It’s been a month since Denny died. So I think it’s time for me to finish up what actually happened in those few days. I’m feeling sick just thinking about it. I don’t know why. Because I talk about it all of the time. It’s therapeutic to talk about it. But for some reason putting it into writing solidifies it. It’s like that feeling when you drop on a roller coaster. That’s what my stomach feels like as I write this. Except it doesn’t go away. It’s like I just keep dropping.
It was around 2 when two Police Officers came to my door. I love “True Crime,” and Crime TV shows. I know what it means when two cops come to your door. It’s not good. I know this. It’s kind of just common knowledge, right? But I didn’t even have a glimpse of a thought that this was bad. I thought they were coming to get more info, ask me questions. I don’t know. Anything but that. I didn’t even imagine that could be a possibility.
It was me, my girls, my sister Jessi, my aunt Heidi, and my neighbor/great friend Jeni. I invited the officers in. “Come on in! Please have a seat!” I said. They looked at me like I was crazy but came in the door. Jeni left so that I could have time to talk with them. No one assumed anything bad at all at this point.
The officers stood just a few feet in from the door and didn’t seem to want to come in. So I stood near them and asked what I could do for them. “Mrs. Bates, I’m afraid we have some bad news.” I remember these words. My mind started racing. What? No. Wait… what? What could they be talking about? He’s drunk. They found him wasted or crashed or he’s in the hospital.
“Wha… Um… Did you find him?”
“Yes. We found him.”
Now I don’t remember exactly what he said at this point. This is where it gets blurry. It’s like my brain was being flooded by a giant fast waterfall and I couldn’t hear, see, think, breathe. But basically they told me he was found in his car with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
My sister jumped up to hold me. I fell into her arms. The Officer started saying a ton of things. I don’t remember any of it except for him saying several times to Jessi, “You’ll have to tell her this because she won’t remember.”
I think I just said “No. No. No.” Over and over and over again. It was filling my brain and I couldn’t stop my head from shaking back and forth and I couldn’t stop myself from saying it.
I fell to the floor. And I couldn’t breathe. Try being punched in the gut and losing your breath multiplied by ten. I was practically gasping for air. Winnie ran over to me almost immediately and wrapped me up in a hug. She said, “It’s okay Mommy. Daddy’s coming home soon.” That was another punch. I fell again and sobbed.
This all happened in less than a minute. Heidi grabbed Winnie. She took her out the door without a jacket or shoes. The officers handed some papers to Jessi and Piper crawled up to me and was climbing on me and fussing. I think I asked the cops a question or two and then they left. I am pretty sure I thanked them when they left so at least I know I’m polite when I’m in shock.
Jessi asked me what I wanted her to do and I asked her to start calling people. My dad, my sister Gabi who was in Iceland, I can’t remember who else. I called his mom immediately. She almost screamed into the phone when I told her. I asked her to call the siblings. I didn’t want to have to tell her that. But I wanted her to know before anyone else. I then called Thom, his best friend, and the only other person who I believe knows even close to as much about Denny as I do. The only person who has been around Denny almost daily for 15 years. I don’t even remember what he said to me. But I knew it would break him like it broke me and like it broke Denny’s mom.
It’s weird how often God places people in your path at the right time. Denny’s boss, Clint, one of the men Denny admired the absolute most, had called me earlier and said he was coming to visit that day. I had told him about the situation the day before and he was so understanding and showed so much love towards Denny. Clint kept telling me how everyone deals with stuff, there’s no judgment, Denny’s not in danger of losing his job, and he just wants to help him however he can. That is a good man. I understand why Denny aspired to be like him.
I feel it was God’s influence when Clint and his wife showed up within minutes of the Police leaving. I was alone. Jessi has gone out to help Heidi get Winnie situated. I had finished talking to Thom. I was just sitting there. They came in and saw me and I honestly don’t remember what I told them. But they both gave me hugs and we all sat and cried together for what seemed like forever. This kind couple went through all of those initial emotions with me and let me feel them with no judgment, let me express my anger and sadness and heartbreak with only love returned. I’m so grateful they were there at that time. They were people I hardly knew but exactly who I needed.
Many people visited throughout the evening. I don’t even remember all of them. I do remember when the detective came by. She came with a young officer. The detective looked tough but kind. And she was. You probably have to be to deal with stuff like this.
She asked to speak with me privately, just her and the officer. We went into my bedroom since there were several people in the living room. She sat on my bed with me and talked with me. She told me more of the details of how he was found. She told me what they found in the car with him, including notes, which I will one day share. She talked about the medical examiners office and what would happen with the car he was in. She told me an investigation would be done that would take up to six months including the toxicology report. It was weird how I would go from smiling and pleasantries to sobbing. But I had already sobbed so much that day that my eyes were too dry to put out any tears. It was a strange and uncomfortable feeling.
March 23, 2019 was easily the worst day of my life. Something I couldn’t even imagine happening came true. I never even would have said it was my worst fear because I wouldn’t have thought of this as a possibility in any way. It wasn’t anything I could even comprehend until it actually happened.
I hate it. I hated that day. I always will. But here we are one month out and I’m functioning. I’m snuggling my Winnie in bed and she’s falling asleep while I write this. I have had endless numbers of people helping in every possible way and I am here. I am alive. I get out of bed every day. I take care of my girls. We even have dance parties and play silly games. I may only be surviving because I have to for my daughters. But I am. And that’s more than anyone can even ask of me right now.
Here is a video of Denny being the cutest dad and a recent video of Winnie not appreciating my dance moves because her face is priceless.