On May 2, 2014 at approximately 8:20 pm my 19-year old walked to his car, climbed into the backseat, driver’s side, and put on his favorite song. The song that spoke to his heart. The song whose words echoed what his heart had been crying out with a silent voice. Nothing and Everything by the Christian Rock Group – Red.
You know, we all have roles in life. Mother, Wife, Soldier, Friend, Enemy, Son and if we forget who we truly are, those roles can become torture. The role can lock us in a box. And we think we are the Role.
This story is about the College Christian, my 2nd son, Brandon Tyler Williams—known to all his friends as “Ty”. You know teased him when he said that he wanted to go by “Ty”. “Ty”, why “Ty”—he was Brandon—Strong, dependable, reliable, trustworthy—Brandon. You know, I should have known that he would want to change his name—both his mother and his father had had their names legally changed in the past. His older brother eventually changed his name as well. So I wasn’t surprised that he come home, freshman year, and said….”I’m going by Ty”. I teased him, smiled and was secretly proud of him for stepping out of the Role I had put on him from the moment he was born.
His older brother, Gabriel, was my little angel—I had prayed for him many years before I even met his father. I know that if I had a boy child I would name him “Gabriel”— because a child is a gift from God. And having Gabriel, I felt, was God’s way of telling me that I was OK. Good enough to mother this baby Gabriel. But this is Ty’s story….
I tricked his father, you know. I wanted a 2nd child so badly… Gabriel needed a “little brother” (Ty’s first Role). I told his father, without being too graphic, I was going to change our method of birth control so I stopped the BCPs. Told him I’d go to the GYN and get another method, but didn’t . I wanted that little brother! Four days after I believe Ty was conceived, I took a home pregnancy test. You’re supposed to wait at least 1-2 weeks. But Ty demanded that we know he existed and the test read positive. I looked to his father, who as a Soldier, was supposed to be in the Field at the time, but decided to come home and surprised me. But I had a surprise for him……I looked to him to see if he was upset…. But he smiled and was just as happy as I. Brandon Tyler Williams, existed.
Being a good Soldier, I didn’t want my command to know that I was to have another baby so close after the first one—the thought that young Soldiers come into the Army and stay pregnant for their first 6 years…. I didn’t want that label so I didn’t say anything. I put my Rucksack on my back, with 40lbs of combat gear in the pack, and did a 12 mile foot march up and down the hills of Ft. Campbell- within the allotted 3 hours. I do not recommend that for any Solder! I was young and dumb. But I finished the Foot march with no pain and no problem…… It was then that I knew I would name him “Brandon”—my strong little Warrior, my little King (Ty’s second Role).
You know, as a single parent family—in the Army—I had roles…. I was Solder! I had to manage. Manage my finances, manage my family, manage my career—all while serving this Great Country and trying to live the Army values. I messed up plenty in the beginning, but my boys depended on me for survival. I depended on them too…. For that love that I had always long for. But this is Ty’s story.
In our Single Family, the roles were set… I and I guess by me. Since I was the head of my household.
I was Mother— the provider, not too strict—I believed in letting the child develop into who they wanted to become. Like a guide. Leading them down the path that I hoped they would take and guiding them back when they verged from that path. Loving them, protecting them. Treasuring them.
Gabriel’s role at the time seemed to the most challenging. He was the one I watched closely… As a kid, he liked to get into trouble. He was the one that I had to find alternate ways to take him to elementary because he kept getting kicked off the bus. I would have to take leave to say with him because he was put out of school a few times. It was crazy, because G was my shy, innocent, quiet child. He was a gift from God. God knows I’ve sent up a lot of prayers for Gabriel. I love him, my first born but I worried.
Brandon’s role was the peacemaker. He was the one who kept us up. He made us laugh when we were sad. He made us forget that we didn’t have it all. We had each other. We had love, but not a lot of money. But I worried about Brandon. When he was a toddler, if I didn’t hold his hand—he would dart off at any given moment. He sought out new adventures. He was always on the go. Always looking for more fun. “what’s next” might have been his motto—if I had to give him one. You know, he was lost at three. I was in Korea being a Sergeant. Brandon was at an amusement park… and somehow he darted off. And for 45min they searched for him. They couldn’t find him. They went to the “lost and found” area. There was Brandon, with a towel rapped around him saying “I tried to find you daddy, I couldn’t find you.”
I could have lost my little man at three. But thanks be to God (because I asked Brandon afterwards-who found him) for the lady in the yellow dress that took his hand and led him to the lost and found. For years I prayed for that lady and thank God for her existence at the time of Brandon’s need. When I came back from Korea and picked the boys up. I was more over protective than before. I kept my eyes on them. I watched their moods, I listened to their words. I planted a seed for the Love of God in each of the boys. We wrote a Family mission statement to guide us as a single family. I thought they we good. When B got older, and I let him go, I thought he would make it. He knew love. He knew God. He knew how to get along with others (something I have yet to master). He knew I loved him.
The College Christian
Ty went to IUPUI. He wanted to stay in Indianapolis, when we moved on to Hawaii, because he loved his school and his friends. And being in the Military, we moved about three years. Ty did so well in Indianapolis. He blossomed. Really it started when we were stationed at Ft. Lewis (before it became known and Joint base McCord/Lewis). Ty decided that he wanted to join the band and play a musical instrument. It took off from there. No more did he spend his time on the Play Station; he was out and about making friends. It continued when the Army moved us to Indianapolis. Ty joined the Cross Country team and he became that young man that I knew that was to his core. He became a Christian, he cleaned up his language, and he became a true leader. I was so proud of him! He was so loved! We always kept in touch. When he taught me FaceTime, I forgot how to just dial his number. I always wanted to see his face. And really, see his surroundings to ensure he was OK. I wanted to see his friends.
Something happened at IUPUI his first few months at school. Some of his friends know it. Whatever happened Sept-Oct 2012 drove my son to want to take his own life. He attempted Suicide by trying to hang himself in his dorm room, with his guitar cord.
He was a Military Dependent, with a Government ID card, and Tricare insurance. He was registered in DEERS, he was attending college on my GI Bill, I was his next of KIN, he was admitted to a hospital—that Tricare paid— but I had no knowledge that he was suicidal. The Doctors knew that he was on ADHD meds to help him study. Adding alcohol to ADHD medication could have depressed him more.
There are a few days in October 2012 that I can’t account for him. I know that I spoke with him on the 15th and he was playing pool with his buddies. It was “radio silent” after that until about the 19th of October. No Facebook up dates, no twitter updates. No answered calls from me. There was something on his Facebook referring to “cat’s eye”—where he would video news reports. I don’t know if that is a reference to what went on in October 2012. I know that he tweeted, up on his return, “it’s been a rough couple of days, and I’m just getting back to reality.”
November 4th(the day his father and I married in 1989—we eventually divorced) he wrote a suicide note.
November 9th he was admitted into the hospital for having tried to commit suicide. He was released on the 13th.
He then put messages on Facebook that had #dash#YOLO in his dorm room. His RA replied “classy”. That let me know that whatever #dash#YOLO was, it was not classy. So Ty was drinking and possibly inhaling a type of illegal substance utilizing a vaporizer. My son was crying out, but I couldn’t understand the language. He came home that Christmas and I noticed nothing different. He was the say little man that I had assigned the role to long ago. He didn’t say anything to me about his troubles because maybe, just maybe he didn’t want to disappoint me.
All this time that I thought that I was developing the boys to be who there would become, however, I had put them in a box and I labeled that box. I refused to see anything other than “my little man.” Brandon didn’t want to operate outside of the box I placed him in, because maybe it would have shattered my world. My baby could have done anything that he wanted to do, he could have experimented with and loved whomever he wanted to love. I would have loved him no less. In fact, he would have been living our family mission statement. Being true to himself. He didn’t feel that from me, he didn’t want to disappoint me.
2013 came and he spent more time in Church with is Christian friends. He drew closer to the Lord, and he was looking for acceptance. He confessed his struggles and somehow his confession was being publicized. The demons followed him. The demons would not let go. He could not find peace. And Ty felt that he was wearing a mask. He felt alienated from those around him and that the world was a cruel place that demanded too much from him.
I blame me. And the box that I put him in. and the fact that he didn’t know that nothing he could ever have done would disappoint me.
You know….. when I think about my son, I think of the Bible verse:
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
Even though Brandon was not an Angel—–He was my angel. He was mad at the world. He passed a room filled with his friends with a loaded gun. He know what he was going to.
He tweeted: “Stand strong where I was weak”. 1 hour before he walked past his friends.
On May 2, 2014 at approximately 8:20 pm my 19-year old walked to his car, climbed into the backseat, driver’s side, and put on his favorite song. The song that spoke to his heart. The song whose words echoed what his heart had been crying out with a silent voice. Nothing and Everything by the Christian Rock Group – Red. He put that gun to his head and fired. He was alone for 16 hours before his body was discovered.
His official date of death: May 3, 2014— the day before his 20th birthday.
If by his death, one of his friend’s lives is saved—– He would have died in Love. Brandon Tyler Williams died in Love.
And me….. My mind, my heart, my soul…. Is shattered because my Brandon is not here. But I must find my way back…. Because my Angel Gabriel is HERE and my miracle Annissa is HERE. But I know now, not to label and let them define their own roles is life.
This is my legacy of the College Christian.