“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit…” Psalms 34:18
I returned home from work that evening around 6 o’clock and made my way inside, strolling past the vacant space my dad’s truck was usually parked. I remember finding it odd that he wasn’t home yet (considering the fact that, a family man through-and-through, he was never home later than 5:30), but I brushed off the concern and made my way up the porch steps. When I walked inside, there was an energy and tension in the house that is still difficult to describe. The air seemed tight and still. Wrapped up in my own thoughts and fantasies, I proceeded along my way.
Over the next few hours, my sister made her way in and out of my room. She seemed disheveled and concerned, asking me over and over where dad was and if I had spoken to him. I laughed off her worry and assured her he was fine, but her angst seemed to build as the minutes ticked by. I tried calling him a number of times, but after 30 minutes of his phone going straight to voicemail, my anxiety began to rise as well. Just as I was going to make my way downstairs to talk to my mom, her very voice echoed up the steps. A voice shaken with fear, a voice that demanded attention, a voice unfamiliar. She called us into the formal living room and we came down to find her feverishly pacing–each hastening step mirroring the hastening pace of my heart beat.
My mother’s face was as ghostly as an empty canvas. Her cheeks were ruddy and hot, and her demeanor was so forcefully calmed that she took on the mannerisms of a marionette. I could see that she wanted to erupt, to cry out in fear, to panic and distress. But being the woman of God and the woman of faith that she was, she remained as poised and steadfast as a she could, undoubtedly held together by Christ’s mercy alone. She proceeded to tell us of the events that had transpired in the days since New Years. She had unknowingly uncovered a secret–a lie. A lie so delicate, so intricate, so dangerous, that it had the power to destroy. A lie so meticulously constructed through the corruption of Satan, himself, that it had overwhelmed my dad.
With no time to explain, she told us that she had been trying to call my dad all day. She took us back to her room and showed us a simple, handwritten note he had left by the phone. A note that simply read “I do love you.” and had his name signed beneath it. Mind racing, heart pounding, I found my body tensing and my nerves coiling tight. I couldn’t put the pieces together…I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation. There was so little detail, so little explanation. What was going on? Where was my dad? How were we going to get in touch with him? When was he coming home?…but there was no time to process these questions or find answers.
It was then that I noticed a blinking light on the voicemail machine by the phone and asked my mom who had called. Apprehensive and scared, she told my sister and me that she had found this voice message along with the note. She pressed the button and I immediately heard my daddy’s voice resonate through their room. It was then that the reality and severity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks–the instant I heard his voice. You see, I knew it was my father speaking on the answering machine, but it was not my daddy’s voice. It was hollow, broken, and empty. It was a voice so desperate, so shattered, that it sounded like a stranger. He sounded as though it was drawing every ounce of his energy and pride to muster a noise, draining his heart with each word.
He apologized on the message. Said that he needed to drive around and clear his head. Said that he needed to be alone for a while to figure things out. Said that he loved us and would always love us. Said that he would be home soon….Liar. His tone gave him away as soon as he said ‘home’. I knew he was lying. I knew he was scared. I knew that we had to find him.
That was when true fear set in. What was going on? What was this big secret? Where was my dad and how were we going to find him? What was the next clue? My mom, sister, and I sat up for hours trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Giving accounts of our day and the last time we had seen him or talked to him, calling friends and family, anyone who may know where he was, anyone who may be able to contact him. With each lost lead, I could feel the stinging bite of Satan’s laughter. I could feel a hot tingle slide down my spine as we tried, in desperation, to put the pieces together. I could feel Satan feeding off of our fear.
When exhaustion set in, my sister and I laid down in my mom’s bed. I squeezed my daddy’s pillow tight and sucked in his aroma as deep as my lungs could muster. While my mom sat up in the kitchen making countless calls and desperately seeking help, my sister and I cried ourselves to sleep. Holding each other tight, we offered empty assurances to ease one another’s angst. Hoping that everything would just disappear. That my dad would come driving up and that all would be back to normal. Hoping that some resolve could come soon.
That was the first night that I couldn’t pray. I was too confused, too bewildered, too blindsided. I couldn’t muster the strength to reach out to a God that seemed nowhere near. And that hot tingle that had coiled around my spine only grew in intensity.
No more than a few hours into our shallow rest, my sister and I were awoken by a scream. I could hear my mom’s feet sprinting up the basement steps and a sheet of paper crackling in her hand. “Get in the car! Now! Get in the car!” I threw on my shoes and a jacket and fearfully ran to the hallway. My mom, grabbing boxes of papers, contact information, her purse and her shoes, pushed a crumpled sheet of paper into my hands and screamed for me to get in the car.
Ironing out the creases in the paper, I looked down and realized the sheet I was holding was a suicide letter she had found from my daddy…