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Irene Renee Petit

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Just One Second (About my Son and his Suicide)
By Irene Renee Petit
Sunday, August 04, 2002

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From the time he was in my womb until the day he died, I had the 'DREAMS'--the dreams warning me that my son, MJ, would die at a young age. Although they disturbed me, I tried to ignore them, thinking the dreams were caused by a mother's worry about her only son. I had a pretty good pregnancy, although the first and only time I got a migraine headache and developed allergies was when I was pregnant with him. I also had to take a prescription medication because of morning sickness that lasted the first six months of my pregnancy. Other than that, MJs birth was an easy one, which I expected because MJ was my second child.

MJ was a wonderful baby. He hardly ever cried and was fascinated with his older sister, and then his younger sister, who arrived in 1980. We were an Air Force family, so we traveled a lot. We spent three years in Turkey and one year in Spain. MJ loved anything having to do with nature and the outdoors. Our only real problem as he was growing up was his abusive, controlling, intimidating father, who just happened to be an AF Cop. Not only did he abuse me, but my children as well. (MJ more than the girls) He never held MJ, and never had a kind word for him. As a matter of fact, one day when MJ was about six years old, he came running to me in tears and asked, "Mommy, how come my Daddy doesn't do things with me like my friends' Daddies do?" I held my son and cried with him, feeling his pain as though it were my own.

Another tragic event that occurred during his childhood was in 1985. He and his older sister were arguing about what movie they were going to watch on the VCR. MJ was standing approximately 16 feet away from her when he picked up a pen and just threw it, not aiming at anything in particular. As fate would have it, the pen landed right in his older sister's eye. We were stationed in Turkey at the time, so his sister and I were med-evacked to Germany immediately--there was nothing they could do to save her sight. When I called home that evening and spoke with MJ, he cried hysterically as he told me about how badly Daddy had beaten him up. I felt so very helpless, as I was in Germany and my dear son was in Turkey. To this day, I wonder if it would have made a difference if my ex had taken the time to see the pain and guilt MJ was going through, instead of beating his own little boy up.

When stationed in Spain, I began to drink very heavily, sometimes to the point where I didn't even remember walking home from the bar. I was very unhappy with my marriage. What hurt more than being abused, and hearing my children crying for Daddy to stop hitting Mommy, was coming home from work only to find my children sobbing as they told me Daddy had beaten them up again. They'd pull up the backs of their shirts and show me the huge red hand-prints inflicted upon them by their father. That was it! I'd had ENOUGH! My kids were my life, and I refused to stay with a man who could be so heartless as to beat up on his own small children! One day in 1986 I woke up with a terrible hangover, stumbled to the bathroom, and took a good look at myself in the mirror. "This isn't YOU," I said to myself. I had never been a heavy drinker, and knew that I had to get away from him immediately, for my children's sake. I especially worried about MJ--I worried that he would grow up thinking it was OK to hit women and/or children.

I finally decided I'd had enough of my ex-husband's abuse. I quit drinking, then made arrangements to leave. I packed only our clothes and a few toys, bundled up my kids, then left. We decided to move back to Florida, where all three of my children were born. It wasn't easy raising three kids by myself, but in the long-run, it was the best decision I ever made. MJ was so much happier after the escape from his abusive father. He finally had the chance to be a normal little boy. We taught each other how to fish, and he was always out in the woods or by one of the streams or bayous, bringing snakes, lizards, or turtles home. He didn't care that we were poor--none of my kids did. They were finally happy, and that's all that mattered to me. In 1989 I bought a house, a VA repo, by myself. MJ was so proud of me. He helped me plant all the trees that still stand in that yard...palms, oaks, pecan and citrus trees. He took great pride in making things grow and planted sunflower seeds every year, including this year, 1999, his last year on earth.

Just when we thought things were finally getting better for the four of us, a very traumatic event occurred to my children. I found out (after three unbearable headaches) that I had a cerebral aneurysm that was about to burst. After the third headache, I was rushed to an excellent hospital, where I underwent emergency brain surgery on September 13th, 1990. "My poor children!" was all I could think as the surgeon told me what an aneurysm was and the risks involved. I looked at him and said, "Hey--I don't give up THAT easily!" Before wheeling me into surgery, I kissed my children's tearstained cheeks. "Don't worry," I told them. "Mommy's gonna be OK." My father leaned over to kiss me and tears filled his eyes when he whispered into my ear, "You can't die! I'm supposed to go before you!" Then I heard a chaplain saying, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." I rudely interrupted. "DAD," I slurred, "GET HIM OUTTA HERE! I'M NOT GONNA DIE!" And I didn't die, although I was supposed to. The surgeon told me later that it was a miracle I'd survived because the aneurysm burst just as he was getting ready to clamp it and I'd suffered three strokes. MJ made me laugh when he saw me for the first time after the surgery. "Mama," he said, "You look like the bride of Frankenstein with all those metal staples in your head!" My father was right though, the parent is supposed to go before the child. Therefore, I ask why? Why was I kept alive to suffer through the death of my only son?

As MJ got older, I noticed he'd occasionally developed a bit of a temper--never with me, but mostly with his older sister. One of his teachers told me she thought he had Attention Deficit Disorder, so I took him to a psychiatrist who started him on Ritalin. That seemed to help with his grades, which had been falling, but not much with his rare temper. His psychiatrist tried many different medications to help control MJ's temper, but I don't believe he ever took any of them long enough to give them a chance to work. To make matters worse, alcoholism ran on both sides of his family, along with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and anxiety disorder on his father's side. Who knows? What was inherited in his genes could have been a contributing factor to his suicide. However, I believe the abuse his father put him through is more of a contributing factor. MJ didn't lose his temper often, but when he did, there was always a new hole punched into the wall--he would punch a wall or a door rather than hit his sister. He had confided to me many times that he felt very guilty about the loss of vision in his sister's eye. Because the eye that wasn't blinded had to do all the work, she could barely see out of her good eye. She would constantly get on his case about it, which always led to an argument. She blamed him for her injury, even though he'd never intended for the pen to land in her eye. However, most of the time MJ was very pleasant and easy to get along with. He had a great sense of humor, and was extremely sensitive, creative, and intelligent.

Then MJ was a teenager, and a VERY handsome, charming, and witty one at that! Girls called him so often that I eventually had to get him his own phone line. However, he always let me know that I was his 'Number One Girl.' We were so very close and could talk about anything. He not only bought me Mother's Day cards, but Father's Day cards as well! We would sit together and watch The Learning Channel, Discovery, and any type of show that taught us something new and gave us something to think about. He was very spiritual and philosophical, as I am, and we used to talk about what it must be like after we die. However, I NEVER told him about the dreams because I didn't want to worry him.

The years came and went and MJ grew into a fine young man. He was dependable, compassionate, and loving. When he was 20, his girlfriend became pregnant. MJ was very much in love with her. He was the type of man who fulfilled his obligations. He and his girlfriend found an apartment not too far from my house. During her pregnancy, and even after she bore the son MJ so dearly loved, he would call me in the middle of the night, crying because of problems with her. So I'd tell him to come over, and we'd sit and talk for hours until he felt better.

I hadn't had the "DREAMS' for a few years, and I was very relieved about that. Then, on the morning of June 14th, 1999, I woke up feeling very irritated. I'd dreamt that a very important man in my life was going to leave me. I thought it was my new husband, who I'd just married on April 30th, 1999, and who, by the way, MJ loved. He was thrilled that I'd finally found a NICE guy! However, the dream didn't reveal who the man was. I was grouchy all that morning. I went to the Bargain Box, my favorite thrift-shop, and was haunted by a feeling that something just wasn't right. Then, I went to my youngest daughter's home. While there, my oldest daughter called--she was crying and told me to wait there, as she was coming over. Soon, an unfamiliar car pulled up, and my daughter and a woman I didn't recognize came into the house and told me to sit down. I looked at them, confused, and said, "NO! What do you have to tell me?" Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear my daughter's next words. "MJ's dead," she cried, "He shot himself in the head this morning!" I glanced over at the lady, who I later learned was from the Sheriff's Department. I very calmly replied, "No he's not. I just saw him last night. I visited him and the baby after I watched Touched By an Angel--he's fine!" My daughter became even more hysterical, screaming that it was true . My youngest daughter started crying, then ran out the front door screaming, and that was when reality sank in. At first all I could say was, "NO! NO! NO!" When the lady from the sheriff's department nodded her head yes, I ran down the hall, still screaming, "NO, NO, NO!" until I reached the bedroom. I fell to my knees and punched the mattress on the bed while still screaming, "NO!" The rest of that first week is a blur.
Eventually, MJ's girlfriend explained what happened during the moments before MJ's death. She had been out with another guy the night before until 4 AM while MJ waited up for her. He confronted her about it, and she eventually told him where she'd been. MJ went to work at 6 AM, but came back home around 9AM because he was so upset. He asked her who the guy was, but she wouldn't say. MJ went for his gun, intending to scare her into telling him who the 'other' guy was. He kept asking, but she wouldn't tell him a name. MJ propped the rifle up against his forehead...still, she wouldn't tell him...she said nothing happened, that they just kissed. Then MJ began counting down from twenty, waiting for a name...the last number she heard him say was "17", then the gun went off.

I know my son didn't intend for things to go as far as they did. It happened during a moment of pure rage...he wasn't thinking rationally. Everyday, I ask myself questions like, "Why did he have to keep a gun in the house? Why couldn't he have stopped to think rationally for just one second?" Just One Second is all it would have taken for him to drop the gun, get in his car, and come to talk to me, like he usually did when he was feeling stressed-out. I often wonder if the fact that I didn't get him away from his abusive father earlier than I did might have also been a contributing factor. MJ carried so much anger and guilt with him throughout his life, which is what I believe led him to this irrational act. He always promised that he would NEVER do anything to hurt me, so I don't believe he intended it to go as far as it did.

Hopefully MJ's story will help other victims of domestic violence, especially those with young children, to become aware of the permanent damage their children could possibly suffer when they're grown. All I have left now of my precious son is enough ashes to fit into a locket.

My tears sprinkled his ashes as I spread them around the trees we planted together. I also put some in his favorite childhood stream. He is one with the Earth, as he would have wanted it to be. As for me, now all I can do is go through the motions of living, missing and loving MJ every second. Thank God I married my husband, Dave, when I did. He has been so very supportive, understanding, and compassionate. If not for him, I don't know how I would have made it through this, a parent's worse nightmare.

As for the dreams, I've had numerous precognitive dreams that have come true . Some people say they're a gift from God. But I can they be considered a gift if I have no control over their outcome? I suppose the dreams about my son were meant to be warning dreams. Sad to say, but nothing can prepare a parent for the loss of a child...NOTHING!

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Reviewed by Dave 8/15/2002
A prejudiced review, Darling (I AM your husband)
This is a remarkable story. You've managed to tell a life story in just a few paragraphs. Of course I have heard all of this straight from your lips but while reading it I relived the experience and once again went through the suffering with you. MJ and I, and Nick, would have been great friends. I was honestly looking forward to MJ calling me Dad, like Amanda and Renee do.
Your writing is a thing of beauty, keep it up and give pleasure to all who are fortunate enough to read it.
Reviewed by Tova Gabrielle 8/7/2002
Very powerful story. (If you want to condense the first part, it may be more marketable). The dreams are particularly interesting. This piece took great courage and love for the world to write and deserves to be tightened up because the matter is so powerful that it need not be over-worked. It will relate to many families, as it seems that most families with three or more children face one of them falling between the cracks. I know. Thank You and blessings; may the balance be restored to all.
Reviewed by Masarat Daud 8/6/2002
I don't have to comment whether this piece was "good" or "excellent" or just anything. Nothing can surpass the fact that it is a very honest piece of writing that comes with a lot of courage from the depth of your heart. We all face our share of sadness and it comes in many ugly forms. Losing MJ can never be repaired but may God give you the strength to just keep moving on and to find happiness...
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 8/5/2002
((((HUGS)))) my dear, for the tragic loss of your son, MJ...i pray you find comfort and peace soon. (((HUGS))), karla. :(
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 8/5/2002
awww, geez. HOW AWFUL for you!! sweetie, you have my prayers and my thoughts. you have gone through so much hell; no one should have to go through what you have had to endure!! irene, may jesus comfort you in your loss; and let it be known that i pray that he gives you a sense of peace and comfort that passes all understanding. may he comfort you in your loss. i love you, irene, and you are *MOST DEFINITELY* in my prayers!!! ((((((HUGS)))))), your friend in texas, karen lynn.

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