August 18, 2012 was a hot, sunny Saturday. I went shopping with a couple of friends and we stopped at a local pub for drinks to celebrate one friend’s birthday. I had not enjoyed the afternoon, having had a migraine earlier in the day. I found myself wandering outside to sit on the patio by myself, although it must have been in the upper 90’s. I had a feeling of something being “off”. But I wasn’t sure what. My friends noticed and commented that I was withdrawn and “out of touch”.
About 4:45 p.m., I paid up and was ready to go. My other friends were about to walk out when my cell phone rang. It was my sister’s husband. He asked me if I had talked to my son, Donald. I said that I talked to him the day before. John told me I needed to check on him, that some girl had posted “RIP Don, you were one of the good guys” on Facebook. I hung up and shouted for my friends to stop as they were getting in their car. I tried to call Donald. No answer. I frantically called Donald’s roommate and got no answer. Then, I called his best friend, a young man i have known since he was about 8 years old. Matthew would not answer me at first and I was screaming to him that it was on Facebook, and please tell me, had something happened to my son? He hesitated, then said, yes ma’am, I’m sorry, it’s true. I screamed and dropped the phone. I screamed and cried and even laid in the parking lot, I guess I wanted someone to run over me and kill the pain.
I could not get anyone at the Auburn, AL police department to talk to me. No one. They refused, no matter how hard I pleaded with them, how much I cried, how I told them it was on FB, that I was getting phone calls from parents and friends…they would not talk to me. During this time, my sister’s husband was working on finding out who was in charge in Auburn. Donald’s friends were calling me, my mother was calling, other parents were calling. I was going out of my mind.
Finally, I was able to talk to a lieutenant in the detective department in Auburn. He would not answer my questions. He would not say if my child was dead. He told me….I can’t tell you anything. You need to call the coroner! I was stunned. How could anyone be so insensitive. I said, well, thank you very much, you’ve just confirmed my son is dead. Who do I call? The coroner was so nice…very calm….answered as many questions as I could think to ask at that moment. Then, when I asked what happened, he said the words i will never forget, that it was an “apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound”. This is something that never crossed my mind. To this day, I still don’t believe it.
I was told to stay where I was, that the Shelby County Sheriff would come to me and make the formal notification. I was told my son had been taken to Montgomery, AL for the autopsy and not only did I not need to identify him, I was not allowed to go there. I waited for another half hour or so. By this time, it was after dark. Remember, this was August…and the first inkling I had that my son was dead was around 4:45 p.m. Now, it’s after dark…at least 8:30. I later learned my son was found around 4 p.m. and in all this time, the police would not talk to me. After the formal notification, and I give the chaplain a number for someone at church, and my ex-husbands number, some friends took me home and then to my mother’s house. On the way to my mother’s, I called my ex husband and learn that no one has notified Donald’s dad. So, I’m the one telling him and I’m incoherent with grief.
There is so much more. But, that’s how I found out my son was dead. I cannot remember it without breaking down. I am sure that every parent remembers in stark clarity how they learned of their child’s death, if they were not with them. It’s strange…I felt so numb, so disconnected from reality, yet, I remember it all in excruciating detail.