Many years ago, when I married Troy, I did not know he had told people that he would kill himself.
While we were dating, I felt uncomfortable in my relationship with Troy. When I tried to tell him that we needed to “cool it,” he became upset. Each time he cried and said, “I don’t want to live without you,” I believed him.
I almost felt responsible for Troy. If anything happens to Troy, I thought, it will be my fault.
Our marriage began with fear. When Troy and I decided to get married, I was pregnant and afraid of having a baby alone. Hesitant to share my fears or problems with anyone, I worried what Troy might do if I did not marry him.
When we had been married for only a few months, I left Troy for several days. We had been arguing, and he lost his temper and blackened my eye.
I went home to my mother.
Desire to die
Three days after we were separated, Troy phoned me one evening, crying. “Baby, I just called to tell you goodbye. I’m going down to the Red River and jump off the bridge. I’ve got no reason to live without you and our baby. I can’t live without you.”
Once again, I believed Troy might do something crazy. I reluctantly told him to come and get me, that I wanted to come home.
Two years later, it seemed as if I were doing most of the crying. Working evenings on a telephone assembly line, caring for our two small babies (Randall and Dawn) in diapers, and constantly fighting with Troy badly affected my mind and body. I was an exhausted, nervous wreck.
Early one morning, I found myself waking up in a ditch after driving the car off the road. Something has to give, I decided. That something was not going to be me.
The last night I saw Troy alive, I told him, “I want a divorce” and then drove to my mother’s house. I returned to our house the next morning for the rest of my things and took one of our sons, Randall, with me for security.
Troy was entirely too calm last night, I thought. Even though I felt he would explode soon, I thought he might not do so in front of Randall.
Driving down the road before the turn-off to the house, I met Troy’s stepfather, Mr. Cole, and Troy’s uncle. They had just picked up some furniture they had lent us. “Troy’s at the house,” they said. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”
When I reached the house, I sat in the car for a while, worrying. The night before, Troy made none of his usual threats but seemed deliberately calm. Troy is too used to having his way, I thought. Something bad is bound to happen.
My legs seemed to move in slow motion as I approached the back door that day, as though my body were weighted with invisible iron. I wanted to get my things fast and leave, yet I could not walk inside. Some unseen force seemed to block the door, refusing to let me pass through.
A strange sense of relief overcame me when Mr. Cole and Troy’s uncle drove up. “I’m glad you got here so soon,” I told them. “I don’t want to go inside by myself.”
Troy’s uncle found him lying on the bed, bleeding and unconscious. “My God, he’s shot himself!” he yelled from the back bedroom. Troy had neatly dressed himself, laid down on our bed, and pulled the trigger of the 22-rifle clutched in his hand. Beside his body, he had positioned three notes — one to his mother and stepdad, one to Patricia (a former girlfriend), and one to me.
“We’ve got to stop the bleeding,” his uncle said as he placed a wet, white towel on the bullet wound in Troy’s forehead. I grabbed Randall and ran to a neighbor’s house to call an ambulance.
The ride to the hospital that morning lasted a lifetime. Get out of the way people! my mind screamed at the line of slowly moving traffic blocking our way. We’ve got to get to the hospital!
The doctor who examined Troy gave him little, if any, chance to live. If by some miracle he should survive, Troy would never be anything more than a vegetable.
The next few days felt like a hazy nightmare as I sat in the hospital room next to Troy’s motionless body.
I wanted to scream at him, “Why? Why did you have to go and do something as stupid as shooting yourself?” There was eerie silence . . . countless tubes inserted into Troy . . . the rhythm of the machine that forced his body to breathe . . . the constant stream of sad people who silently flowed by.
Then it ended.
Someone gently shook me awake to tell me, “He’s dead. Troy’s gone.”
No one could understand why he did it. The notes Troy left showed that he really did expect to die. He left instructions about the clothes he wanted to be buried in. He wanted his family and friends to visit his grave regularly. He wanted my wedding ring to be buried in his right hand. He hoped that I would be happy now.
People spoke well of Troy. “He was always so friendly . . . always joking . . . Troy would do anything for anyone. He loved everybody.”
Missing the signs
True — sometimes. Troy, a handsome young man with curly, thick black hair, olive complexion, and at times whimsical, other times dismal dark eyes, could not rid himself of his anger — of whatever demons tormented him inside.
Years later, I realized that none of us really knew Troy.
When Troy carried out his suicide, those of us who thought we knew him saw only what he let us see. None of us heard his silent cry for help.
At the time of Troy’s suicide, I did not practice faith but operated more from my feelings and fear. Years later, I was visiting six men convicted of murder and on death row. I was preparing to teach creative writing to them when I suddenly realized I am not afraid.
Although I had not recognized the continual, faithful work of His heavenly hand in my life, my heavenly Father’s love had proven what is recorded in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” God’s perfect love cast out my fear.
In time, I understood that Troy’s striking out with anger and violence came from something within himself that he could not handle.
Several weeks after Troy died, I talked to Chris, Troy’s best friend, about him and his suicide. Chris never suspected that Troy had considered killing himself. “You just don’t believe something like that will ever happen until it happens,” he said. “Troy talked to me about his marriage problems and told me that he didn’t know what he should do. He never mentioned suicide. I never thought he would do anything like that.”
Neither did I.
I’d like to say that if I could do it all over again, I would do everything differently.
When something happens to us, we react in the only way we know — with what we are at the time. At that time in my life, I was a frightened nineteen-year-old who had been hurt.
I wanted to hurt back. I did not know how to forgive. Nor did I realize that Jesus Christ offers hope, forgiveness, love, and peace.
During my troubled relationship with Troy, I had failed to go to God in prayer or ask others to pray for Troy or me. At the age of ten, I had trusted Jesus as my Savior but had not read the Bible or prayed regularly.
Later, I realized that my mother had sensed my troubles and prayed for me each day. Her support, as well as my positive relationship with Troy’s mother and stepdad, helped me make it through the times when I felt like giving up. Caring for Randall and Dawn also strengthened me.
When struggling with Troy, and for a time even after he died, I did not know how to forgive him or myself. The process of forgiving, I learned, came in time.
Attending a church where our Bible-believing pastor, Brother Bill, preached, taught, and lived God’s love and forgiveness, helped soften and heal my heart. As I began to hear and study the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit opened my heart and eyes to see and surrender to His leading.
One day, Romans 14:4 pierced my heart: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
This verse made me realize that I did not have the right to judge Troy or anyone else.
I found more help in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” With forgiveness for Troy and me, I found freedom.
Now as a wiser, older lady, I know that God changes those who believe in His Son. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief [Satan, the father of lies] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
In time, I remarried and had another little boy, Daniel, and another little girl, Donna. My husband, Jim (now deceased), adopted Randall and Dawn. They know that at one time they had another dad who died right before he turned 21.
Once, Dawn asked if she would one day see her daddy in eternity.
“I don’t know,” I said. “But I know that God gives each of us the opportunity to accept His gift of eternal life. Your other daddy wanted us to get in church together. He said that he wanted us to get right with God.”
From my time and experience with Troy, I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons. Human life is fragile. We need to handle it and our relationships with others with care. From Troy’s suicide, I learned that we have no guarantee of any tomorrows and that we each need to be more sensitive to what another person is saying — not only in their words but also in their actions. Fighting wastes the moments God gives us.
I pray I never forget lessons I learned from Troy’s death. If I ever again hear the words “I’m going to kill myself,” I pray I will remember to listen — to really, really listen with my heart.
Today, I pray that our heavenly Father gives me the wisdom to reach out to hurting, hopeless people and tell them, “Jesus loves you. He has the answers to your problems.”
May He help me love and encourage them so they may see that Jesus will help them before it is too late, before another desperately hopeless person carries out their threat of suicide.