Planning a Holiday

Part 3

Ten months ago, I paid a deposit on a holiday. It was open ended, and cheap, as long as we took it prior to the end of August 2006.

Five weeks ago, we decided to book the holiday for the 23rd to the 26th May – three nights in a four star resort. It sounded superb. However, when I phoned the resort, they gave me the happy news that because we were booking in “off season” (winter in Australia) we were entitled to an extra night for free. As I had an appointment on the 22nd May, this meant we had to bring the holiday forward a week (15th to 19th May). We could enjoy a holiday for four nights instead of three, and we would do so during the week when it was quieter. Then, on the Monday, I would go to my appointment and I’d return to work on the Tuesday feeling happy and relaxed. A great plan.

I remember telling Barry that the holiday was booked. We asked if he wanted to come with us, and bring a friend. He was quick to say “no thanks”. I wasn’t surprised by this. Who wants to go on holiday with their parents, when they are 18? I saw Barry’s mind ticking over. I thought about the stories of teenagers and parties, and was quick to tell him that we didn’t want that happening while we were away. Now I realise that parties were the furthest thing from his mind.

The 14th was Mother’s Day. My family all went out to lunch on the 13th instead. Barry was his usual happy self – smiling and joking around with his older brother and his girlfriend. We had a wonderful afternoon. On the way home, Barry asked to be dropped off at his best friend’s house. It was the last time I would see Barry alive. How I wish that moment was different. How I wish I’d said something that might have changed his mind. I didn’t, but I did tell him that I loved him.

Barry rang me on Mother’s Day and we laughed and joked about “the present” Barry said he’d leave on my bed the next day (the day we were due to leave on our holiday; he planned to arrive home after we had left). We both knew it wouldn’t happen. He sounded happy, really happy. I was happy too. It’s pointless saying “if only”, but those words flash in my mind a thousand times a day. If only we hadn’t picked this time to go away. If only we had known that Barry wasn’t happy. If only …

Click here to go to Part 4: The Holiday and the Last Conversation


3 thoughts on “Planning a Holiday

  1. Dear Karen, I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear son. Your story is so very similar to my own story. My 18 year old son Slade committed suicide on August 17th, 2003. He went out into the desert on a Saturday night the 16th and shot himself in the head with my husband’s hunting rifle the next morning at daybreak. It’s been the hardest 3 years of my life and is all still so unbelievable and surreal. It still doesn’t seem possible. As a parent, it’s like you’re stuck in this time warp waiting for him to come home..

    He was always such a happy, outgoing kid and had so many nice friends. Always busy, phone ringing off the hook since he was a little guy, he always had something lined up! He wasn’t ever bullied, wasn’t a loner, never showed signs of depression (wasn’t a “downer” personality), certainly never abused at home in anyway. My husband and I were so proud of him and told him in some form every day of his life how much we loved him. He knew that and even told us in his final letter that we were the best parents he could ever have but that “wasn’t enough anymore”? He was such a neat kid, we all put him on a pedestal, he was so dearly loved.

    Like your son, he was in the process of breaking up with his girlfriend (someone he knew a total of 6 months)? Nice girl, but like all 17-year-old teenage girls, she enjoyed playing “games” on him and I know he took it really hard, but never in a million years did we ever think he would do what he did. He was always such a happy, strong, independent kid. We always were so proud of him for that and gave him way more leeway (like letting him stay home by himself starting the summer he was 10, instead of sending him to daycare).. He was always such a down to earth, mature kid for his age and loved life so much.

    I too, look back and see all the little “signs”. The last time I saw him he had come home early from a night out with his buddies (which surprised us at the early hour of 10pm). We told him how happy we were to see him since we didn’t get a chance to share many Saturday nights with him anymore.. He smiled and went back to his room and my husband insists he took a shower, I don’t remember though, but he did come back to the family room dressed in his comfy boxer pants. The next thing I knew he came walking back into the room fully dressed and asked if he could borrow the car (to put gas in it) and he would be “right back” in 10 minutes.. He walked over to me as I was sitting on the couch watching a movie and ran his fingers over the top of my head and said “Goodbye mama.” I remember being startled by the finality of it? So I asked him “why does it sound so final?” As he walked out of the room he muttered something I could not make out, so I hollered after him that I couldn’t hear what he said? He walked back down the hall and stuck his head back in, muttered the same thing (which I still couldn’t hear) and left. By then I was out of my chair and down the hall just in time to see the garage door close behind him. So I stopped in my tracks and told myself I’d ask him what he said in 10 minutes when he came back home.

    My husband was in the garage and Slade told him “this is the last time I’ll be putting gas in the car” and my husband (puzzled) suddenly realized that yes, Slade’s own car would be out of the garage on Tuesday (with a rebuilt engine) and so yes, this would be the last time he’d be putting gas in the car! Then Slade told him he loved him and left. My husband stood in the driveway as he backed out and drove away. The last thing he did was wave goodbye to my husband.

    I look back on that now in complete disbelief and shock. The signs were so blatant. How could we have missed them? So many of the things that happened that summer (like his recanting of so, so many childhood stories).. At the time I thought he was really growing up, appreciating so many of the good things that happened in his childhood, now I look back and realize he was going through all the intricate little details of his life.

    Other things too, like when he came back from Mexico a month earlier he told me “I’m never going back to Mexico again”. That shocked me because we had taken him to a nice resort in Mexico a few years earlier and he had such an enjoyable time. And when I was trying to console him about his broken car one day (how it would be fixed soon) he told me “not in my life mom”.

    How could I have missed so many signs? Unlike your son though, he never cleaned out his room. In fact, he had spent the earlier part of the summer fixing it up (repainting, etc.). Every Friday evening he’d drag the vacumn down the hall to clean things up because his friends would come over and “party”.. He had a top drawer in his dresser I swear he saved every little scrap of paper he ever touched during the seven years we had lived in this house (school hall passes, ticket stubs, scraps of paper with friends addresses/phone numbers, receipts, bank transactions, everything.. Even little notes that got passed to him in class during junior high.

    It’s so unbelievable isn’t it? You always think of someone who commits suicide as having a really trouble, bad life, or having something really wrong with them. Then when it happens to your son, you feel like you must have been a really dysfuntional parent, that you must have screwed up really bad. Only you know in your heart that’s not true, you were the best parent you could have ever possibly been to your child. Never left him alone a day in his life, told him you loved him every day of his life, wrapped your whole life around him. Gave him such a better life than you yourself had as a child…

    One thing you haven’t mentioned is whether you have had any “signs” from your son since he left? I know you did talk about some dreams? I can tell you honestly, that my son has been here (in some form) many, many times since his death. So much so, I really wonder if they go anywhere at all or if they are here all along? It may sound strange, but this has really given me great comfort. Before my mom’s death (8 months before my son’s death) I never believed in life after death. I DO NOW!! I know I will see my son again and that he still lives! I hope you know that too by now and that it comforts you the same way.

    For example, the day he died the smoke detectors went off all over the house (four different times and three different smoke detectors). When the first one went off in my bedroom at daybreak I thought it was just the battery going dead and like always they go off at the most inappropriate times (like on your day off at daybreak).. When the second one went off at 11am it sounded like the one in the hallway (we have seven) but I convinced myself that wasn’t possible, it had to be the one in my bedroom (with the bad battery?)..

    The third one went off in the entry foyer at 2pm. By then I was really scratching my head why all these things were going off (on complete opposite sides of the house, opposite times of the day)? Finally, the one in the entry foyer went off again at 4pm so I turned to my husband and said “how come all of these smoke detectors are going off all over the house today?” My husband, always the one with the quick, logical answer said “maybe it’s just really humid today” (which it wasn’t, we live in the desert and these things are also designed to be used in places like Louisiana were it’s completely humid)! A minute later, the police were at the door and I never gave another thought to the alarms that day.

    It wasn’t until two days later when my husband and I went to talk to the detective that it all started making sense to me (the alarms only). The detective asked me “is there anything you would like to know about your son’s death?” and I told him the only thing I cared about was what time he died (since I already knew how he died). At that point, I had no idea if he died on the 16th or the 17th? The detective told me “we think he died at daybreak because we know he wrote the note on the spur of the moment and he needed light to do that.” He was in the desert, in complete darkness (no streetlights), our car was a convertible and didn’t have an overhead light.. I know the police can also tell by the condition of the body and blood the approximate hours.

    It wasn’t until I was standing outside, reading my son’s note (as my husband and the detective went to retrieve our car from the impound lot) that I suddenly realized; 1) the first smoke alarm went off (in our room) at daybreak when Slade died 2) the second alarm went off a moment before my husband walked in from the garage door to the hallway (he goes bowling with his best friend every Sunday morning), infact, this day he was so worried about our son he came home an hour early at 11am 3) the third alarm went off in the entry foyer a second before my youngest son came home (he had spent the night at a friends) and entered the house through the front foyer 4) the same alarm went off a second before the police showed up at our door at 4pm..

    I could go on and on.. Too long winded already! I would love to hear from you and how you are doing..


  2. Dear Nancy

    I’m so so sorry that you lost your darling Slade.

    What can I say? You know what I’m feeling, the pain I endure every day. The details of your story are different, of course, but as you said our stories are very much the same.

    My research tells me that depressed people commit suicide. Whilst I know this is true, it is not 100% accurate. Anyone can commit suicide, over anything. My son is proof of that, and so is your son, by the sounds of it.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, for telling me how you feel. There’s so much I’d like to say to you. May I email you?


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