On July 22, 2001, I'm flying out the door to a gig, when Monique runs out to tell me my daughter, Carmela, is on the phone, and she really thinks I need to come back inside and take the call.
"Dad, Billy Died." Three words. Not four, not five, not one hundred and three - just three.
I got that kind of feeling inside that you get when something really really bad is about to happen. Still, the words didn't quite register because, afterall, dying was something that Billy was never going to do.
Then, my ex-wife (Lucia), Billy's mom, grabs the phone out of Carmela's hand and begins to scream hysterically that the "cops" in her house were keeping her from giving Billy CPR. "I know CPR and these [email protected]*%#! won't let me revive my son. I'll kill them."
The unmistakable sound of absolute insanity in her voice told me that this was the worst day either one of us was ever going to know.
Her husband (Gary) took the phone from her. I only wanted to know one thing, so I said, "Gary, I just need for you to tell me . . . is it true?"
"Yes, he's gone. Rigormortis had already set-in when Lucia found him and she was still trying to give him mouth-to-mouth when the paramedics got here."
And just like that, Lucia, Carmela and Gary and I were catapulted into a world of horror that words will never be able to convey.
My Billy, gone - gone. Over and over, I screamed "no", into the nothingness of the ceiling. I couldn?t even speak. All I could do was scream "no" - over and over.
I sit alone at night and ask, "where's my Billy boy?".
In a telephone conversation last night, Billy's totally devastated, grieving mother said to me through tears of agony, "I didn't know life could be this painful. No, it's not painful, it's torture. He was my precious boy and I can't see him anymore. Why doesn't anybody understand that I'd just as soon die. I don't want to be here anymore. I?m not afraid of death. I wish some robber would just break into my house and kill me. I'd do it myself but I cant' stand the thought of intentionally leaving Carmela alone with this."
And Carmela, well . . . she won't even talk about it. Whenever someone begins a conversation about Billy, she leaves the room. Billy was 20 years old, and Carmela is 21. They were only 16 months apart. They've been through a lot together and now he's gone. I pray she'll be alright.
Now, as I sit here at my desk, I am completely unable to function. I have stacks of bills I haven't paid since Billy died, and I'm so lost, I can't bring myself to care. I can?t really talk to people very well.
Were it not for a smattering of beautiful people in my life ? my loving partner, Monique; my sister, Velda and her son, Aaron; my brother, Fernando; and various musician friends, I would be completely alone. Most folks, including my own parents, don?t get it, and they don?t want to get it. So, they never will.
In response to the impending memorial for my son, my oldest brother emailed me: ?I?m sorry for your loss, but due to previous plans, I will be unable to attend.? That was it ? an email. I haven?t heard a word from him since. Never even received a card.
Outside of that empty email message, I haven?t heard from him or his daughter or her husband or her mother or her mother?s mother. I mean, when I was a kid, I shared the same bedroom with this guy. And the best he can do is send an email that tells me he?s got previous plans and will be unable to attend. Wow, thanks for reaching out bro. You?re all heart. Why not just kick my teeth in, take my wallet and burn my house down?
Being a bereaved parent is like being a leper. Nobody wants to touch you for fear of catching the one disease that no one will ever want. It?s an affliction so horrible that people don?t and won?t even talk about it.
And damn-near all the people in your life just want you to quit your whining and get over it and revert back to who you once were. They want you to do that because they?re only compelled to serve their own narcissistic needs, and all they know is that you?re really messing with their comfort zone.
And since the real-you (who they?ve really never taken the time to know) has never been a consideration, they couldn?t possibly believe you possess neither the intelligence nor the sensitivity to see through their illusion. They don?t know anything about your newly found, yet unwanted x-ray-cut-through-tripe-vision. So, they remain confident that if they simply apply the because-I-care decoy, you somehow won?t notice the Mt. Rushmore of truth that?s staring you dead in the face.
The horrible thing that you discover about all these so-called friends and loved-ones is that, although their posture of superficiality is consistent - you know, the we care about you thing, their actions speak volumes. And eventually, an even-more heart-breaking realization breaks the surface: In all the time you?ve known them, they?ve never loved you, so much as they?ve loved themselves through you.
And you further realize that, to them, you?ve simply stepped out of character. You?re no longer playing that Clockwork Orange role they cast for you. You?re just not sticking to the script. People, let?s break for lunch. It?s a frightening revelation, and at the same time, you actually feel sorry for them.
You?re saddened and angered by the realization that they?re a long way from being alive, because if they?re incapable of extending true, unconditional love to you in your time of dire need, they?re about as alive as Elvis. And truthfully, all you really want or need from them is just a modicum of understanding. That?s all. You don?t need money, you don?t need things, and you damn-sure don?t need advice that?s motivated by someone else?s need to hear themselves talk, while getting you back into character.
And I tell you this: I pray that you never do ? but if and when you ever lose a child, you will know like you?ve never known before that you are alive, because every cell in your body will writhe in agony.
And so it is that even without having asked for it, you?re suddenly being introduced to life and death at the same time. Oh, how do you do ? my name is Bill, the dead guy?s dad.
What becomes abundantly clear is, if these so-called friends and loved-ones were acting out of love and kindness, they?d realize that losing a child is a loss that knows no parallel, and they would stop being driven by their own selfish needs. In short, they would understand.
But they?re so disinterested in learning about the magnitude of your loss, they don?t have a clue that you no longer have the luxury of being the person you were, nor will you ever. And it amazes me that they never even stop to think that, given the choice, you would never have agreed to live on the deserted island of depression, anger, grief and despair where you now reside ? yet marooned you are.
A month after Billy died, the company I worked for ?eliminated? my position. The compassion continues.
And to date, I don?t seem to be in any shape to seek employment in the work place because the only occupation I?m interested in is the one that suffers from insomnia and spins around in my mind, day-in/day-out, simply wanting to know, "where's my Billy."