention and care needed, the alternative is much worse.
We all matter.
Please remember this.
For more information, you can go to the following websites:
The National Suicide Prevention Line
Kim Bailey Deal writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. She is currently revising her first novel and finishing her second, as well as co-editing an anthology. Publications: MORE Magazine’s Member Voices, The Pull of Strays; Issue 3 of Firefly Magazine, A Journal of Luminous Writing; Writer’s Digest as part of editor Robert Lee Brewer’s blog. She lives in Chattanooga, TN and is the mother of four grown children, three boys and one girl, and “Nim” to her husband’s grandchildren. To connect, she can be found at kimbaileydeal.net, Kim Bailey Deal Page on Facebook, @wordjunkie1966 on Twitter