My Story (part 6)

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who builds his house on sand…” Matthew 7: 26

There is much to be said about a humble, country boy that builds himself into a man of earthly prestige and success.  My mom once told me that sometimes, someone who comes from such humble beginnings carries their pride in their back pocket, along with their crisp $100 dollar bills. And while there is much to be respected and admired in men that have the strength to build their own empires, the foundations of their intentions must be pure. Never forgetting who they serve and what is required of them.  Much like the parable of the two builders in the Bible, it is necessary that we build our lives on the rock foundation, rather than the sand (but that is a whole other topic for another blog post for another day).

My dad was a very proud man…but pride is sometimes poisonous.  I don’t think that my father had the capacity to handle the fact that he had damaged the one thing he cherished above all else, his family. I don’t think he could face me and my sister with the truth, nor do I think he could face his own mother or his wife.  He was a scared boy trapped in the body of a powerful man…but looks can often be deceiving.

My dad had panicked. He had run. He had picked up in the middle of the day and made his way back towards his humble roots. Back towards his childhood home in Alabama.  He took every precaution to assure his success. He had come home to get his guns in the middle of the day, left the note and the message when nobody was around to stop him. He had turned off his phone and severed any chance of contact. Then he had driven. Driven away from his problems, driven away from his responsibilities.

I would like to think that something snapped in my dad’s mind. I would like to think that his actions were rash and that his decisions were spontaneous.  But the fact of the matter is that my dad spent a great deal of time thinking that day.  From the time he left his office at lunch to the time his suicide letter was received in the early morning hours, he had spent hours drowned in thought. Hours harboring an inner-war in his spirit. Hours hosting a battle of good and evil in his soul.  I won’t write much more about what I don’t know. It hurts too badly to allow my imagination to wander.  But I do know one thing–my dad was a beautiful man. A man paralyzed by fear and caught in the snares of Satan’s stronghold. A man that loved others far more than he was ever capable of loving himself. And that is what breaks my heart the most…

The police were only finally able to track him down because one call had been made from his cell phone in that time. One single call. A call to 911. You see, he had distanced himself. Far enough from his family, but close enough to his home. He had checked into a hotel room, neatly hung up his clothes, written on a small slip of paper what he wished to be done with his body, and called 911. (I can only assume he did this so that a maid would not walk in on the scene and be scarred by a pain she had no need to feel). My daddy then sat down on the hotel bed, put a gun to his chest, and gave up.

It was January 3, 2009 that my daddy put a gun to heart and pulled the trigger.

It was January 3, 2009 that I took back control.

It was January 3, 2009 that I began to run as far from Christ as I possibly could…

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My Story (part 3)

“Because of my chains…[I] have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Philippians 1:14

Looking back on the winter break of 2009, my memories form a collage of  imagery. A collage of simple moments that have been frozen in form. Some of beauty, some of the deepest anguish.  But all of purpose.  Those individuals that are familiar with the details of this portion of my story are only those closest to myself and my family–those whose lives were shattered along with ours, those who have continued to pick up the pieces these last few years.   However, 1 Peter 3:15 instructs, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”   Therefore, I am fearless in sharing this darkest moment, for I recognize the greater purpose that it serves.

Returning to Georgia, I was still riding high from the successes of the season.  I was happy to be surrounded by the nostalgia of home and, in my blissful ignorance, unaware of any changes or tensions that existed outside of my own sense of norm.  I remember my dad calling me into his room a few days after I had returned. As I crawled up into his bed, I noticed a hint of fatigue in his eyes. A dimming of the twinkle that was so familiar.  Nevertheless, that sparkle was quickly renewed in his excitement to show me the reason for which he had called me in, so I thought nothing of my initial observation.  On his bedside table stereo, he played the radio broadcast that was recorded during my 90-yard goal and beamed with joy. For what must have been 10 straight minutes, we laughed together, replayed the sound clip, and bounced on his bed–seemingly drunken with pride and excitement. I will never forget the joy of that moment…nor will I forget the single tear I saw him wipe from his cheek when he thought I wasn’t looking.

In the days that followed, life was every bit as normal as it had been in my youth.  Our family exchanged stories, visited friends, shared laughs.  Christmas was just like every other Isom Christmas–emotional, chaotic, dizzying. But comfortable.  Throughout that time, my dad began opening up to me about deep, personal things that we had never discussed before. Thoughts of his childhood, details of his relationships. Looking back, my daddy was different. He made himself so vulnerable, yet so inaccessible at the same time. He seemed weakened, humbled by a greater force. Tired.  But I attributed this new-found vulnerability to circumstance. We had missed each other, we were both growing older, we were both growing closer.  I cherished these moments…

New Years came and went in a matter of four, riveting quarters.  My family shared fantastic memories at the Peach Bowl where LSU (my team) pommelled Georgia Tech (my sister’s team) in the Georgia Dome.  With unbelievable seats and friends in town to entertain, I was oblivious to the drastic shift in emotions that took place that day.  I recognized that my mom seemed out of character–discontent, terrified, resentful. However, the energy of the evening prevented me from asking questions. I dismissed the situation and figured it was none of my business. My rational convinced me that God would care for our family.  Whatever the problem was, God would sort it out. I was faithful to Him, so He would in turn be faithful to us. That’s how it worked, right?

January 2 was the day that everything came to a crashing halt.  I remember, so vividly, standing at work that morning when my cell phone rang. My dad and I talked on the phone an average of 15 times a day, so when I looked at the caller ID and saw his name, I couldn’t help but smile. He knew I was at work, he knew I couldn’t talk. But best friends have no problem breaking the rules, and we were most certainly the best of friends.  Our conversation was every bit as normal as usual.  He asked me how my day was going, what I was up to at work, when I would be home. We made small talk for about 10 minutes until a wave of customers came in and I finally convinced him that I had to go.

The next thing that happened is so burnt into my memory, that the scars spell out the etchings of his words. Per usual before hanging up the phone, I casually said “Love ya!” and lowered the phone from my ear. But this time I heard his voice call out on the other end of the line.  I quickly lifted the receiver back to my ear and heard, what seemed like, the voice of a different man. In a tone so eerily calm, so genuine, so saddened, my daddy said, “I love you so much, Morlan.” I stood for a moment, curious and unsettled, then replied in as stoic and truthful a tone as he, “I love you too, Dad. More than anything.” Click.

Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever speak to my father…