I have been called a hero. I’ve been called strong, amazing, heroic. And I can say without the slightest of hesitation, I do not feel any of these things. It’s mystifying to me that anyone could ever identify me as a hero.
And why, you might ask, have I been identified as heroic? What feat of superhuman rescue did I perform?
I loved my daughter.
It doesn’t get more complex than that.
Perhaps I should give you some context. Because calling someone a hero for doing what they are supposed to do as a parent, seems just a little odd. My Father, after the death of my daughter, tearfully praised me for all I had done for her in the months leading up to her succumbing to the depression that ate away at her soul. That I had taken the time off of work, had stayed with her, walked with her, tried to help and heal her. He said it was heroic.
My friend called me amazing, and heroic, because after all our efforts to save her failed, I stood up and delivered her eulogy. I planned her funeral, I walked behind her casket, and I didn’t fall down.
Yet another friend called me heroic for being able to walk in to her room, and begin the process of sorting through her things. To seek people and places to donate my child’s belongings, just as I know she would want them to be used.
And even another called me Superman, for doing all these things, and for not falling apart completely.
To me, these are things that I can’t accept. Trying to help Amber through her depression, trying to save her life, that was nothing more than what I SHOULD have done as her father. Delivering her eulogy? She deserved nothing less than her father being willing to stand up and tell her story. And the rest? That’s just the sad aftermath, that all who lose a loved one must ultimately undertake.
But let’s pretend for a second, doing all of those things make me heroic. Let’s perpetuate that illusion for a second.
The only thing it means, is that I’m a failed hero. I’m the sad Superman, who despite rushing in to rescue, watches as his efforts fall apart. Hand desperately outstretched, trying to catch the falling victim, and missing.
The Superman who can’t fly, so he has to run to try to keep up with what he can’t catch. No super hearing or vision, no inhuman strength. Just a bent man in a crumpled cape placed on his shoulders by other people. Face in his hands, living with the regret of not being the superhero that he needed to be to get the job done.
Do I blame myself that I couldn’t save her? Do I cast fault at my own feet that my daughter chose to end her own life? No. The depression that consumed my beautiful child was something that even the real superman couldn’t defeat. It was the kryptonite of mental illness, and all efforts to change it met with failure.
But oh, how I wanted to be Superman. I wanted to stop the speeding bullets of her self-hatred. I wanted to stand in front of them and have them deflect off of me like nothing more than crumpled up pieces of paper. I wanted to have super vision so that I could see when she was harming herself, and I could swoop in to stop it.
I wanted to be able to travel “Faster than a locomotive” like Superman. Faster still, than the train that brought me home on that fateful day, so that I could have been there in time to stop it.
I could do none of those things. And although I don’t accept the fault, I don’t shoulder the blame for it, I live with the regret, that the enemy was stronger than me, the super-villian was too much, too powerful to be defeated.
I can’t wear the cape. I don’t deserve it, and capes are useless when you are unable to fly.