I’m in Trenton today. I’m surrounded by sights and sounds that bring memories screaming to the forefront for me.
Four times already today, I had to drive past the parking lot where I hugged my boy goodbye, not knowing it would be the last time. It’s brutal.
I flew three quarters of the way across the country yesterday. My first flight was delayed due to the weather hitting the west coast of Canada with as much fierce as Mother Earth could conjure on a Monday morning, which has left my home province in a state of destruction. There is mass flooding, and landslides, and highways washed away. The second flight was delayed by three hours due to a computer glitch that shut the system down for Air Canada nationwide. When we finally boarded, we were left to sit out on the ramp for another hour, with no access to either wifi or cell. But three hours after we were supposed to take off, we were finally in the air on one of the most turbulent flights I’ve ever flown on. Once we landed it only took me three more hours to sort out my car rental and drive to Trenton from Toronto. I finally made it to my son Matt’s house around 1am.
My interview for the Board of Inquiry had been changed from 0830 to 1000. I was grateful for the extra hour and a half of sleep. The line of questioning was not as tough as I thought it was going to be, but the interview started of with ” this Board in Inquiry is into the death of Cpl Samuel James Hills ” and those words were hard to hear.
In the months leading up to his death, my son had fallen victim to bullying and harassment by his supervisor. I don’t understand why she had it out for him, but she did. Sam was such a kind person and most loved him. I could never understand what her issue was.
Many of the questions asked of me pertained to his mental state at the time he died and whether the military had any bearing on his decision to end his life that night. It’s been my belief since this whole nightmare began, that the treatment at the hands of his supervisor played a role. But it wasn’t just that: it was a culmination of things: some related to the military, and some not.
At the beginning of Covid induced isolation, Sam’s wife left him for another man. The marriage had been struggling apparently before that, but with her leaving, and him being forced into strict isolation as all members of the military were, he was thrown into a dark spiraling slide that went on for days, and subsequently weeks. His chain of command didn’t check up on their people often and the loneliness that those who were single played greatly into mental health issues, for many.
By spring things began to ease up on the isolation side of things, but Sam’s wife wasn’t content on just leaving him; she had to” rub his face” in her new found happiness any chance she could get. She also shut off utilities without telling him. She broke into the house one day when he left briefly and took his guitar : one of the few things that kept him entertained during the long hours of isolation. But he managed to get busy with a few small renovations to the home that needed to be sold, and his work paid off in both self pride, and financially.
Later in the summer, he moved to Trenton. It was shortly after he moved, that his ex wife’s boyfriend died of a drug overdose. I’m not sure to this day if it was intentional or not. But he was starting off on a new job, in a new city. And he seemed to be doing OK. But, he wasn’t.
I thought things were starting to look up for Sam, but I was wrong. I really didn’t know how much he was struggling at the end. The tension that he felt with his new supervisor was quickly turning into toxicity. When he would come up with alternatives to make the workplace better for all, she would shut him down at every turn. She seemed to look for opportunities to pick on him.
His mental health didn’t seem to be doing to badly, but in those last weeks, it spiraled. He had stopped taking his medications unbeknownst to me. He wasn’t sleeping. He was having nightmares, and he confessed to me, that he was starting to have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy. He feared that he was suffering from psychosis.
A consultation was booked with a psychiatrist which he had only days before he died. The appointment was done over the phone. I still cringe when I think about that: how much did that doctor miss by not seeing Sam’s body language? I just can not believe that someone who expresses a fear of delusional thoughts, would be assessed over a phone. I can’t help but to think he was let down by that psychiatrist. I can’t believe that the military would hire a specialist who can’t be bothered to see a consultation for psychosis, in the office!
Anyway, a lot of the questions pertained to a 4 page statement I had written up just a few days prior to today’s interview. After answering their questions, I read my statement.
On Friday, I will attend the interview of his supervisor. I want to hear what she has to say about herself and the way she treated my son. I want her to answer those questions, with me sitting there in that room.
I’m seriously jetlagged. I need to sleep.