October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read and share stories to honor survivors whose lives have been changed by domestic violence.

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In memory of Gary Lee Wagner

One morning in September 2004, I was caring for my toddler when my mother called. It was odd, I thought at the time, because as an educator, she should have been with her class at the time. She asked if I was home and said she’d be right there.

Of course I was curious, but I had no thought that I may receive life-changing news. So when she parked and stepped out of her car, and I could see her face, I froze. My mom looked totally gray, as if she had thick makeup pasted on. She then proceeded to tell me that my beloved and adored dad had borrowed a rifle from my grandpa, gone up north to our family lake cabin, placed the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

I do not need to describe the shock, despair and anger that turned to despondency for a time. I think of him as only four years older than I am now, when he died. I think that he was drafted to Vietnam. That he never had a gun in the house. That he never hunted, unlike most fathers I knew. That he didn’t deserve to die.

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