The morning Sam died, is etched in my mind, as clearly, as if it was just days ago.
I woke up, to daylight streaming through my window. It was probably not long after the sun came up.
I stretched, expecting it to be like any other day. I hadn’t yet checked my phone as I do every morning. If I had, I would have seen all the messages from Kris ( my oldest son) , and from my ex husband who were trying to reach me.
Instead, it was Randy’s phone that brought the scorching, debilitating reality of death, to life that morning.
As his phone rang, he looked at the caller id: it was Kris. I thought, he must have forgotten something important here as he and his wife and my two grandsons had only left the morning before after a five day visit. I thought that he must have forgotten something very important and only realized it as he was heading to work. But that’s not what he was calling for.
I answered, and his voice on the other end was filled with desperation. ” Mom, you need to call dad right away”. I sat up straight, and asked him why. What is going? He re-iterated ” just call dad. Please”. I begged him to tell me and he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. I cried out ” is it Sam?”. He said, ” please, just call dad”.
I didn’t have my ex husband’s phone number so I asked Kris to get him to call me.
The phone rang. I was already in a panic and starting to cry. Rick was very quiet. Before he could speak, I asked ” is it Sam?”. He replied ” yes”. I asked, or practically begged ” is he OK?”. Rick said ” no”.
That was the moment when my life irrevocably, changed forever. That was the moment, my heart shattered. I don’t remember if he ever even said the words ” he is dead”. I already knew.
Rick told me that they were transporting him to the hospital in Kingston Ont. And that the autopsy would be performed, the next day.
Randy already had his arms around me as the call ended. That is the day I started to cry, and I haven’t stopped. The phone rang again and it was my son Matthew. And then it was my daughter Tessa.
I don’t know why I felt the need to call into work after that. I needed to let them know what had happened and to ask what I needed to do next. My supervisor answered the phone, and I asked if our crew chief was in yet. He wasn’t. Until that moment I had managed to somewhat compose my self, but when he said to give a call back in a couple of hours, I broke down and told him why I was calling. In shock, he said he was going to call the Padre and find out what to do next. The base had already been notified, as it turns out, by my son’s base, where it is three hours ahead in time zone, so the duty officer here in Comox was contacted in the early hours before I was even awake. It just hadn’t filtered down to my immediate chain of command as most of them were not yet at work.
The phone rang again shortly after that, and the person on the other end identified them self: a name I didn’t recognize, but said he was from the base where I work, and asked if he could come by. I said yes, and he said he would be here in a minute. They were already parked outside my house.
When you watch a movie, where the next of kin of a serviceman is notified of their death: that is exactly what it was like that morning. The doorbell rang, and outside stood three men in uniform : the base Commander, the base CWO, and the Padre.
I invited them in, and sat down on the couch. The Base Commander sat down with me, and although he knew that I already knew: he broke the news, and offered me his, and from all members of the base, their heartfelt condolences.
He told me not to hesitate if there was anything I needed.
Shortly after he left, I crawled back into my bed. Randy sat down next to me, and put his arms around me. It was then that I screamed. It was at that moment that it all settled in. Sam, my sweet third born child: died. He was gone. I screamed as loud as I could as Randy held me tight. And then I screamed even louder. They say that the scream of a mother who has lost their child, is like no other. It came from deep with in me. It came with the piercing shattering of my heart as it broke into infinite pieces. To this day, I hear the word ” heal” from so many, but really, can a shattered heart ever heal? I don’t think so.
That was the longest day of my life. The detective reached out to me. And then the coroner reached out to me to let me know that his findings confirmed the cause of death as suicide : the autopsy had actually been performed that day. At that point, I told him that I didn’t want to know how Sam took his life. In fact it was days before I finally asked. But all that I wanted to know from the coroner, was that Sam didn’t suffer and he assured me that he would not have been aware of his surroundings for very long.
He told me of Sam’s note, and how he had never seen one quite like it. It read more like a literary piece. It was four pages. The coroner then asked if I wanted him to take a picture of the note and text it to me so I could read it: the original would be taken by the police as evidence. At first I declined, but then I accepted because other members of the family might want to see it. I vowed not to read it until I had the original in my hand. I wanted to read the words, the actual letter that Sam painstakingly sat at a table and wrote. I didn’t want to read a ” copy”. I still don’t have that note, almost 4 months later. Eventually, I read the ” copy”.
To say, when one takes their life, they pass the pain on to those who they loved, and who love them is accurate. Sam left a void so deep; so cavernous and so filled with pain. Often, I feel like my chest is going to explode. Or implode. Or just disintegrate. Often, I hope that it does. But I am still here.
I’m supposed to find something in Sam’s death…a purpose in it to learn from and to make a difference in this world : to find a way to help others, through his loss. And I try. But, nothing helps my own pain. My life changed that day. I changed that day. And I don’t think that who I was before Aug 19, 2021, will ever return.