Getting personal: When life changes drastically in an instant

I have put off writing this post for quite sometime.  Each year, I plan to write it and post it in May.  Each year passes and I still don’t write it.  This is a hard post to write.  It gets very real and very emotional for me.  This is my story.
Remembering mom and dad
On Friday, May 13, 1994, my life changed forever.  It was a moment that I will forever remember the details of, even when everything else is a blur.  You see, my parents were getting a divorce.  March 13, my mom moved out and filed for divorce.  In April, right after Easter Sunday, my mom moved in and my dad moved out.  I remember getting an Easter card from my mom.  I don’t even remember my birthday that year, but I turned 15.  Every Thursday night, my mom would stay at her new boyfriend’s house and come home in the morning before work.  Every Thursday night, I would go sleep in her bed and wait for her to come home so I could give her a hug and tell her I love her.  I know, grow up, right?
One night, my dad called and kept asking me questions about my moms boyfriend.  I kept telling him, “It doesn’t matter, he’s not our dad, he’s not you..”  My dad kept asking.  Finally, I said – he’s fine, he’s nice to us.  But…he is not you!  Don’t worry about him dad I said.
On the night of May 12th, I told myself to grow up and I went and slept in my bed instead of my moms bed.  The morning of the 13th, I woke up to a sound.  Maybe growing up in the country and hunting with my dad taught me what that sound was – gunshots.  I sat there froze for a second.  I can’t tell you how I knew what happened, but I knew what happened, sort of anyways.  My youngest sister was sleeping nearby and woke up and said she was going to check it out.  That protective instinct came out and I told her to stay put.  My other sister, slept through it all.  While I was trying to decide what to do, my dad opened the door and said, “Shannon, get your sisters and leave.  Do not look in the garage. ”  So I did just that, full of fear and anger.
The way our house was set up, there was a porch between the house and the garage that connected the two.  We walked out to the porch to go outside, and my dad was standing there.  He hugged us and said, I love you.  I didn’t say a word.  Nothing.  Then he said, I know you don’t believe me Shannon, but I love you.  And then, my two younger sisters and I walked out the door not quite knowing what we were going to do, just that we were going next door.
While we were next door, SWAT showed up and surrounded the house, or at least that’s how I remember it.  I remember waiting and waiting, unsure what they were waiting for, after all, my dad had shot my mom and her boyfriend and they were in the garage dying.  Then it happened, a 3rd gunshot.  My dad had shot himself.
Living in a small town can either be wonderful or horrible.  In this case, it was a good thing.  We had a lot of support.  The school bussed people over from the school to support us.  My aunt and uncle were on their way from Minnesota.  My dad had called and told her to come get us, or at least that is what I remember.  There was a ton of support from friends, classmates and pretty much everybody else.
I remember bits and piece of the funeral.  There are moments I remember vividly and some I don’t remember at all.  Traumatic is an understatement.  I don’t remember a whole lot from growing up in Wisconsin.  I remember my very dear friend Katie, who, still to this day is my best friend.  I don’t remember moving to Minnesota, I don’t remember having a big old garage sale.  To be honest, there aren’t a lot of memories I have at all.  The mind is incredible that way I guess.  I remember my parents always playing softball with us.  I remember walking down to my moms work to have lunch with her.  I remember my dad driving his semi home and making us kids a deal.  If we cleaned it out, we could sleep in it.  That was awesome!
I spent years being so angry at everybody who still got to hug and kiss their parents.  I was so consumed with guilt that I didn’t sleep in my moms room that one last night, knowing that it wouldn’t have changed anything.  She didn’t make it into the house, I wouldn’t have gotten to kiss and hug her and tell her I love her that one last time.  The rest of my guilt, that was from not being able to hug my dad and tell him I loved him too.  That while I can’t understand why he did what he did, I still loved him.  He is and always will be my dad.  Despite what happened, I choose to remember the good, as little as I remember anyways.  I remember a lot of dinners ending with us slapping buttered bread into somebody’s face.  I remember our family trip to the Wisconsin Dells and being chased by a goat while I was on crutches.
I got over my anger and my guilt, mostly anyways.  It doesn’t consume me anymore.  Some days, it is still there.  After 20 years, my life seems pretty normal.  I have an amazing family and amazing people that without a seconds hesitation, took in 3 kids after their youngest had just moved out and raised us with as much love as they did their own kids.  Now, I have 2 more siblings because of that, and while they are actually my cousins, we are more like sisters and brothers and all of our kids get to grow up together.  So many worse things could have come from our situation, but I am so glad to be able to find the joy in the way our family is now. That wonderful aunt and uncle are now grandparents to my beautiful little babies.   I love my mom and dad, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them and wish they were still here and could meet and play with my babies, but for now, I focus on the good memories.
So tonight, hug your spouse, hug your kids just one more time.  When you feel like you are being ridiculous and smothering them, it’s okay, hug them again anyways.
Thank you for reading my story.  Everybody has a story and this is a big part of mine.


  • Lots of love to you today. I’m sure it must be hard remembering and sharing some of these things, but it’s also great that you can remember the good times you had as a family. xoxoxo
    Ruth V. recently posted…WINNERS 5/9-5/13My Profile

    • Thank you Ruth. This whole time of year is so hard with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day close by too. Tonight my sister is coming out with her daughter and we are all going to plant some apple trees.

  • Sending love to you today. I can’t begin to imagine your pain but I am so glad that your aunt and uncle were and still are there for you and your sisters.

  • Thank you for being brave and sharing.
    So many times the internet and bloggers just share the good stuff, the stuff they want to have seen, and not the broken, raw parts of our hearts. Know that I’m praying for you, your siblings, and your whole family today.
    I think a lot of times people forget that mother’s day and father’s day aren’t easy/fun days for everyone. For some it’s incredibly painful. Thank you again for being brave. Praying your heart continues to heal.
    Jessica @ThankfulForThorns recently posted…One Month.My Profile

    • I try so hard to keep my blog positive, but it is nice that it is my space and I can share whatever I want to, even things I”m afraid to share. I’m ever so grateful to be a mother now, because it makes Mother’s Day so much easier because there are so many reasons to celebrate.

  • Shannon, I’m not sure if you remember us? However I know you remember Grandpa & Grandma Johnson ( your next door neighbors) Grandpa is in heaven now, but Grandma is still alive and doing well. They both talked about you and your sisters and “that morning” that both wanted the best for you girls! We’ll just wanted to say “hey” and let you know that Darla and I will remember you all in our prayers!

    • I do remember you all. Thank you so much for this message. That is definitely one of the best things about growing up in a small town. I know that things like this are not forgotten.

  • Wow, I am so glad you choose to remember the good times with your families and know that you are most definitely building a secure and loving home for your own children!

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