Get here, but don’t drive, said the hospital worker’s voice over the phone. At that moment, Clarena Tobon knew her mother was dead, or dying.
It was a Friday in July, six years ago, and Tobon had spoken to her mom, Maria Guevara, that morning. Her mother had been struggling with depression and other mental health issues, but that Wednesday Tobon had assured her, she would pick her up and move her into her home in Illinois.
Instead Guevara, 38, drove into a lake and died.
“To think that, to her, it was so bad here that she felt the need to do what she did is scary, because you think you would never leave your children,” said Tobon, 26, of Fort Hood.
Since then, the Army wife and mother of three said she has spent countless hours wondering what more she could have done to save her mother from suicide.
“You will always and forever feel that guilt. It will never go away,” she said. “You’ll never get that answer. You’ll never get that why. You have to learn to live with the why.”
Bernie McGrenahan, the comedian behind Happy Hour: Comedy with a Message, speaks at military installations about his brother, who committed suicide at 19 years old. McGrenahan has worked with Fort Hood for about five years and spoke to troops last week.
“The bullet didn’t just go through my brother that day,” McGrenahan said. It went through the entire family.
“There are always children involved, parents involved and relatives. There are many people left to feel guilty,” he said.
Tobon, who moved to Fort Hood about seven months ago from Alaska, attended the show. She hopes to one day to reach out to others, too.
“When I say suicide, people will stop and stare ... because it’s such a scary word,” she said. “When you think suicide, you think of the suicide. ... You don’t put the person and the being behind it. They were a person and they were loved. So when you put the person out there, that’s when you start to realize the suicide isn’t who they are. It’s just how it ended. But everything they were and what they did is what really makes it something. It’s what makes it meaningful.”
In Alaska, Tobon began to attend a survivors of suicide support group, and she said she would like to see one started at Fort Hood. “I can’t even explain to you the feeling of looking at someone and them understanding the pain that your feeling,” Tobon said. “I know they’re out there. ... You never know who’s going to have that in their family. It’s hard to know that there’s nothing around here like (support groups.)”
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.