My Story

Gwyneth, our daughter, is the age I was when it happened.

Seven.

I look at her little self and I can’t imagine a little girl going through something like that. She is so innocent. SO loving. So full of energy and joy.

I look at her and I see me. I see the little girl I once was. How I saw the world. How I was living.

And it makes me sad.

The more I live this life and the more people I meet, the more I am realizing this tragedy is more common than I would have ever thought or hoped or wished or dreamed; my childhood best friend, my “little” in my sorority,  one of my best friends as of the last four years, and most recently, a new mom-friend.

I am close to the age my mom was when it happened; my husband, close to the age of my dad;  and little Frankie, close to the age of my sister.

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We are living the life of my past before it all came crashing down.

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I mentioned a while back that I have a story like I believe everyone to have.  That what you may think of someone most likely isn’t the whole truth. That everyone has their something. It has taken a long time, and a lot of encouragement, but I am just now ready to share mine.

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Our favorite game was Connect Four. We played it often sitting on our brown, shaggy rug before bed and I looked forward to this time. He was active. An avid tennis and basketball player.  We were always doing something. One of our favorite things to do as a family was to go on hikes looking for petrified wood and to ride our bikes around town.  He taught me how to ride a bike. I loved working with him in his shop and wrestling on the floor. We went on all sorts of vacations and took many day-trips. He was silly and would put stickers on his cheeks to make me laugh and he’d play in our kiddie pool.

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I thought my world was normal. I thought I was like every other first-grader.

I went to school that day as I would any other day. But when I wasn’t picked up that day by my mom, something felt off.

Instead, our grandpa opened the door to his white van and told me and my sister, who was three at the time, to get in. It was February and cold outside.

I was excited to see our Grandpa, but we weren’t greeted with his usual smile. Rather, not much contact at all. He couldn’t look at us and would only answer our questions with minimal words while looking straight ahead.

For the majority of the ride, we drove in silence.

Grandpa and Grandma’s house was usually fun; filled with laughter and kids riding Radio Flyer wagons down wheelchair ramps.  We went there often for family dinners, holidays, and just to spend time together. Grandpa was silly; but he wasn’t this day.

When we got out of the van, Grandpa told us to go inside and see our mother.

As soon as we opened the creeky door to the house, everyone’s gaze went toward the door as my sister and I walked inside. It was dim. Conversations fell silent. Eyes were swollen. We were the center of attention.

And I froze as everyone stared.

We were told our mom was in the back bedroom and to go see her.

I paused, noticing how dark the hallway was before moving forward. This is when I heard the sound.

A loud, exhausted moaning. The sound of someone with nothing left. The sound I remember twenty-six years later. The sound of my mom.

I walked slowly down that hallway running my fingers along the faux wood-paneled walls, scared, with my little sister right behind me.

I stopped once I got to the entryway and saw my mom’s curly brown hair peeking out from under the covers.

“Mommy?” I asked in a meek voice.

She looked over her shoulder and sat up, wiped her tears, and asked for my sister and me to come over to her. We crawled up on the bed and sat on either side of her, cuddled close. Confused.

Wrapped in her arms, my mom told us how our daddy had been very sick for a long time. Sick in his heart and in his head. That he loved us very much and that he was with God now and being taken care of.

I went to school that day a family of four, and I came home a family of three.

Our lives, forever changed.

Dec 1991

This is the very last picture I ever took with him. It was Christmas, two weeks after I had turned seven-years-old. He wanted for us to put these stickers from a game I had received on our faces and to take a photo together. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to. But ultimately, I did it for him.

That very last photo, I didn’t want to take.

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To be continued….

My apologies for stopping here. With tear-stained cheeks, this is about all I can do for right now.

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For Part 2 of my story go HERE

For The Follow Up to my story, go HERE

Comments

  1. Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry….. sending lots of hugs my friend. You’re a brave woman for talking about something so real and painful for you. Thank you for opening up… <3

  2. Oh wow. This just brought a ton of memories flooding back. Seeing his face again & these pics are exactly how I remember him. Seeing you both in the picture from Minnesota brought immediate tears to my eyes. It is so hard for me to imagine everything you guys have been through & how young you little girls were. It’s just heartbreaking. I remember him as one of the most fun people I ever knew & we so looked forward to seeing him whenever we could. We all loved him so much as I know you all did also. It makes me very sad to realize everything he missed out on. You should be very proud of the person you are. Love you

    • Gosh, Tara. This is the sweetest message. I have nothing but fond memories of our time in Minnesota and I am so happy to hear the memories you have of him are nothing but fond. Thank you so much for reaching out!

  3. I think you’re very brave for sharing your story…it’s definitely one that a lot of people, unfortunately, can relate too. And I hate that. I wish I could give you all the hugs!

    -Lauren

  4. Shannon, I am so proud of you for reaching this place. I’m so proud of your willingness to be vulnerable and let it out. If we share our stories with those we trust, it lessens the pain and helps our minds and hearts move to a new place of understanding and compassion. I’ve been praying for this for a long time, and I’m so proud of you sister. I pray you continue this path of self discovery, and get to know and love the parts of you that come from him, as well as the parts of me that come from him. He loved us so much! What’s wonderful is we have each other, our mom, as well as our Iowa family, to walk this path together. I am ALWAYS open and available to you. I love you so very, very much. So very thankful for YOU!

    • Awwww, Kate. Such a kind and lovely message. Thank you so much! You are right on all counts. HUGE hugs!!I am also always available as well! Love you!

  5. Wow words cannot express how special it is for someone to allow you to share in their vulnerabilities. Thank you for being so transparent, detailed, and honest. You are truly a special writer and many would benefit to hear your voice. I just started a blog a few weeks ago and decided to be vulnerable as well. If you have time I would love to hear your thoughts!

  6. Britt Evans says:

    Oh Shannon, I’m so, so sorry. I can’t imagine what this must have been like, and how it is now, and all the years in between. You are so brave to share this story. ❤️❤️❤️

    • It has definitely been a journey. One that I don’t wish on anyone. But, it has happened, and I can do nothing but move forward. I appreciate your encouragement!

  7. This is such a raw, heart-breaking, and lovely post. Thank you for sharing and being so vulnerable. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending love.

  8. Oh Shannon, this brings me to tears. I’m so sorry for the loss and all the pain you and your family had to go through. He would be so proud of the incredible woman and mother you are. Thinking of you and sending hugs

  9. You are brave to share your story. This must have been so difficult to write. I am sorry for your loss.

  10. What a sad story. Thank you for sharing. You dad looks like he was an incredible human. Hopefully other suffering a loss will find comfort in this post.

  11. I think it’s really important to talk about it, but this story is nonetheless so sad… :(

  12. Beautiful pictures. You can feel and read the love from those and your words. That must have taken a lot of courage to write. I hope you share more.

    • That is my hope, too. I plan on finishing the story, and sooner than later. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  13. You tell your story in your own time and in your own way. Thank you for what you said. It really looks like your father loved you. Virtual hugs your way.

  14. I am so sorry what you went through but so proud of you for writing about it. Your words are beautiful and I could feel your pain through them. Tell your story little by little…. you will feel better. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you. Really, thank you. I plan to write about it when I can, and these kinds of words of encouragement help so very much.

  15. You’re a brave woman for talking about something so real and painful for you. So heart – breaking story…

  16. That’s a very beautiful read about your journey

  17. Some stories and memories just stay, refusing to go away. Cherish the memory, those pics would be special and Dad’s have a special place and no one takes that away ever.

  18. You are a beautiful writer and this story pulled at my heartstrings. I grew up without a father but had my two godfathers in my life. I can’t imagine what it would be like losing your father at 7. You are brave for telling your story.

  19. I have tears in my eyes reading this. I cannot imagine having your world crash down all around you at such a young age. My neighbors, who were good family friends of ours, lost their father to a sudden heart attack when they were just 7 and 5 years old. I can tell you that they have grown into two of the most kind-hearted and amazing people I have had the pleasure of knowing and have kept his memory alive throughout the years. You have such a beautiful family, I imagine that you have done the same. Hugs.

  20. This breaks my heart for you. I’m glad you have some beautiful memories of him that are still alive in your heart.

  21. I can’t imagine going through something like that so young. You spoke so beautifully about your father, and it reminded me to hug my kids extra hard tonight.

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