By Jean Ann Williams
When I was 50 years old, my youngest child, Joshua, died by suicide. After his loss, I’ve often examined my growing up years, because my mother also died by suicide as well.
Mom seemed well-adjusted when I was very young. But all this changed after she delivered her seventh child and almost died from blood loss. I was 10 years old and the eldest sibling, therefore Mom’s responsibilities were handed over to me. We thought her situation temporary, but Mom was never the same mentally.
I have an old photograph of Mom with my three younger sisters. It was taken after Mom’s near death and her facial expression still sends chills along my spine. She had a wild glint to her eyes; her smile was crooked and forced. She was only 25 years old, the same age as Joshua when he shot himself.
There is more than one way a parent can leave home. Emotionally, my mother packed her bags and left the family a long time before her body stopped living. She was a mere shell of our mom. All the while, over the next six years, I tended to my siblings. I fed them, disciplined them and kept them in clean clothes.
Dad was little help, as he spent most of his time working, and, in the evenings, at the bar with his buddies. However, if I had an especially difficult problem with running our home, I went to my dad to resolve it. Sometimes he did. Sometimes not.
I grew up frustrated. There wasn’t always enough food to eat, nor were there adequate blankets to keep us warm. So often our shoes were too tight on our feet, until my dad bought us more. When I became a teenager, I had little to no social life. I was in constant awe by the freedom my friends experienced.
I must say, though, my dad admired a certain family who had a daughter my age. He allowed me to visit them on the occasional weekend. I watched them conduct themselves and, even though their father was strict, there was security and love in their family. By example, my friend’s mother showed me what it looked like to be an attentive mom and a supportive wife.
Years later, my confidence as a better mother than my own mom shattered when Joshua killed himself. It took several years of deep soul searching, before I concluded I wasn’t a failure as a mother after all. I truly worked at my mommy training with each of my children and enjoyed being their mama.
Yes, my childhood was harsh, but it made me a stronger person. It prepared me for the trials of loss and sorrow which lay in my future. When my son died by suicide, I stubbornly clung to the Lord. He carries me through even today, and I’m grateful.
About Jean Ann Williams
Jean Ann Williams is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes regularly for Putting on the New blog, Book Fun Magazine, and her own Love Truth blog. Jean Ann and her husband have thirteen grandchildren from their two remaining children. They reside in Southern Oregon.