When I was about 10 years old, I watched my dad climb to the very top of a radio tower. I remember pulling up to it in my grandparents Lincoln town car. It was on a country backroad in nowhere Georgia. It was already dark, and I can still feel the chill of that evening, and the haze that hung in the air. There weren’t many lights to illuminate the night. The headlights of the car and the red blinking of the lights from the tower. That was it.
An empty bottle of whiskey laid in the truck seat that my dad arrived in. I can recall hearing my grandfather say, soon after I watched my father scurry up the metal webbing, “Just let him jump. I’m tired of dealing with his shit.”
I feel my heart break. My dad was my hero. Why would he want to end it all, and why doesn’t my grandfather care? I hear my grandmother call out to him. “Chris! Please! Come down!” His response was to ask a question. “How do you want me to come down? Head first?”
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such helplessness before or since that moment.
Right after my dad’s answer to her question, I remember, almost in a blur, my grandmother asking me to talk to him. I was nervous. What do you say to someone who is about to end their own life? Certainly, at the age of 10, I had no idea.
There wasn’t any time to question it, or any time to debate. I know now that my grandmother asked this of me in a moment of desperation for the life of her son.
I stepped forward. I feel the grass beneath my feat and the dew that has covered it. I struggle for words to yell out to him, so high above us all, and I can make nothing else come out other than “Dad! Come down! PLEASE!” He responds and says “Why should I?” There’s a pause. I struggle for the words, but again… they fall short. All I can say is “Because, I love you!”
I shout it to the top of my lungs. I hear it echo into the air and fall into silence. There’s a stillness for what seems like an eternity. My dad says nothing in response.
Eventually, I start to see his silhouette move, and wind it’s way down the webbing of the radio tower that seemed to reach into the stars.
He reaches the bottom, and I see my grandparents say something to him in the distance, though I don’t know what. He climbs into his truck and speeds away.
To this day, my dad and I have never really talked about that night. He leads a very different life now, and it happens to be one of peace and truth.
It’s hard to say what impact my simple words of honesty had that day, but they may have just changed the course of his entire life.
Here’s my point.
I don’t tell you this story for your pity, or for you to woe my father and his predicament. I tell you this so that you will know how important you are to someone. I tell you this so that you will tell others how important they are to you.
I know that my father knew that I loved him that evening, but it may have just been the simple reminder of it that saved his life, and in turn lead him to be such a great and wonderful impact on the lives of others down the road. He’s a great man.
You simply can’t undermine the value of your love and admiration for people. You telling them how you feel could change the entire course of their existence and maybe others too. It’s not a poem that you have to write and memorize. It’s simple. It’s just how you honestly feel.
A lot of that night seems as hazy as the air was then or like a dream, but I know what I said to him, and I know how simple and honest it was. "Come down. I love you." That’s it.
We all have a voice. In every voice we cary a power that I feel goes largely unrecognized.