He has been gone 14 years and I still don’t know why he shot himself and I know very little as to what led him to that final act.
I found the attached photos in an old box recently which started me wondering again how someone can make that final act in a permanent way.
I have always wondered since, what it was that created the sadness I see in his eyes in the later years. What was it that led to his taking his own life? Was it all the collective memories of those criminal acts he witnessed while working in law enforcement? I have only my imagination to comfort me since he left no clue.
He was born dirt poor in the woods of Hannibal, Missouri. I think I’m correct in remembering his family may not have had electricity as a kid. He never went to college, but he did enlist in the Navy as seen here in these photos. His name was Willis Dean Walker, and he was my mom’s second husband, my stepdad, and basically the man who raised me. We called him, “Pop”.
The happiness in his younger years is in stark contrast to the look in his eyes in his later years.
He and my mother met right after she and my dad divorced.
He was the man who raised me. My parents divorce was one where they only spoke to each other in court. To say it was not very amicable is an understatement. However, my stepdad, Pop, as we called him, took on the role of father and faithfully raised me, my brother and my sister. Who does that in this day and age, I was a teenager and my brother and sister were only 2 years behind me. He made a huge commitment to be our surrogate dad, but he seemed to enjoy it.
He was a very quiet man and he worked in law enforcement as long as I knew him. Before he dated my mom he had been a police officer. When they married, he worked for the US Treasury, but his job didn’t include counting money. I really am not sure what his job was. He never said and I never asked. Perhaps he was an IRS investigator? I do know when he retired years later he had been an employee of the US Customs Department. His job involved drug smugglers and he was the one who caught the bad guys. He worked undercover and he would sometimes be gone weeks at a time working on a sting operation. My mom told me he always played the “Godfather” role in all of his escapades. He came to the breakfast table every morning with his .38 strapped to his belt. He drove me to school in the mornings in his unmarked undercover car. Whether he really did play the part of a Mob Boss I do not know. A man with secrets is someone to be more or less feared and he was so quiet I always knew he had a different side to him. He was kind and gentle at home, but I was well aware that home was his refuge. He saw the dark side of life on a daily basis. Coming home to our 10 acres with our horses, dogs, cats, chickens and goat was reprieve from being undercover.
He and my mom both shared a love for horses and he was very, very good with animals. I once saw him take a mare, who had was misbehaving, put her on a long head and literally sit on the rope when she tried to run away. That mare out weighed him by at least 1,000 lbs. but he was so determined, she got to the end of that rope and she turned and looked at my Pop with respect in her eyes. She knew then he was in charge and he hadn’t laid a hand on her or even raised his voice. She knew he meant business just by his demeanor. He gained that mare’s respect from then on, just by the look in his eye.
I believe the horses gave him a way to let go of the intensity of his job in law enforcement. He had a way with animals that went unspoken. His mere demeanor could tame a wild horse. The minute he looked into the eyes of an animal it was as if they knew he meant business. They were not afraid, they just always wanted to please him, because the stroke of his hand could also calm the storm.
I remember one time I was very sick, and in bed with a very high fever. I was probably delirious. In those days the only thing we had for a fever was aspirin, perhaps Tylenol, but I think that was too new to be widely used. Anyway, I remember being in bed, sweating bullets with horrible body aches, and he came in and sat beside my bed and just held my hand. I think he sat there for over an hour. We never spoke, but I truly felt like his reassuring touch was the only thing that kept me conscious at that point.
He was an extremely quiet man, and it was never truer than the day he died. He was retired, living alone in Kingsland, Texas and he woke up one morning and put a gun to his head. No note, no explanation. None of us will ever know what his demons were that caused him to take his own life.
The only thing I have learned is that suicide is an act of desperation. None of us know where our breaking point is, so how would it ever be possible to know where someone else’s is. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and I have always asked myself why, even though I will never know for sure.
It has taken me years to come to grips with losing him the way he chose to end it. I’ve always thought I could have done something to prevent it. Anything. But that is not the way he wanted it, he needed to end the pain he was suffering in silence. My family believes, because he was also a Diabetic and the was losing his eyesight, that he didn’t want to be dependent on other or a burden to us. None of us had any idea how miserable he was. He never let on. Not once was there a hint of pain in his voice.
However, he will never know how painful it was to lose him this way. He will never see my tears or wipe them away.
If only I had been there to stroke his hand and calm his fears before that fateful moment that ended so abruptly. I truly loved and respected him, and I never really, got to tell him that. He didn’t encourage that kind of dialogue. Our father/daughter relationship was one of quiet reserve.
What I do know, now, is I need to check on that “strong” friend or family member when they go quiet. Don’t let them go silent. Reach out. Touch their hand, reassure them you care.
But whatever you do, don’t blame yourself for someone else’s breaking point. No one can know where that breaking point lies. It could happen to any one of us. I’m not to blame for him taking his life, I know that now. However, the pain and anguish left behind when we lose we loved is real and it’s something you can’t explain until it happens to you.
I also know when people are down, or depressed they want to isolate themselves and most don’t want to bother us with their stories. If you are someone like that today, I want you to know, I will listen. I will listen without judgement and I will offer you love and understanding. No one should feel so desperate that they take their own life. I care, and I will listen and sometimes that is all we need is for someone to hold our hand and tell us it is gong to be ok.
Mother of two grown children. One daughter, living in Denver. One son, who lives in Los Angeles and works in the movie industry. One beautiful and bright grandson!
Dog Mom to retired AKC Champion, Addison and 25 week old Adler. One is a mamma’s girl and the other is a hellion!
Writing is a gift. I have no idea where it came from. Seriously addicted to telling stories and words and phrases are some of my favorite things.
Raised with horses. If they could bottle horse hair, manure, leather and dust, I’d wear it as a cologne.
Studied art in college and still paint in my spare time.
Very, very eternally grateful for YIN Yoga. It is the air I breathe.
There is nothing better for the soul than a walk in the forest. Love to hike and snowshoe. Much of my inspiration comes from nature.
“Of all the roads you take in life, make sure one of them includes dirt.” John Steinbeck
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