Shelly Hickman

Ramblings and Whatnot

Let Me Tell You About My Dad

My sweet dad took his life on Sunday.

As you can imagine, or may already know, when a loved one dies by suicide you can’t help but run through all the possible “why’s”.

This tragedy has sent my family reeling. Did something in him snap? Was he severely depressed and we never knew? Did he feel worthless and unloved? Were we unaware of a terminal illness?

My family was very close with my dad. I was fortunate that he and my mom live just three miles up the road, and we saw them on a regular basis – meals out, family trips, several telephone conversations a week.

My dad suffered from several health issues, and I know he lived with daily pain and discomfort. CPAP machine, COPD, back troubles, bowel issues, hernias and failed mesh surgeries, diverticulitis, and even blindness due to ocular histoplasmosis and detached retina. He could see well enough to ambulate, but over twenty years ago this blindness stole his ability to drive so he was dependent upon my mom for transportation.

Despite all of this, rarely did he complain. Yes, he could have a short temper and would lose that temper over what others might consider trivial things, but he never took it out on his loved ones. I think it was just part of his way of expressing the frustration he must have felt from all his ailments.

But when I think of Dad, I just think of his big smile, his generosity, humor, compassion, zest for life, love of travel and food, his ongoing quest for knowledge, and his adoration for his family. Anyone who knew my dad loved him. He didn’t know a stranger because he sought to connect with others.

He told the same silly jokes over and over. “That sure was a good meal. The only bad thing about it was it ruined my appetite.” He liked to tell his loved ones how much we were his favorite. I am an only child, and he would often say, “Have I told you lately that you’re my favorite daughter?” Just as he would tell his only grandson, “You know you’re my favorite grandson, don’t you?” He loved to slip my kids twenty dollar “handshakes,” even now that my son is twenty-three years old.

Dad was a voracious reader who loved to learn. Throughout his life he read so many books on religion, philosophy, and history. Although his poor vision made it difficult for him (he used a magnifier), reading was most definitely his jam. He spent his career as a journeyman wireman, but his dream was to be a history teacher, and he would have been amazing. He so enjoyed telling us about his current read and what he was learning.

Dad knew how to make the most of his life, despite his physical difficulties, but a couple of years ago he started showing early signs of dementia. His short-term memory was taking a hit. Not surprising – he was seventy-six years old, but he stated how it frustrated him that he could remember things from thirty years ago, and not what someone told him five minutes ago. He had often told my mom that she didn’t understand what he was trying to tell her.

He watched his mother fall into severe dementia during her final year and had expressed that he would hate to go that way – that he would rather die. In fact, throughout his life he had commented from time to time that if he ever had any sort of lingering, irreversible illness that stole his quality of life, that was unacceptable to him and he would much rather end it.

When Dad took his life, I was in disbelief. He would never do such a thing, I thought. He wasn’t deteriorating from a terminal illness. He had a family who loved and cherished him. We still enjoyed so many things together. I lost my daughter to cancer almost twenty years ago. Surely, he wouldn’t do this knowing what it would do to me after losing her. Something inside him must have snapped. None of it made sense.

The day he died, while my mom slept, he wrote her a note telling her how much he loved us with no other explanation. He left the house, walked a couple blocks so he was no longer in a neighborhood, found a corner where there were no houses – only desert – and ended it.

The thought of him on that corner, all alone in his final moments, tortured me. What was going through his mind? Surely, he couldn’t have thought he was unloved or worthless. These thoughts plagued me. He was so very precious to our family.

But in the days following this tremendous loss, my mom, husband, and I talked about this a lot. The way he went was too planned out, too methodical. He did it the way he did so that Mom could still live in their home without the horrid memory of finding him. Even in his final moments, he thought of her.

I don’t think he snapped. Maybe he knew all along that this is how he wanted to go, and he was just waiting until he was ready. Mom said that morning he walked with a limp, which he never did in the mornings. She said he looked so old and tired.

Dad’s mind was such a vital part of his life. He often said to have your physical health but lose your faculties was no way to live. Maybe he worried he was heading down the same road as Grandma, and on top of all his physical issues, that was simply unacceptable to him. He was tired and needed to rest.

So, I have to get this dreaded thought out of my head that he was sad and hopeless when he died. Dad was a planner. He planned every aspect of his life. My mom is financially taken care of – he made sure of that. He knew that she has us and that we all have each other, and that we will eventually find a way to be okay without him. I believe he knew for some time that when he was ready to discard his broken-down shell, he would leave it on his own terms and no one else’s. And for that, I’m happy for him. He is free from all the pains and limitations of his physical body, and as a wise friend told me he is pure love now. Of course, we will never really know why he did it, but this is what makes the most sense to me. Rest in peace and love, my sweet, wonderful Dad. Thank you for being my father. I will miss you more than you know.

Update 8/2/19: When my daughter Sydney died, I was in such unbearable grief that I don’t think I was able to receive signs that she was still with me. After conversations with a dear friend (Cissy), I decided I’m going to be open to messages from Dad, and I am convinced he has been talking to me these past couple of days. I will continue to watch and listen for him, and hopefully share some of those messages in a future post. 🙂

14 responses to “Let Me Tell You About My Dad”

  1. Bridget Sampson Avatar
    Bridget Sampson

    This is beautiful. You are an incredible human being, Shelly. My heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine the pain of this experience. I also see you making sense of it all in ways that will bring peace to you and your family. It really feels unfair that you would have to experience two tragedies of this magnitude. But you are the epitome of grace and wisdom and unconditional love… a true teacher for the rest of us.


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      Thank you for your words of love, my dear friend.


  2. Martha Reynolds Avatar
    Martha Reynolds

    Oh, Shelly. That you were even able to write this post – so eloquent, so loving – I am moved beyond words. And holding you and your family close to my heart as you mourn your dad’s passing.


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      Thank you so much, Martha! It means the world.


  3. Corie Skolnick Avatar
    Corie Skolnick

    His lingering gifts to you are so apparent in this piece. A wisdom attended by great compassion, a love so deep and abiding it transcends the grief you must feel, and a generosity that lets you share him with us even in your great loss. Thank you to him for raising such a fine human being, and thank you to you for sharing your dad with all of us. He shines in you.


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      Oh my goodness, Corie. That is so beautiful. Much love and thanks. 🙂


  4. Pamela Hickman Avatar
    Pamela Hickman

    Dear Sister, I know I live far away, and we don’t spend a lot of time together. Your father was the sweetest nicest Man, human being I have known. After telling Rachel we cried some for Ernie, For Belinda and for you. Then I cried for Quinton, And Chloe. Then I thought of Sydneybean and the nite mom and I stayed with her. Ernie had drawn her a coloring page of what her new bedroom in the New house would look like. Sydney told me how Ernie had sat with her and planned out how her room would look. They decided she would have Shelves by the window with a window seat so she would be able to draw or write with good light. And he would make the shelves for her. And he drew curtains with flowers because she wanted flowers on her curtains and she had a desk and a bed. Sydney told me how they sat together and talked about how it would look and he would draw it. God Bless you. You are all in my prayers I love you all


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      Oh my God, tears!!! My parents have that picture hanging in their office. Thank you for sharing that beautiful memory, Pam. I love you.


  5. Karen Elaine Kuhn Antonio Avatar
    Karen Elaine Kuhn Antonio

    Shelly – You have written so beautifully about your Dad and about your Family because you were clearly brought up in love by and with them. Thank you so much for sharing your reality, which is, in truth, a “nightmare” we each fear. To lose someone through suicide is the worst. I am merely an “outsider looking in,” but my perception (if it matters) is that your Dad loved each of you so much and was in a position where he acted to spare you the inevitable pain of losing someone “before their time.” The physical body can go on far beyond expectatons, and there is NO rhyme or reason as to why our minds often leave us prematurely. I am an R.N., but these words are written based more on life experience. I see so much joy and love in the photos you shared. Those moments in time are forever yours! Keep those precious moments alive and allow them to overtake any negative moments, including the “end,” which is more likely a “new beginning.” It is hard to have faith, but I have been given the blessing of many signs that we DO go on. Hang tight and live as your Dad did and as he would want you to live! I am praying that you and your family will experience peace of mind, heart, and soul! – Hugs! – Karen & Family


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      Thank you, Karen. That was beautifully stated.


  6. Shelly,
    It’s taken me until now to process your first post. I apologize for taking so long to send condolences.
    I love you and your family, Love your Mom & Dad as family.
    Everything in this post is so on point. I couldn’t help but cry & smile at the same time while reading it.
    I am blessed to have so many memories AND pictures of all of our trips from a young age. I don’t remember a time that your Dad didn’t have a camera around his neck. Even if we were in Vegas visiting y’all. Of course he had it on our longer trips together as well.
    I loved him for the smile you mentioned and his goofy personality.
    I loved waking up to his tickles and homemade doughnuts 🍩.
    I cannot imagine what you are going through, but know love and prayers are being sent to you and all of the family.

    Not knowing what your Dad was thinking, I can only imagine he thought he was doing right by your mother and you. Sometimes people feel a burden and don’t realize their loved ones don’t see it that way. That they would do anything for the people they love.
    I’m sure he knows he knows he was loved. I’m sure he couldn’t be more proud of you than he was.
    He was a good and loving man, Shelly. Those that were blessed to know him will never forget him.
    Love and blessings,


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      Oh, you all are killing me with these touching posts! (Just kidding.) Yeah, he made the best donuts. He also had love for taking pictures his entire life. 🙂 When his camera gave up the ghost this past year, he got grumpy about it and said he was just gonna give up on taking any more. I told him that wasn’t an option for him and showed him how to take pictures with their Android, and he finally got the hang of it. He despised technology though. Haha! Thank you so much for sharing, Julie. It was beautiful. ❤


  7. Your sense of acceptance is something I hope to have as I deal with my mom and dad who are well into their 80’s. You have endured so much and your strength is tremendous. Know that we are thinking of you and your family. I pray that you feel his presence and receive a sign from your dad because I’m sure he’s right there next to you. The Fannins (Carmen & Ed)


    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      I do believe I have been receiving messages from my dad. Thank you, Carmen. ♥


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About Me

Las Vegas native, Computer Science teacher, and writer (when the mood strikes). Author of five novels – mostly romantic comedies – available on Amazon and Audible.


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