Living in the Terry household growing up was always interesting. We were an odd family to many people. We spent a lot of time together, had family dinner every night we could, we would go to church every weekend and my parents were strict. Still, the most amazing thing that made us “weird” was the love in our household. We weren’t the family to hug all the time but still my parents were a constant reminder of pure and true love. Many families today do not get to experience that. I am so thankful that I had 22 years to watch my mother and father stay completely in love with each other, even when they may have not liked each other.
My father could be distant at times and you could tell when he was having a rough day, but still he didn’t let that stop him. He would find a way to manage all his kids, work at the firehouse, work at my mother’s clinic, and exercise. We used to sign the song “Mister Mom” by Lonestar to him because he was stuck with us most of the week, if he wasn’t at work. He managed all of this because he didn’t sleep much. Exercise and lack of sleep are things I remember very clearly about my dad but, looking back on it now, I see both of those things very differently than I did as a kid. I figured he couldn’t sleep because so many years on at the fire house messed with his sleep schedule, so he would just take whatever sleep he could get while sitting at his desk. I see now that he couldn’t sleep because when he closed his eyes he was flooded with images of death and terror. I thought he exercised because he never wanted to let one of his “young guys” out run him or show him up. He exercised to the brutal extent that he did because maybe, by some chance, he would be so exhausted when he was done that he could sleep a little. For the rest of our lives, my family will have to live with the guilt of not recognizing his long struggle.
When I received the news that my father had committed suicide, I was 6 days away from being home from my 8-month deployment. My mother had sent me a message saying I needed to call her right away. I told her I would try when I could but it was the middle of the day and most of our phones wouldn’t work. Her was response was “Mick, its Dad. Please call me”. At that moment I knew he was gone. I found the nearest phone and eventually connected. When I heard my mother say “Hi baby” I broke down. I heard the pain in her voice which confirmed that he was gone. She told me they came that morning to tell her they found him. I didn’t know what to say or do so I told her I loved her and I would be home as soon as I could. I had to stay on our boat another 5 days because we were too far into the middle of the sea to fly me off. The last time I had messaged my father was on August 22, 2017. This was the last conversation I had with my father:
Chip “I haven't had anything to drink in 6 weeks and I am still funny as hell. I even crack myself up.”
Me “How is that going?”
Chip “Well...how do you think it's going. I am Irish for Christ sake! I even say arse for ass.”
Me “Well I am proud of you!”
Chip “Seriously, it is going really well. I want you guys to be proud of me. That means a lot. I really scared your mom. It isn't easy, I can handle it.”
Me “You can handle anything you are a stubborn ass!”
Less than a month after this conversation my father was gone. My father was treated for alcoholism not for Post Traumatic Stress. He did alright without the drinking but he still felt like his demons were too much to face. He felt he had done what he was told to do in order to get his problems under control, yet he still was struggling with demons. He felt his only option for peace was to take his own life. My father was strong, courageous, and loyal. He felt that his demons were becoming too much to bare and he was afraid he would lose control and hurt someone. It kills me to think he thought this world was better off without him because that is the furthest thing from the truth. Anyone who personally knew my father has said they never saw it coming, but it did. Now, as a family, our only option is to help other first responders receive the help they need so their family never has to go through the hurt and loss my family will live with forever. I never want another kid to feel the pain I feel when I see a firetruck or hear an Eagles song. I will never be ashamed of the man I will always love and call Pops. I will remember him exactly as he was, a great husband to my mother, a great father to his 6 children, and a great leader