Angela took her last breath at 4:17 a.m. last Sunday morning. Forty-six years old, mother of five, she was my daughter.
We had a tumultuous relationship ever since she was a little girl. I blamed it on our broken home–her father and I first separating when she was just a year old. By the time she was seven, she had begun seeking attention by being ‘sick’– wanting her arm put in a sling because it hurt, insisting on crutches because she couldn’t walk, begging to go to the emergency room when there was nothing wrong. She was 11 the first time I found hidden alcohol bottles in her bedroom. I sought counseling for both of us only she wouldn’t go. I took years of parenting classes, desperate to fix whatever I might be doing wrong.
Angie’s first suicide attempt came at age 14, thus beginning many years in mental health units for her self-destructive behavior. Through it all, she remained loved as her stepfather and I fought to get services to help our daughter.
She cut me out of her life one last time six years ago. I eventually accepted there would be no chance of reconciliation. But then, two weeks ago, I got a text from her. She had gotten accepted into a rehab center where she could recover from alcohol and pain medicine addiction and get her life where she wanted it–to be happy. Two days later she was taken to the hospital: organ failure. I was able to get to the hospital and talk with her for a few hours, take a few photos of her, and we expressed our love. The next morning all feeding and fluid tubes were removed, and she began palliative (comfort only) care.
In her final week, I sat and watched her chest heave with the gradual reduction in respirations. I was so thankful we’d had a final goodbye. How tortured I would have been had we not. Now I don’t need to torment myself, as I have the last forty years, about what went wrong with the beautiful girl I was so very happy to have brought into the world. Was it a broken home, mental illness, did I do something to cause this little girl have such a miserable life? None of that matters now. In the end, we said I love you many times. That will have to carry me through.