by Kiernan Gallagher, 15 years old
Published with her mother’s permission
Trigger warning: Strong emotional content and suicide method mentioned.
One I never wanted to imagine. But instead, I now live it.
They say it gets easier.
It doesn’t. And I knew that from day one.
It’s been over a year and I still remember everything. I still feel everything.
On September 26, 2019, I didn’t go to bed until four in the morning. I woke up four hours later just to get smacked in the face — reality check, everything actually happened. I’ve never actually told anyone extreme details of the night my dad died by suicide; I promise you, it wasn’t how you thought. It was ten times worse than whatever you’re picturing in your head; ten times worse than whatever you’ve heard; ten times worse than the short story I’ve told.
Of course it’s all traumatizing. But there are so many little parts of the event that are their own traumas. Hearing the shot. The first look. My phone call. Doing laps around my house, just waiting for 911 to finally arrive. Family showing up. The words “Sean has died.”
“Sean has died.” My heart sank to my stomach and my throat ached. All I could do was scream. One thing I thought I knew for certain in that moment was that he was going to live. Everything would one day be okay. I knew that had he lived, it wasn’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows right away, but he wasn’t gonna die and that was all I needed to know. Clearly, I was wrong.
The moment the bullet hit, there was no going back.
But what could’ve gone back and been changed? Why was I so oblivious to what was going to happen? If ever given the ability to go back in time and change my actions, I’d change countless things. My bones ache for him, trying to understand the weight he carried each day. But my heart aches even more trying to understand the real hurt and sadness he felt.
I mentioned small moments of September 25, 2019, that traumatized me. All of this night lingers everywhere. Holidays are broken. Special occasions are broken. Even a random f*&$ing Tuesday is broken.
There are days where I find myself feeling angry at the world, but I have to ask myself if I am actually angry at the world, or if I am angry because my dad is no longer in it. I then remind myself: the world gave me him. The world gave me the privilege of Sean being my dad. The world gave me precious memories that I will forever cherish. Maybe our time was short-lived, but still — the world gave me such an amazing man as my father.
So many thoughts of him, and what he should’ve been, flow.
Events hurt; he won’t be walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, he won’t be in the crowd at the end of my education journey, he won’t meet his grandkids. But the little things hurt too. He’s not working on the cars or anything and everything else with my brother, not napping on the couch in the living room, or showing off in whatever car he decided to own at the time. My dad was everything, and our relationship was everything.
All of the adversity turns into opportunity, though. It’s not like life was perfect before this, either, so I grew up rather quickly. I’ve learned a lot throughout it all. Here are some of those thoughts:
- Forgive people, not for them, but for you; you’re hurting yourself a lot more when you’re holding on.
- One can never care “too much.” I’ve felt unloved, unlovable, and not cared for — you have no idea how much someone else may feel. Give the people you care for everything. You might regret not caring enough one day.
- By all means, search for the answers to things. Just know that you might not love the answer you find.
- Know your worth and what you deserve. My mom has told me some people are a lifetime, some are a season. She likes to show me the Madea video clip with Tyler Perry where she says, “People are like leaves, branches, and roots.” Some friends haven’t been there through all of this, it’s definitely shown who is a root.
- In the words of Mitch Albom, “death ends a life, not a relationship.” There has not been one day where I didn’t think of my dad. Every day I have to remind myself that he is gone. I can hear the echo of what once was, whether it be his laugh, his voice, his footsteps…
I know that a part of me died when my dad died. But I also know that a whole new maturity level was born. None of this was part of the plan; none of this should’ve happened. But there’s nothing anyone can do. I’ll never forget my dad. Anyone who knew him won’t, either. And I’ll never stop missing him. I hope to see him again one day, but for now… he’s in my dreams. He’s the red cardinal sitting on the fence. He’s the dancing flame on the candle. He’s that one song on the radio. He’s still with me, in spirit — and this I know for certain.