In 1984, when I was six years old, I lost my father to suicide.
I found him lying on the bedroom floor, just moments after he fired the shot. My childhood, from that point on would be defined by the absence of a father and everything that not having a dad means; no security, no direction, no provision, no protection.
From the age of six until the time I was 20 years old, there was never a man, not to mention a father in the home. 14 years would go by until I would come to join the military, which in many ways would become like a father-figure for me.
Fast forwarding to 2004; I’m 26 years old and serving aboard the aircraft carrier, USS KITTY HAWK, which was forward deployed in Japan. While conducting operations in an undisclosed location, I was notified through an American Red Cross Message, that my little brother and only sibling, Benjamin, had died from an alcohol overdose.
His passing was a critical point in my faith…I took it extremely hard. In the years that followed Benjamin’s passing I was angry at God, and didn’t know how to process the grief and loss.
I felt abandoned and alone…like I was the last one left. No dad…no brother…just me.
With the grief still raw and fresh from my brother’s passing, only a few months later, I got a call from a family member to let me know that a close uncle of mine (on my mom’s side of the family) had taken his own life. In my mind, I didn’t need a reason to be mad at God; I already blamed Him for the loss of my little brother. Hearing the tragic news about my uncle killing himself, only deepened my anger and sadness.
In 2007, while I was stationed in Hawaii, I got a phone call from a close cousin of mine…really more like my older brother than a cousin. His little sister had killed herself. I jumped on the first plane back home and watched as my family had to bury another one of our own in the same cemetery as my dad and little brother.
Moving forward about five years; the Navy transfers my family and I from Hawaii to Virginia. After spending the first 12 years of my military career on the West Coast, we were able move back to the East Coast, so I could be closer to New England, where I grew up.
In 2012, while on deployment to the Middle East, I was once again met with tragic news. Early one morning, when I was checking my email and messages, I received an email telling me that my uncle (my dad’s older brother) had taken his own life. I was particularly close with this uncle; he spent a lot of time looking after me, especially after my little brother died.
This time, although hearing about the loss of my uncle hurt tremendously, I was strategically placed with some good Christian Brother’s aboard the ship. I was linked in with senior leaders who are also strong Men of Faith.
With the support of the chain-of-command, I was permitted to take emergency leave…as much time as I needed; and so I began the long journey, all the way from the Middle East, to the East Coast of the United States.
When I got back to my hometown, it was surreal…another family member was buried in the same cemetery; next to my dad, next to my little brother, next to my cousin. So many losses and tragic ends in one family. So many people that we loved were now buried next to each other….one by one.
A few years go by.
In 2015, I had to endure a father’s nightmare.
It was Tuesday, May 12th. I got home early from work and had enough time to catch up on some chores outside.
I was on my rider mower, when the school bus pulled up and my oldest daughter, Elizabeth stepped off the bus. I waved “Hi” to her, and she casually waved “Hi” back.
That moment would be the last time I would see my daughter alive on this side of eternity. About a half hour later, I would walk into my house and find my little girl lying dead in my closet…Elizabeth had taken her own life.
The size and magnitude of a loss that graphic and that raw is almost impossible to fathom.
As you can probably imagine there was a storm of painful emotions running through me that day.
In the weeks that followed Elizabeth’s passing, one of the biggest things that stood out in my mind was: “First my dad…then my brother…then all these other people…and now my own child. This has to end…no more.”
Sure, all the other losses (especially my dad and brother) were painful…but my own child…whoa!
Now it’s personal and sacred.
Monologue: Growing up, the loss of my dad made me feel alone and searching for a father…
In my mid-twenties, when I lost my brother, I was angry at God and pushed Him away…
But when I lost my little girl…I didn’t blame God…He didn’t do this.
But I knew who did. The same lies and darkness of self-hate and self-hurt that took my dad, that took my brother, and had taken the other family members who hurt themselves, had lied to my little girl too…and I was going to make the enemy pay for it. There as going to be a reckoning.
That was the beginning of something.
All my life I felt a Sovereign Invisible Hand on my shoulder…I used to fight it and resist it. I thought I could navigate life on my own. I used to keep God at a distance and only ask Him for help, if I felt really needed it.
This time I decided to put my hand in His; so He could heal, lead and guide me into what He created me to do.