Eric’s Story

As I write the following, I pray that Eric and God will forgive me.  I now realize and know how much Eric was counting on me to pull him through the pain and suffering he endured. I’m sorry, Eric. I wish I had known then what I know now.  I did not know or realize that Eric’s torment would lead to his killing the pain.  I did not know that over 30,000 people in the U.S. end their pain by suicide each year.  I thought the pain would subside, and we would once again be happy.  However, the worst thing that could happen to a family happened to us.  Suicide is now real and a loss that will be carried by our family until our deaths.  However, we believe that this life is not the end, and we are anxiously awaiting our reunion…

Eric was born at the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee on April 4, 1972.  It was 4:30 A.M. and Nancy was the only one to deliver that morning.  When the doctor brought Eric into the waiting room and showed him to his older brother and me, I’ll never forget the look on our little four year old Keith’s face.  The nurse with the doctor said Keith’s eyes were as big as silver dollars.  He was so excited to see his new baby brother.
Of course, this new addition to our family was another blessing from God.

Eric would not want me to brag about him, but he was a wonderful son and brother.  He had one trait that stood out from the rest.  He was a friend’s friend and was a genuine human being.  He loved his family, and we could always count on Eric’s word.  If he told you he would do something, you could count on it.

He also did things without being asked.  For example, I remember when we had a strong storm come through Chattanooga in 1995.  It blew a tree across our driveway and destroyed our basketball goal in the yard.  That storm came late Thursday evening.  I told Keith and Eric that we would clean everything up on Saturday.

When I returned from school on Friday afternoon, they had completed the clean-up.  Eric said, “Dad, I know how tired you are and I wanted you to rest tomorrow.”

Eric had several talents, but his artistic ability was outstanding.  I remember when Eric was in the fourth grade and he drew some of his favorite action characters for school.  He came home and told us that some of the students thought he had traced them.

Eric was becoming a fine Christian young man.  After high school, he worked part-time at a retail drug store.  Later, Eric decided that he would go to a local community college and pursue a graphic arts degree, but this dream did not come true.

In l996, Eric’s world began to crumble.  His grandmother and grandfather both had Alzheimer’s disease.  Eric was very close to them and loved them deeply.  In December of l996, his grandfather died.  Then in July of l997, his grandmother died.  That’s when the headaches started.

It should be noted that in the last two and one half years of Eric’s life, he displayed many symptoms of depression:  a depressed mood, loss of interest in normal activities, insomnia, lack of concentration, weight loss, horrific nightmares, and pain from the unbearable headaches.  I believe Eric had been entertaining thoughts of suicide for a long time.  After Eric’s death, we found a newspaper clipping in his desk drawer written by Billy Graham.  The date was l996, and the subject dealt with “Christians Who Commit Suicide.”

I was ignorant of depression and suicide.  I had taken Eric to doctors and hospitals from January 8, 1997 to May 14, 1999, but I did not emphasize those symptoms.  God, forgive me.  For two and one-half years, Eric was in a war for his life.  He won many, many battles, but he lost the war.  On May 17, 1999, sometime after midnight, Eric slipped out the kitchen door, walked down the steps, and around to a tree in our front yard.  I had given him a 44-magnum pistol for his twenty-first birthday.  He took the gun and ended his pain.

Since that unforgettable day in May, 1999, words cannot describe the feeling of rawness, devastation, and emptiness we felt in losing Eric.  Thankfully, we had many people praying for us during a time when we could not pray for ourselves.

Our lives were in complete turmoil, wondering how we could face another day.  In reflecting, I remembered a good friend told me that we are human, and none of us are perfect.  He emphasized that we do not have the ability to see tomorrow’s events.  I responded to him, “If I could have sacrificed my life to save my son, I would not have hesitated.”  Each of us, together, but separately had to find our way of coping with this difficult situation we faced.

Keith discontinued his education for two and one half years, and helped us continue to work.  After that, Keith did return to college and earned his Master’s Degree in Business Administration. 

During the first year, Nancy wanted to move, but we didn’t.  Studying prophecy and longing for our family to be together again brought comfort to her.  In addition, she wrote letters to Eric everyday recording them in her journals.  These coping methods continue to be therapeutic for her.

My solace was in reading and researching everything I could find concerning suicide.  First, I had questions that needed to be answered about the religious aspect.  Secondly, I needed to know what others had experienced on websites and in books.  After a few years of studying, I did not have an answer to why Eric took his own life.  Finally, I began studying about the brain.  After years of in depth research and thousands of dollars spent on medical books, I found my answer to why.