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Ashlee is Mama of one darling boy. A 28 week early bird, now 1 and some change, doing beautifully. She lives near Chicago with her sweetheart husband and French Bulldog. She's a thinker not afraid to get her silly on. Babywearer, veggie queen, photography nut. Before the domestic days Ashlee was pursuing a future in developmental psychology but has happily shifted gears in favor of staying at home and couldn't imagine doing anything else. In her free time (ha!) you can find her whipping up babyslings, holding down the fort at Mama Speaks and spotlighting as an Itsy Bitsy Yoga Instructor.

One Month Removed

I have been hesitant to discuss the details of my father's death. Hesitant because everyone has an opinion. Because people judge. Because my sister's father in law thought the day after my dad died would be the perfect time to trash him to our pastor. The pastor of the church we attend. David works. The pastor we chose to speak at my father's funeral.

And I don't know at this point what anyone knows. What my best friends know. What I know. But it's been a month (already? finally?) and I need to talk, I need answers, I need to do something. I can't find words. It's hard to speak. But here I can. I can get things out. Little, by little, by little.

My father took his own life. He hanged himself. At his home. Upstairs. I know why. And I don't know why. My father would NEVER do that. The man who raised me, who loved me, who was prouder of me and my family and my son and my being than should have been possible, never could have, never would have. He spoke out about such things. Spoke out because his father took his own life.

Which leads us to the man that really killed my father. The man, or the side of the man or piece of the man. The man with a disease. An illness. An illness that carries such stigma that despite cries and cries and cries for help, his life ended, was stolen. Gone.

He was an addict. Alcohol, pot, was what I knew. Was what I witnessed growing up. But at some point dabbling with other things, stronger things, took over. There were secrets. Bits and pieces. Some people knew the truth, new in reality what he was doing. That he was doing things he was always disgusted by. That he was changing and losing himself to these things. And yet, rather than help, they contributed. They kept secrets. Secrets of things that I still am not completely aware of. The tox report still isn't back and when it is I will know for sure, but best I can judge my father was in his final days.

Addicted to crack.

And even in my struggle to put an end to the stigma I shutter as I say that.

He was depressed. Who wouldn't be? Who seeing something so awful take control of their life would not fight and falter? And he did. At 50 he put himself in rehab for the first time. He detoxed and stepped out into the world with a clearer mind. We saw and had more of him those days than we had had in months, years. It was lovely. And at the same time he was set up for failure. I can only imagine the amount of courage, humility, humbling it took to say "I need help" and yet after a few days in hospital he was sent on his way with a half-assed plan for counseling and more drugs to help him not want to do the drugs his body, mind, wanted him to do. He was released into tainted situations. Released into the arms of people who were content to continue keeping secrets.

And you might want to feed me all the lines we hear so much. "He was a grown man", "You can't help people who don't want to help themselves", "He should have just got it together". But that's where the problem lies. The stigma. He was sick. Had a disease, a disease that I myself have struggled with and know the power of all too well. So was he a grown man? In years yes, but those years had been stunted and clouded by addiction. Did he want help? HELL YES. Why didn't he get it together? It's just not that easy. And I am content to say, I'm certain he'd tried.

He'd asked for help, seen doctor, after doctor, after doctor. And doctor, after doctor, after doctor wrote him a prescription and sent him on his way. After detox he got worse. He got worse because he had a clean slate and had to hide things all at the same time. His dabbling and overwrought moderation turned to more secrecy and binging. He hit bottom again and again. He drug his butt back to the hospital and told them HE WAS THINKING OF KILLING HIMSELF. And then they let him go.

I've read about these cases in my studies. Watched the stories on TV. But this was my Daddy. My son's dearly beloved Grandpa and I'll be damned if I'm content for it to happen again. To anyone.

And so I feel compelled to tell you about my Dad. The man he really was. The man who's life, should not be overshadowed by his passing. Clifford Eugene Wells, was a good man. A great man. The most loving, caring, giving man I have yet to meet. Perfect? No. But he'd be the first to tell you.

My father was an artist. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with him as I child in awe of the perfection with which he could sketch my favorite cartoon characters. His paintings sit in my house as memoirs of his youth. Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker. The greats.

My Dad was a musician. His voice would never have sold records, this half yell, part melody, part chuckle, but he sang still as free as a bird. His guitar was his baby, self taught and beloved. When I close my eyes I am immersed in backyard memories. Coming home too late at night I could usually find him out back by the pond. My silence, his notes plucked and strummed and sung away.

And while those are things he loved, things he found his identity in, the best thing about my Daddy was his heart. Despite the dark side, the things my father must have seen in his days, he held a child like innocence. He loved like a child. Cared unabashedly for everyone. He'd strike up a conversation in the check out line and gush to strangers about his kids. His grandkids. His fish. Anything. He'd walk into my house with a holler and a knock and make a bee line for my boy. In seconds they'd be rolling around on the floor together bursting with laughter. His enthusiasm was infectious.

And as with any father there were times when we fought. Times he annoyed and embarrassed me to no end. In high school my friends would come over to hang out with him. And when poor David asked him for permission to marry me, I never wanted to show my face again. And now as an adult those moments just add to the endless list of reasons I am enamored. Honored to be his daughter. What I would give to have just one more argument with him! To have an opportunity to thank him for my crooked nose. For proclaiming me a tree.

I am bruised and beat up and broken. I am trying my best to keep it together and am all together not okay. But it's not about me. It's about him. About disappointment and failure. I want to place blame and I could. We all could. At the secret keepers. At the lack of communication. At professionals who didn't take the time. At the fact that my brother and I are getting more information through hearsay and from the police than from family. We don't need protecting. We need truth.

My father needed truth.

I still have moments I forget. I am still practicing speaking and thinking in past tense. I can't tell you how many times I've picked up the phone to call him to tell him something trivial. And then I remember. I remember and I still let the phone ring, because that's still his voice on his voice mail and for a moment, he's alive.

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  • Blogger To Think is to Create says so:
    1:05 AM  

    Sharing this story will no doubt help someone. Save someone's life. I hurt for you, and it pains me to read the details, but I am hoping it's helped you to put it down on "paper".

    One thing I know FOR SURE, is that all things work out for the good. For the glory of God. We can't and won't know WHY of most anything in this life.

    We are praying for you. Don't give in and let the sadness sweep you away, even when it's callings seem so...easy. It can seem easy, but it's going to be that much harder to climb back up.

    Peace to you. top

  • Blogger Bloggy Mama says so:
    1:05 AM  

    Thank you for your courage in sharing your father's story, Ashlee. I wish you all the best as you piece together his final days. I wish you peace, too, for you and your family.
    (mybloggylife.wordpress.com) top

  • Blogger Adventures In Babywearing says so:
    8:11 AM  

    Wow. I don't even know what to say, except that writing this post is such a perfect way to honor your dad. I am angry for you, upset at how heartless people can be even after his death. And I am SO glad that you know the real him. You aren't stuck with memories of who he really wasn't, and you so got it. You got him. You got who he really was and you understand that the person wrapped up in those last days and tragic events wasn't really him. I completely understand and know that your dad was a good man, and he deserves respect then and now. I know you will continue to demand that for him. You are strong- now is the time to lay down or stand up and fight. I'm here to help hold you up. I promise.

    This post must have been so hard to write. I can hardly comment here because the lump in my throat is hurting so much! I just want you to be at a point you aren't hurting any more, too. Love you.

    Steph top

  • Blogger Tracey says so:
    8:24 AM  

    Sweetie, I have no answers for you. No one does, and that is what sucks about death in general but suicide especially.

    I do send you as much love and good vibes as possible. Feel peace soon, and forgive... My heart aches for you and for all who love him. top

  • Blogger JoynerFam says so:
    12:24 PM  

    Oh Ash, I'm so sorry. I wish I had the right words to say, but all I can say is it will be okay, and I'm praying for you.
    Amanda top

  • Blogger Carrington says so:
    1:06 PM  

    I'm so proud of you for getting these words out, for sharing your thoughts no matter how hard it was. I'm proud of you because this was a beautiful, honest tribute to your father. One, that if he could read would bring him so much joy. I'm hurting for you right now, and angry with you right now, and I am praying for you right now. I think the only truth that you will find will be through God. Seek Him, and He will reveal truths, lessons and love through this experience. I pray you find peace, and joy in this time as you heal.

    And Ashlee- you should know that my experience of you, is a courageous, gentle, loving, beautiful, worthy woman.

    Love you-
    XOXO top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    4:43 PM  

    I'm crying for you, that you have to go through all this. You said it's not about you, but it is...you loved him so much. I don't have any wise words for you, but to give you the line of "I'm here if you need me, or anything." I hate that I don't have more to offer than that. I am glad that you got all this out...shared your thoughts and feelings with us all. This was a wonderful tribute to your dad. Beautifully written.

    Hugs top

  • Blogger Mommy Instincts says so:
    1:30 AM  

    As I read this my heart hurt for you...it still does. I agree with Jaymi, I don't want to feed you the "I'm hear for you" line, because you already know that about all of us. This is an amazing tribute to him and I hope it helped your heart heal, even if it were just a tiny, little bit. It is so amazing how you write about your memories of him. I truly hope that with each passing day ir becomes easier. I am positive that this post will help someone. You may never know who or where or when, but it will. I love you!

    Jen top

  • Blogger Because Everything Matters says so:
    10:36 PM  

    I could wait to comment until I have the "perfect" sentence or thought to tell you, but I don't and am not sure if I ever will.....

    The love a girl has for her daddy will forever be untouched, unchanging, unimaginable. Let your love carry you through.... top

  • Anonymous Mama C-ta says so:
    11:40 PM  

    Oh Ashlee, I'm aching for you. Thanks for sharing, I hope it brought a little peace knowing it's helping others. He sounds like a good man.

    The system really needs to change, I was in a program and one boy talked suicide daily but then the insurance company said wouldn't be covered anymore and they "graduated him" anyway. People need the help they deserve, I will never understand.

    My heart goes out to you guys, this is a great tribute to your Pop. xoxo top

  • Blogger Staci says so:
    11:57 AM  

    Praying for you and your family Ashlee.

    Staci top

  • Blogger chrissy says so:
    9:02 PM  

    OK! Wow this was an awesome post! What an awesome daughter your father had, and how honored you should be to be "his" daughter! I can relate, I have been through much of this, not all I know what you are speaking of when you say "the real man". This was a beautiful honor and tribute to your father, I am so thankful I stumbled upon it! I feel so the same ways about my dad! But now I realize what an amazing daughter you are! Thank you for your honest, it helps top

  • Blogger Rebecca says so:
    8:50 PM  

    Wow. That was powerful. Your story, your love, your passion. Your honesty was inspiring. It sounds like your Dad had many wonderful attributes. Thank you for sharing your story. top

  • Blogger Kiki@Seagulls in the Parking Lot says so:
    1:10 PM  

    Keep sharing his story, your story. It's courageous of you and it will help someone, someday.

    My prayers are with you. top

  • Blogger Heidi says so:
    10:59 PM  

    Your words speak volumes of the man that your Dad was, the Good man. I am so sorry for your loss and I'm at a loss for words of comfort since I know too well that they don't always.

    Praying for you and your family, I've been out of the loop so I'm sorry to just be learning about this. Interestingly, every time I've used your sling for Gabi (multiple times a day)in the last month or so (it started somewhere before Christmas) I've had you heavy on my heart and said a prayer of thanks for you. It sounds weird, but I'm rambling and I do pray comfort to envelope you. top

  • Blogger Heaven Sent says so:
    11:07 PM  

    I am so, so sorry you even have to go through this. No one should have to. But what a wonderful tribute. So beautifully written and so courageous.

    I truly hope you are able to find peace in all of this hurt. In time. It will come! top

  • Blogger Unkempt Mommy says so:
    12:00 AM  

    Thank you for sharing this story. Your father sounds like he truly had a heart of gold and you are right in separating the real man from the man who ended his own life. I know there's not much to take comfort in during a time like this, but take comfort in knowing that they ARE indeed 2 separate people. Many hugs to you, momma!

    www.makingaperson.com top

  • Blogger Darlene says so:
    5:11 PM  

    My heart and my prayers go out to you and your loved ones. top

  • Blogger emily says so:
    7:08 PM  

    amazingly written....perfect. top

  • Blogger The Oko Box says so:
    7:05 PM  

    My best friend my entire life commited suicide, by hanging herself. It was one of the hardest things i ever had to face - but now after 10 years I can say to you that the healing will come.It may always feel crappy to remember, but you will be more you, with more depth and compassion then ever. Pain can turn into our greatest gifts. Just be nice to yourself about it, the best way to grieve, is to grieve the way it comes- don't let it stay stuffed inside. And don't be hard on yourself ... top

  • Blogger my wonderful men... says so:
    2:36 PM  

    Sharing your story is part of the healing process. That is what you are working on.

    And you're so right when you say that people judge and there is a stigma, but don't listen to those people. You know your father was a good man.

    It angers me too when I hear people say things about addiction and depression because it is an illness. Not a choice people want in their life.

    I worked in the mental health field for over 10 years as a counselor and the area that fails the people is the insurance companies. The hospital wants to keep them to contiue treatment but insurance won't pay, who can afford to stay without insurance. If your father was asking for help, let that be a comfort to you. He was let down by the system.

    Your father sounds like a really awesome man and very talented. I would've love to have met him, it doesn't matter that he had an illness, he was still a son, husband, father, grandfather and friend to someone.

    Ashlee, I hope in time you will find comfort in your wonderful memories of him. top

  • Blogger Qtpies7 says so:
    12:20 PM  

    I'm sorry for you loss. It is really hard to understand those things. My husband's brother shot himself at age 12. TWELVE. I wasn't married then, but I still felt the pain for my husband. I don't know how his parents deal with the grief, but I know that even after 20 years, they still are in denial. Even with a suicide note they say he was "experimenting" and "didn't mean to kill himself" and "didn't know he would die" things like that.
    I am sure your dad was a great person. top