How Pride Killed my Daddy

The day of his funeral, people with phony grins lined up to shake my hand, saying things like, “Your daddy was just sick...”

We had a bench by our pond. A pine-log bench. It sat near the edge of the water. Daddy called it the Thinking Bench. I remember the day he built it—using only a sharp axe and cuss words.

It’s funny, how I can remember things like benches, but not the last words he ever said to me.

Weeds grew around his bench. He trimmed the grass using a jack knife. Cody, his dog, would sit beside him.

One December morning, when the weather was unusually cold, I found him there. He’d been sitting all night. He wasn’t moving. Eyes open. There was a thin layer of frost on his back and shoulders. His red hair stiff from the cold.

Mama ran outside with a blanket. He didn’t want it.

“You could’a froze to death,” she said. “You need serious help.”

“Help doing what?” he’d say with vinegar in his voice.

He didn’t trust shrinks. Besides, nobody seemed to know what professional help was. Fewer understood depression. Back then, these were modern ideas used by folks who ate snails at dinner parties.

Daddy was the kind who made log benches. The kind who liked to sit.

Toward the end of his life, you could find him sitting in his workshop, shirtless. Lights off. No music. Staring.

Or: on the hood of his truck, parked on fifty acres. Leaning against his windshield. Or: in the corner of the barn, on the floor, knees pulled to his chest. Eyes pink and wet.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?” I’d ask.

He’d wipe his face. “I don’t know, dammit.”

“Will he be okay?” I’d ask Mama.

“I don’t think so,” she’d say, giving honest answers—she was through pretending. “He needs help.”

The day of his funeral, people with phony grins lined up to shake my hand, saying things like, “Your daddy was just sick…”

I heard that a million and three times. It offended me. These people hardly knew the man they were diagnosing. And it offended me even more that they were right.

He was sick. He quit his life with his hunting rifle. Only someone sick could do that.

Anyway, I’m not sad—and I don’t mean to make you sad. You deserve to be happy. In fact, that’s why I’m writing this.

I don’t know whether you cry when nobody’s watching. I don’t know if you get so sad you can’t do anything but sit. Or if you have a young son who thinks your log benches are the best things since sliced tomatoes.

If you do, I want to tell you something:

Swallow your damned pride before it kills you. And get help.


  1. Alicia - December 16, 2016 7:25 pm

    My daddy quit his life with a bottle in his hand. He drank all my life. I begged him to quit a million times, but it had a strong hold on him. He was ‘sick’ too but also too prideful to ask for help. He lost his own dad when he was 3 and I think growing up without a father in the 40’s caused some internal conflicts for him. My daddy lost his fight in 2013. It’s funny how the cycle repeats itself – my daddy’s only son was a drinker too but cancer got him before the bottle could, in 2015. It ended there though – when I feel my inherited sadness, I read your words. Thank you.

  2. Carol DeLater - January 10, 2017 12:30 pm

    My mother was mentally ill. She had me on the living room floor. One day about a month later she took me to the doctor’s office and left me there. My uncle came to get me and take me for his own…I was lucky. When I got older my doctor, who knew me in a way no one else did, told me to let him know the day that I realized that issues I had were caused by depression. You know you can’t get help unless you want it. One day on my way home from work I understood what he was saying and drove straight to his office…I was THAT scared. Today I gratefully take medication everyday. My condition is hereditary handed down by my mother, to me, to my daughter and now my grandson. He won’t admit it yet, but he knows and self medicates “naturally”, though illegally. I’m lucky that I know I can’t live his life for him.

  3. Susie Munz - February 1, 2017 8:29 pm

    Very important message,Sean, and the story brought it home to anyone who read it. “Help” saved me.

  4. Clay - February 3, 2017 2:03 pm

    I hope they all do, and I hope they know where.

  5. Rebecca Culley - February 10, 2017 7:34 pm

    I’m trying my best to.

    • Sherry - March 31, 2017 5:41 am

      Just get help ??? A lot easier said than done my friends. When you just don’t want to live anymore but you don’t want to end your life yourself. So you just keep praying for GOD to do it for you. SAD SAD SAD

      • Donna Oliphint - June 9, 2017 3:16 pm

        Mental illness, depression, anxiety can be spiritual issues, but more often than not they are chemical imbalances in the brain. It can take a while to get the medications right, but don’t stop trying! Ask God for guidance to the right doctor, wisdom for that doctor and perseverance for yourself. You’re more valuable than you think!

  6. Beverly - February 17, 2017 3:28 pm

    Powerful words. So many people suffered back in those days because of ignorance…. And…he is just sick..attitude……today there is all kinds of help, but people still won’t get help…..
    Can feel the pain in your words…..thanks for sharing….you inspire me to want to write.

  7. James Godwin - February 17, 2017 3:49 pm

    I suffer from severe depression. It has caused me to hate the Christmas Season! How could everyone be so joyfully happy when I am so desperately sad?
    It took me over a month to pull myself out of that deep, dark hole where I love to suffer.
    I’m 82 years old. I have had women spoiling me for most of my life. My sweet Mother, my two wonderful sisters and my wife of 53 years. Now they have all left me. All too soon, I lost them all!
    Now I am alone, all alone and I despise being alone.
    I would prefer to be dead than alone, but the pain involved in dying frightens me.
    What joy is to be found in life when you are 82 and alone?

    • Alicia - February 19, 2017 10:22 pm

      Your comment tugged on my heart strings. I wish I could help show you the joy in your world. It’s everywhere, people like us just have to look a little harder than others. Please don’t lose hope.

    • Donna Oliphint - June 9, 2017 3:22 pm

      So very sorry for the loss of those you love. Maybe now is the time for you to “spoil” others. There are many widows that could use help–someone to talk with, to take them on errands, to help with repairs, or simply to be with them when repairmen come to their house. You will find joy again in serving others.

  8. Pam - February 17, 2017 8:16 pm

    My parents self medicated with alcohol. Not me, my drug of choice is food, but I’m getting help, hardest thing I’ve ever done. I want to break the cycle. Thank you for these words.

  9. Jeri - February 18, 2017 1:40 pm

    I didn’t know there was another way to feel, because we didn’t talk about problems growing up. When I went to marriage counseling, probably within the first year of being married, the counselor turned to me and asked, “how long have you been bi-polar?”
    Well, I am not, but her question challenged me to see a psychologist, who did diagnose me with chronic depression, and pointed out to me that my mother, father, and his mother appeared to also have it.
    That was about 25 years ago, and I am alive, and still married, and am still taking medication for depression. Without it, I would not be here.

  10. Nancy - March 5, 2017 2:06 pm

    You don’t “snap out of it”…

  11. Jeannie - March 6, 2017 5:48 am

    Mental illness is such a sad disease. My husband suffers terribly with anxiety and depression. He works with his doctors and psychiatrists but nothing has really helped yet. His Thinking Bench is on our screened porch. He sits there all most all day doing nothing. It breaks my heart. Please pray for him and others who are suffering.
    Thank you for showing understanding-so many don’t

  12. Martha Morgan - June 8, 2017 3:32 pm

    I only saw my birth father one time after I was six years old when my parents split. He tried to see me on a couple of occasions but not knowing him I was afraid of him. I have one color picture of him. Not a bad looking man but I cannot see what was in his heart. He put a shotgun in his mouth one day and blew his brains out. He was buried the day my daughter was born. He was an alcoholic. That was all I ever knew about him.

  13. Meloney - August 3, 2017 6:00 pm

    Well written Sean. None of us know what is going on in someone else mind. Thank Goodness that these days it is not thought of as Unmanly, or Shameful or a Sin to get professional help and take medication.


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