“It felt like the whole county knew”

Surviving the loss of a parent made me realize the impact of a life
August Moss looking at a family photo. Photo by Rebekah Bushmire
August Moss looking at a family photo. Photo by Rebekah Bushmire

Editor’s Note: The following story contains topics including mention of substance abuse, suicide and domestic abuse. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or crisis, help is available – contact the suicide hotline at 988. If you are experiencing substance abuse or crisis, help is available – contact the hotline at (855) 565-3568. If you are experiencing domestic violence, help is available – contact the domestic violence hotline at (706) 376-7111.

No one expects to lose someone to suicide. It isn’t something you think about, that the person you love could want to leave you in this world alone. But it happens far too much to think it could never happen to you. I thought it would never happen to me, and I was wrong.

When I was fifteen, I lost my father to suicide. 

Perspective

My dad struggled with a lifetime of mental illness. From his teenage years into his twenties and thirties, he experienced several accidents that resulted in brain damage. His mother died from cancer after refusing chemo treatment when he was forty-five. He had an on-and-off struggle with substance abuse. He was a victim of alcoholism and trauma, because of this, he wasn’t always the best dad.

Even so, knowing the perspective of his life experience has led me to realize what I experienced with him was not my fault, or even his fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. He was my dad all the same, and losing him was, and still is, the most difficult thing I have ever experienced.

Photo from a family trip to Jekyll Island in 2010.

What happens after? 

I don’t think people thinking of suicide really take into consideration what happens afterwards. Someone has to find you. Thankfully, it wasn’t any one of my family members, but a police officer. I could not imagine how traumatic it would be to find your loved one having taken their own life. 

On the night my father died, the coroner took his body to the morgue at 6 a.m., four hours after he was found dead. My family and I couldn’t re-enter our home for weeks until the crime scene cleaners had cleaned what was left. Where he died, my mom couldn’t access her clothing, toiletries or makeup. We relied on the donations of others to get her the things she needed. Thankfully, our community and extended family came through with making sure she had everything she needed. Even though she was gifted items, quite a few of her clothes and sentimental items were destroyed and had to be thrown away. She didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to those items. 

We weren’t able to live in our home again for two months.

Legal proceedings

The events that lead to my father’s suicide was a police stand off triggered by a domestic violence event. At 9 p.m., I called 911 for help. The stand off lasted over six hours. Six hours my mother, my sister, me and our two dogs spent in a car in the Publix parking lot. 

Police from both Peachtree City and Fayetteville responded to the call along with several paramedics, SWAT teams and fire engines. At around 2:30 a.m., all of the vehicles in the parking lot disappeared and we were left alone. We weren’t notified of anything until a half hour later when the cars came back, and an officer informed my mom that my dad had taken his life. 

The police confiscated everything on my dad’s body, along with the weapons in the closet with him. They had his wallet, keys and three guns. 

A week went by before we were notified to pick up the items in holding, we received the items back to us in the same manner they had been picked up. They were not cleaned.

“They were not cleaned.”

— August Moss

Due to the stand off, police had to gain entry to our family home in any way possible. Even though our side door was open and unlocked, they used a backhoe to smash in our front kitchen window, my moms bedroom window and our screened in porch. In the process of this, a significant amount of our furniture and items were damaged. My bike was on the front porch, and was destroyed beyond recognition. 

When we picked up my dad’s belongings, we called the Fayette County police chief to ask if there was any kind of settlement we could receive from the excessive amount of damage done to our home, in which we were told all damage to the property fell on my dad.

My life after.

Photo of grandma “Rene” Moss and father Gordon Moss dated Oct. 29 2004.

He died in the second week of my sophomore year. The morning after, my teachers were informed about what happened. It felt like the whole county knew. I received phone calls from current teachers, middle school teachers and community members the entire day. I let them all go to voicemail. 

We moved in to my grandparents’ home with whatever belongings we could access while our house was being renovated. Five of us and two dogs lived in two bedrooms and one office cot. It was cramped, and it just wasn’t our home.

I returned to school a week later on a Wednesday. That day was the most difficult day I’ve experienced at McIntosh. It took everything in me not to fall apart when teachers gave sympathetic eyes, told me school work could wait and that if I needed anything I could talk to them. 

The hardest part of that day was chorus. We had started a new song for our spring concert titled “Travlin’ Home” by Andrea Ramsey. The lyrics reminded me of my dad. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears and hope no one would notice. 

“My soul now seeks another home, a brighter world on high.  I’m a long time traveling’ here below, I’m a long time travelin’ away from home, I’m a long time traveling’ here below to lay this body down. Home, sweet home, my long sought home, in heaven on high.”

I wondered if he was at peace. I hoped that the pain of his addiction that held him down on earth was lifted.

I wondered if he was at peace. I hoped that the pain of his addiction that held him down on earth was lifted. 

— August Moss

None of my friends or teachers knew how I was going to be after. I tried not to shut myself off in depression, and stay the happy-cheery person I was before. I was commended for my attitude and commitment. I didn’t feel worthy of that praise. Eventually, I was able to make it through school days without losing my mind. We got back into our home in October, and life at the very last had routine. I managed to make the honor roll that year.  

Two years later

Grief never stops. There is no such thing as “acceptance.” It doesn’t get better, it just gets easier to cope. I’m two months away from graduating, and I still think about my dad every single day. He’s missed my first school dance, prom, meeting boyfriends, awards I’ve won, shows I’ve been in, accomplishments I’ve reached. He’ll miss my graduation, my wedding, my siblings starting families and lives.

Author John Green, in a Mythical Kitchen Episode said, “I wanted to keep living because I wanted to see what happens.”

My dad won’t see what happens. He won’t dance with me at my wedding to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella.”

Suicide is not something that just effects the person committing it. My family and I are affected for the rest of our lives. Everyone in reach of us will be affected by our story and lives for the rest of their days. The police officers invested in our case will be followed by our faces in grief. The 911 operator won’t forget my cries as I told him, “I’m just fifteen.”

Your life, whether you recognize it or not, affects hundreds of people. You matter today, tomorrow and yesterday more than you’ll ever know. Taking your life from this world is doing this world a disservice for what change your story will bring. 

Editor’s Note: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or crisis, help is available – contact the suicide hotline at 988. If you are experiencing substance abuse or crisis, help is available – contact the hotline at (855) 565-3568. If you are experiencing domestic violence, help is available – contact the domestic violence hotline at (706) 376-7111.













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About the Contributor
August Moss
August Moss, Staff
August Moss is a first year Trail staffer and in her second year on the Legend yearbook staff, this year operating as senior editor. Moss is a Georgia REACH scholar. She served in the McIntosh theater department as stage manager for “Something Funny Happened On the Way to the Regional One Act Competition” and “Mamma Mia.” She served on crew for “She Kills Monsters” and “Footloose.” She acted in “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Very Still and Hard to See.” She was a Thespian Officer for the 2022-2023 school year. She was a volunteer member with the SAYA program for 2020-2021. She has served as a Sources Of Strength member since 2021 and this year she is a leader on the leadership team. Moss has many passions, but her faith trumps them all. You’ll find her singing in her church's worship band, serving in the children's ministry and always carries her bible full of notes with her.
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  • Grace LovejoyMar 30, 2024 at 2:28 pm

    I’m so so proud of how far you’ve come and all the work you have done for the trail this year.

    Reply
  • Shanon WoolfMar 28, 2024 at 4:48 pm

    August, I’m so proud to know you. The bravery it took to tell your story is profound. How lucky I am to be part of your journey.

    Reply
  • Mikayla CarrinoMar 28, 2024 at 11:41 am

    August is the strongest person I know. Everyday she gives me a reason to look up to her even more. I am forever proud of you.

    Reply
  • CoJoMar 27, 2024 at 6:18 pm

    I’m inspired by your strength August Miss. thanks for sharing.

    Reply