Sunday, July 19, 2009

Like father, like son

It is hard not to see a resemblance here. If only Hadley had been able to hold out to really get to know his son. I hope that we will be successful in helping Jacob to get to know his father.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Day He Died (written 2003)

It was a Tuesday (March 27, 2001). I awoke as usual early in the morning to get ready to go to work. Hadley was scheduled to go to the Goodwill Industries that morning. We (his dad and I) had our hopes up that Goodwill was going to come through with a job for him. They had made arrangements the Friday before to have him interviewed at the Indianapolis Zoo for a job – just a maintenance type job – but still it would be a job at the Zoo working for people who understood his mental health situation. He would have a job coach who would check on him and help keep his spirits up. We were full of hope.

Hadley had been hopeful also. On March 12, 2001 he wrote me an e-mail at work: “Mom, Hey Mommy, so I’m at goodwill waiting for my orientation so I can actually be a reasonable human being who just might have enough strength left in him to get and keep a job. I thought I would write you an e-mail because Doug Mcknight and I are sitting in a room waiting for something to happen.”

Hadley could have taken the bus to downtown and then made his way to the Goodwill Center on the west side of the White River – just across the bridge from my office at IUPUI. But I wanted to give him a ride to be sure he got up out of bed and made his appointment on time. I woke him up and he proceeded to get up and get dressed. I went upstairs to check on him to see that he was making progress. He was all dressed and standing in the door to his room. He suddenly collapsed to a sitting position on the floor with his head hanging down. He said he just couldn’t do this. He just couldn’t face it today. I became impatient and alarmed. I knew he was fragile and that it was taking all of his energy to get dressed and go downtown. But the alternative was to give up on hope and leave him home by himself – depressed, lonely, scared and not knowing how to get through the hours of the day all by himself. So, I pushed him verbally to come along. I said, “Oh, come on. I didn’t raise no namby pamby.” “It’s time to go” I said and obediently he arose and complied. Those words – namby pamby – would later ring in my ears. I said them to give him courage to face the day. I may have given him courage to make a decision that none of us wanted him to make.

I remember driving down towards Washington Street. As we went west on Washington Street, I remember looking past Hadley to the rear-view mirror on his side of the car. I could see a beautiful sunrise in the mirror. It was going to be a chilly but sunny day. I pointed it out to Hadley, trying to get him to see the beauty in the day. He barely acknowledged it. As we drove we didn’t speak too much. When we did it was mainly myself trying to sound positive and to say some encouraging words – any words that would bring some spark to Hadley’s eyes. I was driving him to his dad’s apartment. His dad lived on Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis in an eight story apartment building – an older building that had recently been renovated. Hadley had a key to the apartment and could go in there until closer to the time to go to Goodwill. I had to go to work and couldn’t wait around. I knew his dad would be happy to take him to Goodwill before going to his job.

Hadley was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana in one of the older suburbs, Irvington, which had long ago been surrounded by the city and was now an historic neighborhood. Hadley’s peer group the last couple of years congregated at various coffeehouses in Broadripple Village (another neighborhood on the richer northside of Indianapolis) and in coffeehouses downtown Indianapolis. Downtown Indianapolis had become Hadley’s stomping grounds and his dad’s apartment was an oasis in the center of it all – a place where he could seek refuge from the craziness of his existence. Though he lived with me in his last year, he spent many nights at his dad’s. He always knew that if he found himself in a bad situation that he could call his dad to come and get him and save him from himself.
This particular morning, as we made our way through the downtown traffic, Hadley started talking. He said, “I don’t want you to pity me, but I keep hearing a mantra going through my head. It goes ‘Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ’.” Over and over again. I said, what do you mean? Does it sound like JESUS CHRIST (like a yell?)? Or does it sound like, Jee sus christ? He said, just ‘Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ’ over and over again. He made it sound like it was a monotone. By now, we were approaching his dad’s apartment and I pulled to the side of the street to let him out. I suggested that he replace the mantra with something else like “This too shall pass.” I remember my mother using that phrase when she was giving me advice to get through some crisis or other. He sort of nodded his head and got out of the car. I waited to see that he made it into the building safely. He had to punch in the security code into the door lock in order to get into the building. I took a deep breath – mission accomplished. I had gotten him up for the day and delivered him to his dad’s. It was out of my hands for the time being and I would go to work. We made plans to meet back at his dad’s apartment at the end of the day, around 4:30, as Hadley had a dentist appointment to get a cavity filled around 5:00. There was also a NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness) meeting that evening that he, his dad and I were thinking about going to. We would see how the day went. I drove on to work.

It was a pretty day, a little cold. It was still early spring, still cold enough to be wearing a jacket. After I dropped Hadley off at his dad’s apartment, he apparently went in as his dad remembers smelling cigarette smoke when he woke up indicating Hadley had been there. But he was already gone. His dad was puzzled that Hadley had not waited for a ride from him, had not awakened him. He and Hadley recently had a frank discussion in which his dad urged him to be more independent, to take responsibility for his actions and try not to rely so heavily on his parents. Though we were certainly more than willing to help him in any way that we could, Hadley was becoming increasingly reliant on us for helping him make it psychologically through his days. As his mental illness grabbed hold of his psychic, he became ever more fearful of other people, reducing his trust down to those who were actively trying to help him and us, his mom and dad. We were also fearful seeing him sink further and further into depression and beginning to revert back into delusions and paranoia. We were desperate to shake him out of it – to grasp him back from the abyss of hopelessness.

He apparently decided that morning to walk to Goodwill Industries. It was only about a 20 minute walk from downtown Indianapolis, across the campus of IUPUI and across the bridge spanning the White River. I can just envision him walking along the street wearing his green army-like jacket carrying my red backpack on his back, smoking cigarettes as he walked. He was tall, very lanky, had dark wavy hair and wore wire-rim glasses. He liked to say hello to people as he passed them on the street – his little contribution to peace and brotherhood. But I doubt if that was on his mind on this particular morning. He made it to Goodwill and started his training program there. He was scheduled to be there most of the day learning computer skills, etc. to prepare him for employment.

Around 11:00 that morning I got a call at work. It was his dad. His dad said he got a call from Hadley’s caseworker saying that he was having some trouble at work focusing. His dad had some meetings that he could not get out of and knowing that my office was located just on the other side of the river from Goodwill called me to let me know what was going on. I called Goodwill and Hadley got on the phone with me. He said he was “feeling funny”. He thought we should take him to the mental health center at Methodist Hospital. That meant that he needed help with his mental state. I knew that. We had just taken him there on the previous Thursday, just five days before this. They spent about a half hour with him, decided that he was safe to release, and sent him on his way. But they did tell him if he needed to he could call them at anytime. So, I suggested he call them and talk about how he was feeling. Because of his growing depression, he had been to the psychiatrist’s office the previous week and had been prescribed prozac. He had only been on it for a few days and I suggested that his “feeling funny” might be due to that. He agreed to call Methodist. We hung up. I returned to my work hoping that he would get the help he needed to make it through the day.

About 15-20 minutes later, I got another call from Goodwill. It was Hadley again and he was still “feeling funny”. I asked him if he talked to the mental health people at Methodist. He said he got through to them and they tried to forward his call to the psychiatrist but he got cut off. He did not attempt to call back. I told him to stay where he was and I would take an early lunch and be right over. I rushed out of the office, got in my car, crossed the river to the other side and entered Goodwill. I had to stop at the front desk while someone sent the message to Hadley that I was there. He came walking down the hallway to meet me. He had been in his computer class and they excused him to come see me. I asked him if he would like to try again to talk to Methodist and he agreed. We borrowed a cell phone and he made the call. I heard him talking to them but of course could not hear their part of the conversation. I don’t remember the details but it was Hadley’s pattern to calm down considerably when he had someone’s attention that he could trust. By the end of the five minute conversation, he seemed to be under control and thought he could make it through the day. I started to walk him back down the hallway to his classroom. Doug McKnight came past us in the hallway. He greeted both of us and tried to assure Hadley that he was not in this alone. That we were all there to help him. We continued towards his classroom. Somehow I did not realize that once he got to his classroom that the goodbye would be so abrupt. But suddenly we were in the presence of his teachers and other students and it didn’t seem appropriate for me to be giving him a hug goodbye. I wished him luck and left.

We are told by his teachers and caseworkers that he had a relatively good afternoon. He ate his lunch in the cafeteria and finished his classes. He expressed some concern about taking the bus back to his dad’s apartment. He apparently didn’t want to be around other people on the bus so he chose to walk home. If he walked home the logical way, he comes very close to where I work. He had to recross the bridge, backtrack across the IUPUI campus, winding his way through the student population, and re-enter the downtown area. I knew what time he should be arriving back at his dad’s apartment so I started calling there around 3:30 but I wasn’t getting any answers. Finally, around 3:50 or 3:55 p.m., I called and to my relief Hadley answered the phone. I said, “Oh, Had, you’re there!” He said, “Yeah, I just arrived.” I asked how he was. He said he was “still feeling funny” and still thought he should be taken to Methodist Hospital. I knew I would be picking him up in my car in less than a half hour so we could go to the dentist. I reminded him of that and told him after the dentist, we were going to meet his dad at the NAMI meeting and then we would take him to Methodist if that is what he wanted. He agreed and said he would meet me outside of his dad’s apartment at 4:30. We must have hung up around 3:58.

I knew that Hadley was in trouble but we had lived through so many serious crises with him that they had almost become a way of life with us. I debated whether to leave early or not. My boss was not in that day so I could have left earlier but I was watching my time off closely so I could save my time for Hadley’s many appointments, etc. I waited until about 4:20 and then went to my car. It is only about a 5-8 minute drive to his dad’s apartment from my office, depending on traffic. I have to go a round about way due to some one-way streets. As I turned the corner onto Meridian Street and approached the apartment I could see some traffic congestion ahead. As I drove closer I could see a lot of flashing red lights coming from what seemed like a whole squad of police cars. My first thought was there had been a car accident in front of the apartment house. But I didn’t see any wrecked cars or tow trucks. I slowly approached the apartment, staying over in the passing lane to make my way around the police cars. I could see some yellow tape blocking off the alley and that is when an uneasy feeling started creeping into my consciousness. Oh, no. Could this be connected with Hadley? We have had so many crises with Hadley that it would not be beyond the possibilities. I found a place to park and got out. There were people milling around on the sidewalk and I asked what was happening. A couple of pedestrians said, “Somebody either fell or jumped out of the building.” The uneasy feeling in my being increased and I sort of went on automatic pilot making my way into the building, following my plan to go up in the elevator, get Hadley and take him to the dentist. There were a few people at the elevator waiting on it to arrive at our floor. Police were milling around in the lobby as well. I asked again at the elevator, “What happened?” A man said, “Somebody either fell or jumped out of a window.” I asked, “What floor?” The answer was “the seventh”. That was where I was headed. I said aloud, “This might be my son.” A lady standing beside me gasped and touched my arm. A police woman swept over by me and pulled me aside. She asked my name and my son’s name. Then she confirmed that it was indeed my son who had fallen. I asked, “Is he alive?” She said, “Yes, but he is not in good shape.” I was told he had been taken to Wishard Hospital. I was asked to wait a minute and I said I had to get to the hospital and his dad needed to be told. The police woman was talking on her cell phone while she held me back. I expected to just run out to my car and head over to the hospital. But she told me she was calling for the police chaplain to come and get me and take me to the hospital. We walked outside with me insisting that his dad be told. We walked over to the alley and I saw a man talking to a policeman. He was pointed out to me as the person who had called 911. I started to go over to talk to him when suddenly I was given a phone to call Hadley’s dad.

Doug answered the phone and I asked if he was there by himself. He said no that he had a coworker with him. I told him Hadley had jumped out of his 7th story apartment window and was now at Wishard. He handed the phone to his coworker and I repeated the story. She agreed to go with Doug and help him get to the hospital. As it turns out they misunderstood the name of the hospital and went to Methodist instead of Wishard. The police chaplain then took me to his car and drove me to Wishard.

When we arrived at Wishard, we came into a hallway and I started to look around for Hadley. The chaplain led me down a hallway to a tiny waiting room. After a short while a doctor came in and told me they were operating on Hadley. Hadley had internal bleeding, a broken pelvis, a badly broken leg, broken arms and more injury to his brain. They found a large hematoma in his abdomen and were operating to stop the bleeding. The doctor went away. The chaplain was in and out. I sat alone waiting. Waiting for Doug. Waiting for the operation to be over. What do I do now? Who do I call? What do I say? What do I think? If Hadley couldn’t face life when he was healthy and whole, if he couldn’t face life when he was recovering from his last accident, how could he possibly recover from these injuries and a failed suicide attempt? I started to slip back and forth from wanting him to live to wanting him to die? How could a mother want her son to die? But this was his choice – as misguided as it was – how can I not honor the courage that it took for him to leap to his death. How could he have actually done it? Why didn’t he say something to me on the phone – give me a clearer clue to what he was about to do? His fall would later be documented as having happened at 4:01 p.m. – just minutes after I got off of the phone to him. Did he just put down the phone, walk over to the window, pull the card table away from the window to give him access, raise the window, crawl into the window opening, push off from the wall and leap to his death? All spontaneous? He was very impetuous, very impatient, very impulsive. We knew he had been contemplating suicide for some time but he usually talked quite openly about it. We knew when to hide knives and when not to leave him alone. He would reach out to friends and word would get to us. That is how we had found the opportunity to have him admitted against his will to Methodist Hospital in January. That is when he was diagnosed as having schizophrenia – specifically schizoaffective disorder.

Wanting to die is not pretty. Trying to enter Hadley’s state of mind in an effort to understand is scary. For in order to truly understand, perhaps one would have to arrive at the same state of mind. I remember back to one writing that Hadley had done in the past year when he was at his dad’s apartment. It underscores how determined he was to end his life and illustrates the despair that drove him to it:
“I wish I had the courage to kill myself. I’m ready for death. I’ve been ready for years. Me and life don’t get along. In fact the words Hadley and life should not be in the same sentence. I’m fucked. I’m in hell. I’m in hell because the same pain and suffering I experience happens over and over and over and over again. And the intense and deep pain I feel gets worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse. I have no hope. That went out the window a long time ago. Somebody please kill me. Please kill me because I don’t have the energy or strength to kill myself. Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain pain pain pain intense intense more than intense pain pain go away go away go away why am I here? What is the reason for my existence? Why was I born? Everything is fucked fucked fucked fucked. I can’t make sense of anything and I’m expected to try!?!?!?!?!?! Trying to live I really really really horrible horrible horrible. Asfdkgjasgdklashfgufagnafvcoiahoiaewasfasdufasfasodifasodfisdfoisfdoisdfaosifdasodifasodifasodifjvkjvkjfowieos;oadcasdcn.vnfa.z;aoi;;wifm,zx I can’t turn off my brain…I don’t have the balls to kill myself so I’m eternally here in hell. Metaphorically and literally. Must be literally. That gives me structure because that serves as the only explanation of where I am. Hell hell hell hell hell hell hell. I’m fucked fucked fucked. Everything is fucked fucked fucked fucked fucked.”

Hadley sounded so angry with his pain in that writing. He would go back and forth in how he felt about life – falling into depression and then finding some shred of hope to pull him back into living. Ten days before his death he wrote about hope to his friend and counselor at Goodwill – he titled it “Beginning”:
“With each day that floats by my window of life I sense myself getting better. When I mean getting better I mean I feel myself coming out of the cold into warmer weather. When you told me that the other day was the first day of my life, well, I think you are right. I’m BEGINNING to feel more and more secure with life and I feel like my days are becoming lighter as if I was gently floating up into the atmosphere. It has been a long and hard swim however and it still is. I was swimming with the current until I became the age of fourteen and with the help of marijuana I began to just float backwards down the stream of my life. For the past year I’ve been swimming back upstream and it has not been easy. Some years went by and I had a long way to go upstream to get to any spot that wasn’t being bombarded with water. Though I’m still not there, but with each day I get closer and closer. Your assistance has been invaluable to me. I thank you from the depths of my soul that you have singled me out as a possible person who might actually make it in this world. Thank you. Thank you for your help. It really has been invaluable to me. I’m trying to make it. It’s like I think I can and one day I want to be able to say, ‘I knew I could!’ Thanks.”

Time passes. I think about Josh, Hadley’s older brother, probably at home working on his computer. I think about Ana, probably at work at Chili’s Bar & Grill. Do I call? Should I wait? Wait for what? Where is Doug? He should be here by now. Finally, the chaplain says we should move to a different waiting room. We walk down the hall. Soon, Doug arrives with his co-worker and his story of getting the hospitals mixed up. There is another man in the waiting room – waiting on his wife to get out of surgery. I call Ana and tell her that Hadley jumped out of the window and is in surgery. I call Josh and tell him Hadley has been injured and is being operated on. He offers to call Ana and go get her to bring her to the hospital. Josh’s friend Sam is with him. I call Jean, my sister, whose son Matthew was killed in a car/truck accident just two years earlier when he was 21 years old. She offers to come to the hospital and to call my older sister and my parents. We wait. Doug’s boss and fellow co-worker arrive. A police detective arrives and asks us some questions. We discover that Hadley’s fall is being treated as a potential crime until suicide is confirmed. We wait.

I call Kelly, the mother of Hadley’s child. She is not home. She is in class at IUPUI. I talk to her mother (Susie) and tell her of Hadley’s jump and injuries. It feels like déjà vu – harkening back to his fall a year ago in the church. Susie tells me she will call Kelly.

Finally, the doctor and a couple assistants arrive. He starts slowly to explain the situation. Doug interrupts and says, “Is he dead?” I want the question to be retracted. I want the doctors to tell me slowly so I can absorb it. I want to face it but this is too quick, too harsh. The doctor nods in affirmation. The injuries were too severe, the bleeding too much. He is dead.

I call Susie back and tell her. I call Josh and tell him. Ana, Josh and Sam arrive at the hospital. Ana and Josh and Doug and I embrace – in a tight little circle we cling to each other and cry. Sam hangs in the background and I remember pulling him over and hugging him. My sister, Jean arrives – more hugs, more tears. I remember walking down the hallway with her to see his body. I said, “The nightmare is finally over.” I was wrong. That chapter of the nightmare was over. But the nightmare of his having died and my missing him is never ending. I am still waiting.

Intellectually I know there is nothing to wait for but emotionally I am still waiting. Waiting for his son, Jacob to grow up so I can tell him all about his dad. Waiting for understanding. Waiting on the hole in my heart to heal. Waiting for each anniversary to mark his life and his death. Waiting for the next time someone mentions suicide, or the loss of a child, or the affects of drug abuse on young people, or advice on how to raise children. Waiting for the sound of an orchestra, or the strum of a guitar or the sweet music of a violin. Waiting on a young man to pass me by on the street and remind me of Hadley. Waiting on Ana to forgive him for being a lousy brother. Waiting on the sound of his brother’s wails at his deathbed to stop ringing in my ears. Waiting on his dad to answer all of the “what if” questions. Waiting for those unexpected moments when the tears begin to fall and my pain wrenches from me in audible anguish. Waiting to see signs of Hadley in Jacob’s physical appearance and in his personality traits. Waiting on my next trip to Michaela Farm to attempt to sense Hadley’s presence. Waiting for my own journey to end when I will no longer mourn for him. I continue to wait.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When My Journey Comes to an End

When My Journey Comes to an End

I know my voyage in this life will be over
But through my darkest hours, I desperately
Reach and grab at anything that might shed
A little bit of light on my path.

I tend to feel calm and relaxed when I
look up and stare at the moon or
When I look up and stare at the sun.
All of my problems seem to float away
As I feel the entire universe within me

I have these moments of the world being one
And they carry me through my battles in life.

The sun and the moon may not directly
Influence what happens to me in life
But they are always there,
Awaiting my inevitable return to a place
Where my problems have really all flown away

I will become one with the sun and the moon
When my journey comes to an end.

(Photo taken by Hadley in the last month of his life.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Philosophy 101

So, what do you do when you’re suffering? What beliefs, or foundation, do you have to hold onto? Well, if you have no beliefs, then you don’t have those to hold onto. What is foundation? Well – it’s faith – faith in something meaningful about yourself – something important – Well, when we are attached to something and our foundation is shaken, we start to fall in a deep pit. I think the process of experience is what matters most to most people and as far as everything else goes – I think you can take a little from each culture and combine them and some sort of explanation will be there. Although, I’ve found the world to be full of surprises and nothing can be for certain. It’s hard to enjoy the process if you have little faith in something meaningful to yourself. What is meaningful? I mean what is really meaningful? What do we humans put our faith in when our minds face? I put my faith in what has been labeled love. Why? Because it feels so good emotionally and physically.

Be Strong

You might not have the strength to make it today
Be strong and try anyway
Through the confusion and fear, you’ll be okay
You can and will make it through the day
And arrive somewhere where it’s like
A dream come true I say.


Listening to the raindrops
As they fall outside my window,
Feeling them hit my body
When they enter in through the screen.

Listening to the thunder roll
And the train whistle a little ways away,
Feeling the rain hit my body
As it enters through the screen.

Wondering about man and the world
And the entire solar system,
As I feel the raindrops hit my body
As they enter in through the screen.

My childhood

Memories of my childhood overcome me,
Causing me to remember my youth.
It stirs my heart and I can feel a deep longing
For my past.
A world where I was protected and tied in
A strong bond with my family.
My sense of ego hadn’t developed and
Didn’t have a feeling of being inferior to everybody else.