It started with the most beautiful wedding ceremony and an amazing wedding night. The very next day, after my new husband and I arrived back home and started to prepare dinner, my 17 year old daughter called me crying and hysterical.
They are putting Dad in an ambulance she said. He is not breathing. They say he drowned. Mom, I'm scared.
I listened to all of this and it seemed that time stood still. My daughter and her father lived in Texas. I was living in Seattle. My daughter had only the year before moved down to stay with her father while asserting some independence. My ex-husband and I had managed to resolve our differences and had thankfully become very close friends again. As I listened to the words my daughter was saying, my heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach. My head started pounding and I became dizzy.
Somehow I managed to keep my own emotions at bay and quickly take charge. I quickly let my new husband know what was happening and asked him to contact his sister and see if she would go to the hospital to sit with my daughter. She lives in the same town and it would be several hours before I would be able to get to her. I did not want her to be alone right now.
It was not long before the police were questioning my daughter and discussing the need to place her in foster care until I could arrive. I managed to convince the police officer that my daughter would be fine at my new sister in laws home until I could make it down the next day. I retained custody of my child, but it seemed to take a lot of convincing before the police officer would leave her alone and agree she did not have to go to foster care.
I booked a ticket to fly to my daughter and began making phone calls, looking for telephone numbers for people important to him. People that he would want to know. I did not go to bed that night, I couldn't sleep.
My heart ached for this man I spent such a huge chunk of my life with. We raised my three children together including our daughter. We had only been divorced a few years. Memories flooded my mind as I spoke to the emergency room doctor and the different specialists over the phone. They were saying it appeared he had no brain activity. They wanted to wait until tomorrow and see if things changed if the swelling in his brain went down, but little to no hope was offered. I was told then that he likely would not make it through the night.
As I boarded the airplane I felt like I was falling and had the wind knocked out of me. Here I was a newly wed and I was leaving my new husband and going to my ex-husbands bedside to say goodbye for the last time. This could not be for real. This could not be happening. The amount of pain I felt in my heart seemed beyond what I could bear.
I tried hard not to allow myself to cry because I was scared of traveling on an airplane with all of the TSA rules and regulations. I was fearful if I was crying that it might draw attention to me and somehow make me be a person of concern or something horribly awful. So I sat there trying to keep quiet and bottled up. Aching.
The plane stopped in Phoenix for a layover. I called my daughter to find out the latest updates on her father. She informed me that his sister and step-mother had arrived along with several extended family members. She was in tears as she told me her Aunt gave her an ultimatum - don't let your Mama in to say goodbye to your father or else you will be excluded from any and all decisions regarding your father.
His sister had never liked me. It had always been a relationship of avoidance and hostility. She sat there trying to convince my child that she should not move back home with me but rather to move in with her because her mother was a horrible person. My daughter was offended and hurt. Not only was her father dying and her aunt was being so selfish and mean to her. She told me that she knew her father would want me to say goodbye and that she would do what her father would have wanted and what I needed, even if it meant that she would have no say so regarding her fathers final resting place.
I finally arrived in Dallas where I met my daughter and sister-in-law at the airport. They quickly drove me to the apartment where I picked up my ex-husbands truck and took my daughter and I to the hospital. It was late so all of his other family members had went to rest in their hotel rooms. For that, I was thankful. I needed this time to cry and say goodbye to the man that meant so much to me. The man that I loved and fought with, and finally left.
I told him I loved him. I told him I was angry with him. He had finally done the one thing I was so afraid he would do, he drank himself to death. My ex-husband was an alcoholic. I left him because of his alcoholism. I was so afraid for so many years that the alcohol would kill him in the end, and my greatest fears were a reality. I kissed his head and told him I would always love him. I told him I hoped he could now find peace. I felt so guilty. My daughter had shared with me that he had been drinking pretty badly the day of my wedding and all the next day. He was really upset because I was getting remarried. He just kept drinking. He used to play a song, in fact he sent it to me saying the song was about us. That song is called Whiskey Lullaby. I wish it weren't true. But I know in my heart that he could not accept that our divorce was final.
The next several days were pretty tough. I packed the apartment and had my husband fly down to help me load a large truck with all of my daughter and her fathers belongings. I then drove back home to Seattle and rented a new home for us all to live in while we tried to piece our hearts and lives back together again. My daughter was a trooper, but she was so brokenhearted. She was hurting even worse due to the way her aunt had treated her. Her aunt was so worried about getting anything of any value that she might could sell or keep for herself that she forgot to think about the damage she was doing to my daughter, her niece.
It was only 4 months until my daughters 18th birthday, yet her aunt kept treating her as if she were 6 and had no rights to anything. She even grabbed my daughters purse at one point and took out her fathers wallet and kept it along with her fathers key ring. My daughter wanted to keep the wallet itself as she had given that to her father as a gift. She has requested it back, but it has not shown up. They took his gun and then screamed that we must be hiding his other guns from them. We looked through the entire house but could only find the one handgun. This was handed to them simply to get them to shut up. They were already stealing the truck, boat, boat motor, trailer, and motorcycle from my daughter. Legally everything belonged to my daughter as his only heir, yet these extended family members came to yell at my daughter and try to take everything of value away from her.
I will say that there were two great-aunts that were kind and understanding to both my daughter and myself. I have always loved these beautiful ladies and will always be so appreciative to them for not getting involved and for trying to be there for both my daughter and I while all of this was going on.
In the end, her aunt and her step-grandmother did not let her know when the memorial service would be. None of the details for the memorial were provided until well after we were heading home. We waited several days before leaving so we could attend. They did not want my daughter to bring her mother (me), and true to their word, since she allowed me to say goodbye to her father, they left her out of the actual memorial service.
My sweet daughter is so broken-hearted. Not only has she lost her Daddy, but because of this, she has lost her entire other side of her family. She knows that those who choose to be so greedy and mean are not people she wishes to have a relationship with. I only hope I can help her heal as we both walk through the coming weeks and months together. We will both miss the man we loved so deeply. Nothing will ever bring him back. But, he will live in our hearts forever.