Adrian was dead. Shot himself. Through the roof of his mouth.
Reportedly there had been a fight between his cousin and himself earlier in the evening. The shooting happened at around 6:00 p.m. My family had been trying to reach us by phone, but were unsuccessful. Out of desperation, the family finally notified the police of the problem.
The Sheriffís Department sent over a Crisis Intervention Team; the two of them stayed with us until past 2:00 a.m. They were our lifeline to survival, making all the necessary calls for us and gaining all possible information. They also provided us with the local resources for survivors, both for the children and the adults.
Adrian, what can I say about Adrian? He was the son everyone dreams of. He was always kind, helpful, caring, loving. Everyone who knew him liked, even loved him. I know of no person who really disliked him. He had his faults, like everyone else, of course, but we all were able to overlook and forgive readily. Adrian was the most kind, helpful, loving person I have ever known. We were all very proud of him.
One example that comes to mind happened when he was five years old. He and his sister were playing up the street with the neighbor kids on a warm spring day. They had been outside playing for about an hour when Leah came running into the house telling me that Adrian was bad hurt. Well, that could mean anything from a stubbed toe to a broken bone, so I rushed outside only to find one of the neighborhood fathers carrying Adrian in his arms. Adrianís face was all blood. I took Adrian from him as he was explaining that Adrian and his little friend Tyson, age three, had been free coasting on a Hot Wheels tricycle down our steep street and run under a 4-wheel drive pickup. Both boys had hit their faces on the rear differential of that truck. I cleaned Adrian up as best I could and decided he would really need stitches. It was Saturday afternoon in our little Wyoming town. I had to call our local doctor at home and have him meet me at the clinic. When we got there the doctor examined Adrian and told me he had almost taken off his bottom lip. Doc gave him Novocain shots and we were waiting for the shots to take effect, when Tyson and his mom arrived. Tyson had put a tooth through his lower lip. It also needed stitches.
Well, Adrian heard Tyson crying in the next exam room, and he got off of the table and marched right into the other room and told the doctor to take care of Tyson first, Tyson was the youngest. Tyson got two stitches in his lip. Adrian had to be stitched inside his mouth, as well as outside and on the lip where several of his teeth had cut the lip. The doctor told me he stopped counting at 12 stitches inside the mouth alone.
What a little trooper he was.
We once had an elderly neighbor whom Adrian befriended. The neighborhood kids teased and taunted her because Evelyn was frightened and lashed out at them. Adrian never let her bad attitude stop him from helping her or trying to get her to talk to him any time he saw her outside. He made it his responsibility to empty her trash every few days and run errands for her, like going to the grocery for sugar, or eggs for her. She tried to pay him for these things, but he always refused, saying that he was doing it because he wanted to, not because she was paying him. She was our neighbor for over three years and Adrian never neglected to take care of her.
Adrian had given a lot of thought to suicide. He had researched suicide. He researched methods, famous people who were suicides, the psychology of suicide. We thought that it was a healthy interest. His sister had attempted suicide by overdose when she was only thirteen years old with subsequent attempts in the intervening years. My older brother and three of Adrian's cousins have also attempted suicide by overdose. He was a fan of Kurt Cobain. He was surrounded. I thought, "no wonder he wanted to know as much as possible, he wanted to help them."
We had even discussed what he found out, what worked, what didn't. What was painless, what was painful. He discussed the subject with many of his friends, always as related to others. He even discussed suicide methods with his grandfather. He knew the name of every famous suicide for the past 50-100 years or so. Never did we ever imagine that he would be one.
My parents and Adrian came to visit us over Easter Weekend, just a scant week before... He was apparently happy, mischievous with his nieces, picking at his sister and me, helping his dad barbecue our feast. He helped Leah hide Easter eggs for the girls. There didn't seem to be any sadness or depression. He seemed to be his usual self. He was looking forward to moving to Phoenix, AZ. He had a prospect of a full time, year round job there.
Adrian did not live with us, in spite of our pleaís for him to accompany us on our move to Midland in early March. He had been on his own for several years. He worked in the heavy equipment construction industry. He was between jobs. It pays quite well, but there are long periods of down time. He had mentioned feeling that he was a burden to us all when between assignments. That couldnít have been further from the truth.
Adrian had moved in with my older brother and his family temporarily, until the next assignment came along. My nephews and Adrian were close enough to count each other brothers.
The day of his death he had gone to the lake with a group of his friends. They reported that all had fun, there was no discord, with the exception of a little spat between Adrian and his cousin with whom he shared a bedroom. After arriving home, the friends were not ready to end the party, so stayed on, a couple went out for some beer and the rest were just sitting around the living room talking and enjoying each other's company. No one who was with him that day had any idea that he was contemplating such an act. In fact, he was making plans for the following weekend just minutes before. He had made arrangements with several of them to go back to the lake. One of his friends was going job hunting with him the next week as the Phoenix job didnít come through.
After a while, Adrian got up and told everyone that he needed some time alone. He closeted himself in his bedroom and within a few minutes, ďPOPĒ they heard the shot that ended his life. The sound was so muffled that it was only after Al shouted for help upon investigating the sound, that they all realized what had happened.
Al felt so abandoned by all the kids that had spent the day with Adrian. As soon as they learned that Adrian had shot himself they all left in a panic, taking my nephews and niece with them. By the time the paramedics and police arrived, Al and Adrian were the only ones there.
Al described to me this scene. Adrian was lying across his bed with blood squirting out of the top of his head, and running out of his mouth and nose. He was making gurgling sounds as he breathed. Al called Adrians name not knowing if Adrian was conscious or not.
Adrian turned his head and focused his eyes with great difficulty, and tried to speak. He finally was able to say Al's name.
The next two or three minutes it took for help to arrive was like two or three years. All he could really do was put a compress on the top of Adrianís head to slow the bleeding, and cry out to God not to let him die.
My agony is over the fact that he lived on for 25 or so minutes after the shot. What thoughts were going through his head then? Would it have been any better for death to be instantaneous? Did he have regrets? Did he think of us in those last minutes? Was he without thought?
It was really too late, now.
No, Adrian did not leave us a note. Since there was no note, or a message, we are left with all the questions unanswered. It is a total mystery to us all why..... If he was suffering from depression he hid it very well. He never appeared to be depressed or profoundly unhappy. He was around many people who have been diagnosed and are in treatment for depression and mental illness, and no one ever guessed.....
There were no drugs in Adrianís system when he died.
I will always believe that Adrian's decision was a momentary thing. If the opportunity was not so close at hand and his knowledge of suicide wasn't as keen, he wouldn't have acted.
Depression tends to run in my family, but Adrian had not displayed the severe symptoms that several other family members suffer from. We just had no idea that there was anything wrong, or that he was in any pain or sadness. He was a little put out that he wasn't able to stay constantly employed, but knew before he chose his career path what he was in for. My dad has always worked heavy equipment construction, and except for the times he worked in mining, there were at least three months a year of unemployment.
Leah talked to her psychiatrist about Adrian and was told that it is not impossible for a person to be suffering silently, to put on the face of normality, it is just very hard to comprehend.
He was so proud of his 9mm pistol when he bought it in late September. He brought it to our house to show it off. My husband, in his youth, had been a sharp-shooter. We have many trophies that he won at competition. Adrian had invited his dad to go target practicing at a local pistol range because he wanted to show his dad how good he was with his gun. Adrian said that he bought the gun just for play, that he would keep it unloaded except when actually at the pistol range. As he moved around the country following his work he always worried that it might be lost or stolen, so he kept it with him all the time.
Robert gave up target shooting and his guns when our children were small for fear that they might play with the guns and have a tragic accident.
The pastor who officiated at my sons funeral was very comforting concerning the subject of suicide. He is of the belief that there are several suicide stories told in the Bible, including the death of Jesus Christ, and of the early Christian martyrs. His was a suicide of consent, rather than commission. If the Son of God is to be included in the list of suicides then the victims cannot be condemned to hell unless Jesus is also. Another thought is that death is the ultimate end to life. We will all experience it. Our loved ones just precipitated that eventual outcome.
Our grief seems to be more gentle than that many of the other parents express. I don't know if this is just because it is so new, but our faith in God and our knowledge of our son combine to make us aware that life is very transient and Adrian only made his time here brief. Death is an inevitable part of life.
I know there are several differing belief systems at work in our world, I happen to be an independent thinking, practicing Christian, I read my Bible and pray to my God, belong to no particular denomination, I visit several different local churches and don't buy into any one philosophy. I think that we all believe in a higher power of one sort or the other. I also believe that at the moments just prior to their death our loved ones were not capable of stopping themselves, whether it was chronic depression, or a momentary lapse of judgment. We were not in control and are not responsible for the action, or lack thereof anymore than our loved ones were.
There are always going to be those people out there who will be less than gentle with us and our emotions. Many are just thoughtless, not malicious. This is another form of bigotry. An intolerance concerning a subject that they know nothing about. I pray that those people never have to face what we are facing every day of our lives. Building a life without our precious child.
Robert suffers from lack of sleep. He finds it extremely hard to talk about Adrianís death. He isnít shy about telling people that Adrian is a suicide statistic, but doesnít want to go into the particulars with any one. He is feeling guilt at things not done, words not said. Rob spends a large part of his day totally alone in his new store and dwells on his loneliness, wondering if he could have possibly averted the suicide.
I have been asked how I now deal with my surviving child, Leah. The woman who asked me has a surviving child who has mental illness and is currently living on the streets, unemployed and unreachable, at least by her. I wrote, "I can feel your pain. Iíve been through so much of the same with my daughter, Leah.
She was forced (through court order) to leave her abusive domestic partner (he was subsequently convicted of felony domestic assault) and is seeking treatment for lifelong depression. She attempted suicide the first time at age thirteen. Began at age fourteen to become a habitual run-away. She is now twenty-four and the mother of two precious girls. Partly because of the lifestyle she has lived, she is very ill. She has been diagnosed bi-polar, personality disorder, diabetes, asthma, systemic lupus erythrmatosus, has STDís and chronic liver disease. I might have expected her to be the one to die, but it was like a bolt from the blue that my Adrian really had.
Now every time Leah has the blues, I panic and call her doctor (Psychiatrist).
The last time I called him, she threatened to move away and never contact me again. It is enough for her to deal with her grief and her illness, without me adding to it. I try to keep my mouth shut and take what comes, but it is hard. I just want her to be well and be safe. It is so easy to almost suffocate the surviving siblings, just because of our fears for them."
It would be an even greater tragedy to loose the surviving siblings to suicide, too
My brother was there with him all the way. He is in treatment for depression. I am in agony for him, also. I can't even imagine...., except as a living nightmare, what he went through..... I'm glad that Al wasn't able to get in touch with us directly that evening. I believe it would have added to his pain. I thank God that he was there for Adrian, and yet wish he hadn't had to go through that experience.
There are not many minutes in the day that I don't think of Adrian, something happens that I want to share with him, then I remember.... The children still talk a lot about him, too. Especially Katie (age 2 at his death), she says she talks to him. That he has told her he is coming back. That right now he is in the sky. With God.
Sometimes the simplest things bring on a new overwhelming wave of grief. Just the other day Katie found a plastic Easter egg in her toy box and began to play with it. That brought the thought that Easter was the last time I saw Adrian alive.
Iíll never again hear "MOM" in that urgent way he took with me. He was often impatient with me because of my ability to focus on the activity at hand to the exclusion of everything around me.
Iíll never hear him discuss his plans and his dreams. Iíll never dance at his wedding. Iíll never hold his child in my arms.
I have been trying to focus on all the joy and contentment that Adrian brought us through the years, not the pain of his passing. I purchased a photo quality printer and a scanner so that I could create a "Memory Book" starting with my pregnancy through that last year. I am finding pictures that I had forgotten about. My mother is sharing her old snap shots with me also. It will take me years to get this Memory Book finished, but it sure is keeping Adrian with me.
We have planted a tree in his memory right outside our livingroom window. We have ordered a bronze plaque to place at the base of the tree, commemorating the living monument to Adrian.
On June 9, his birthday, we released 21 balloons filled with forget-me-not seeds at sundown. We watched as they floated into the darkness and recited the poem ďIím FreeĒ He would have been 22.
I know I will miss Adrian every minute of every day for the rest of my life, but, and please don't misunderstand me, I don't know if I would change a thing, even if it was in my power to do so. I am proud of my beautiful son, and even in his death I have found things to be proud of.
I try to remember all the times, both good and bad I had with my living son, not his death and the method of his death. He is not defined by death, but by life. I miss him so much, and yet......
I just pray that he has contentment and peace.
Don't grieve for me,
for now I'm free...
I'm following the path
God laid for me.
I took his hand when I heard His call,
I turned my back and left it all.
I couldn't stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work, or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way...
I found my peace at the end of the day.
If my parting has left a void...
Then fill it with remembered joy !!
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss...
Ah yes, these things I too will miss !!
Be not burdened with times of sorrow...
I wish you the sunshines of tomorrow.
My life's been full, I savored much...
Good friends, good times, and a loved one's touch.
Perhaps my life seemed all too brief...
Don't lengthen it now with undo grief.
Lift up your hearts and share with me...
God wanted me now;
He set me free !!!
Adrian Lee Shipley
6/9/77 Ė 4/10/99
Laid to rest 4/13/99
Cremains retained by his loving family
With all my love,
Sharon Shipley, Adrianís mom