MidReal Story

Echoes of Redemption

Scenario: When I was a toddler, a drug-addled homeless woman ran up to my father, ripped me from his embrace, and sprinted away. She knew she couldn’t physically stop my father from jumping off the overpass, but thanks to her, I didn’t die with him.
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When I was a toddler, a drug-addled homeless woman ran up to my father, ripped me from his embrace, and sprinted away. She knew she couldn’t physically stop my father from jumping off the overpass, but thanks to her, I didn’t die with him.
I’m not sure why I came here tonight.
I’ve been avoiding this place for years.
But I couldn’t help myself.
I had to see it one more time.
The overpass where my father died.
The place where my life changed forever.
I was only a kid when it happened, but I remember everything like it was yesterday.
It was raining that night, and I was in the backseat of the car, staring out the window at the dark clouds overhead.
My father was driving, and my mother was in the passenger seat, talking to him about something that didn’t interest me.
I don’t remember what they were saying, but I remember how they looked at each other when they spoke, like they were the only two people in the world who mattered.
What I didn’t know then was that bad things happen all the time, even to good people like my parents.
And on that night, the worst possible thing happened to us.
My father drove us onto the overpass and stopped the car in the middle of the road.
He turned off the engine and opened his door, stepping out into the rain and slamming it shut behind him.
I watched him through the window as he walked around the front of the car to the passenger side, and when he opened the door, my mother got out and stood beside him on the road.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could see that they were both crying, and I knew that something terrible was about to happen.
I opened my door and stepped out of the car too, and I heard my mother say, “I love you,” to my father.
And I heard him say it back to her.
And then I heard her say, “Please don’t do this.” And I saw my father turn to look at me as he said, “I have to.”
And then he climbed over the guardrail and stood on the edge of it, facing us one last time.
He had planned his suicide for months.
He had spent hours at this location, learning everything about it so he could plan every detail with precision.
He had hired people to record his death from every possible angle so there would be no doubt about what had happened.
He had even bought a new suit—the one he was wearing that night—so my mother wouldn’t have to bury him in his old work clothes.
He was a good man, but more than that, he was meticulous and thorough, and he had made sure this would go exactly as planned.
For weeks leading up to this night, he had been acting strange.
He spent all his free time with me, taking me to movies and museums and parks around the city.
He seemed like he was trying to make up for lost time, even though I didn’t know what we had lost in the first place.
But as soon as we got here, I knew what he had been preparing for all those weeks.
He was going to kill himself on this overpass in order to save our family from financial ruin.
He didn’t want us to suffer because of his death.
But I didn’t want him to die at all.
And I think my mother felt the same way, because when she saw my father standing on the edge of the guardrail, she tried to run toward him, but I grabbed her hand and held onto it tight so she wouldn’t go after him.
As my father stood there looking at us in the rain, a news crew arrived with cameras flashing and people shouting.
It was hard to hear anything over the noise of the cars driving by on the road below us, but I heard my father say, “Are you ready?”
And I heard my mother say, “Please don’t do this,” again.
And I heard a man in the crowd shout, “Jump!”
And then I heard my father say, “Ethan, look at what I made for you,” as he held up a sign with giant letters written on it in black marker.
“Everything will be okay.”
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My father climbed up onto the guardrail then, and I remember thinking that he looked like a superhero in his suit with his arms stretched out to his sides.
He was going to fly off the overpass and save our family from destruction all by himself with no help from anyone else, because that was just the kind of person he was.
And then he jumped from the overpass into the air below him…and he fell so fast…
The news crew caught his suicide on camera and broadcasted it live to millions of people around the world as my mother screamed his name and tried to run after him.
She dragged me along with her as we ran across the road toward the guardrail, but I didn’t want to go over there—I didn’t want to see what would happen next—and I dug my heels into the ground so she couldn’t pull me any closer to him than we already were.
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The sign my father made for me was too far away for me to see it clearly—and even if I had been able to see it, I wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway—but my mother could read it because she was older than me and knew how to do things I couldn’t yet do for myself.
She let go of my hand then and ran over the guardrail—and I knew I had been right all along.
She was a superhero too, just like my father.
She was going to fly off the overpass and save him before anything bad happened to him…and then everything would be okay.
But the cars on the road were driving so fast—it was hard for them to stop in time when they saw the flashing red lights of the police cars—and one of them crashed into another one because they were trying so hard not to hit my mother as she ran across the street looking up at my father in the air.
And the other cars honked their horns at her as she ran in front of them too, but she didn’t stop—she just kept on running toward him—because she had been trained never to give up on the people she loved.
I don’t think my mother saw the other cars coming towards her until it was too late.
Maybe she thought they would stop for her because they could see what was happening and how important it was for her to get to him before it was too late.
But I saw them coming even though I didn’t want to—I saw that they weren’t going to stop—and I tried to warn her by calling out her name as loud as I could so she would know that she wasn’t alone.
But I guess the cars were so loud that she couldn’t hear me over their engines, and I guess she couldn’t see me either because her eyes were fixed on my father in the air as she ran toward him.
And then I saw her slip on something as she stepped onto the guardrail herself—and I heard her scream my father’s name one last time before she fell off the overpass into space like a superhero without a cape…or a safety net…or a way back home.
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And then everything went quiet.
I tried to run after them to help them but my feet wouldn’t move—I knew it wasn’t safe to go out into the street until all the cars had stopped—and my hands were shaking so bad that I couldn’t even hold onto the guardrail anymore.
And then I saw my father hit the ground beneath me—and everything went red.
The paramedics said that he died on impact—that he hadn’t felt anything—that he hadn’t even known what had happened until it was already over.
I don’t think he ever got to read the sign that the police found next to my bed after it was all over.
But my mother—she read it.
And she just kept on screaming.
When they finally let me out of the hospital so I could go home again, my father wasn’t there.
My mother said he had gone to heaven to be with God and watch over us from afar.
She said that he loved me and that he would always be a part of me.
But all I could think about was how much he must have hated me if he had been willing to leave me behind.
Even after I went to therapy and talked about how guilty I felt for not being able to save him—or for not being able to save her, either—the only thing I could feel was his absence.
And even though it was always there, it never got any easier…no matter how hard I tried.
He had been a part of my life for as long as I could remember—my first love, my first hero, my first friend.
And he was gone now, just like that—vanished into thin air—without a trace—forever.
The doctors said that it wasn’t my fault—that no one could have survived a fall from that height—that his death had been inevitable from the very beginning.
But they didn’t know what they were talking about because there was a whole network of ropes and ladders hanging from the ceiling in the building where we lived—and he had always said that if you believed in yourself enough, anything was possible.
I never believed in myself enough to go up there and see if it was true, though—and he knew that too because he had told me so many times before.
He had told me everything would be okay as long as we were together—and now we weren’t together anymore.
We would never be together again…and nothing would ever be okay again either.
So when the therapist asked me why I thought he had done it, I said it was because he didn't love me anymore.
And when she asked me why he had left a sign behind, I said it was because he wanted us to leave him alone.
And when she asked me why he had gotten so mad at me before he went away, I said it was because he thought it was all my fault.
But she said that wasn't true—and she said he wasn't angry either.
She said he loved me very much and that he had only wanted to help me see how much he loved me too.