This isn’t easy, but it is necessary. This is the prelude to the beauty of the awesome gift God gave my father through art. A gift that opened many opportunities and doors to him in life, a gift he shared with every stroke of his brush, every line of his etchings, every color he skillfully and loving laid down on canvas and paper. But it too is the truth of the subtle but overwhelming entry of a ruthless monster into his life, one that he struggled with and against for as long as he could; a monster that is a silent killer of many gifted, talented, educated, family loving, God fearing man…a monster they are fearful to acknowledge, ashamed to expose…the monster of depression.
I feel I owe it to him and to you that I share our story – JUST IN CASE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW AND LOVE IS IN COMBAT WITH THIS MONSTER TOO – because I think, in retrospect he would have wanted me to, due to his true love for humanity and the difference he would have wanted to make…
It was Wednesday, March 7, 2007, the last time we spoke. It was brief conversation, and the one thing I vividly remember from that conversation was me asking dad if he was ready to return to work, as I was concerned that he had begun to get bored drawing at the house day in and day out. I felt like he needed to be around other people, as he had become somewhat isolated. We also talked about me going to visit his sister, in Detroit, on Friday, since I was in Columbus, OH on business. He was excited about the visit and ended the conversation with, “I love you.” “I love you” is understood in our family and not always verbally communicated when hanging up the phone, but dad had recently begun to end his conversations with these words…“I love you.”
One attempt, two attempts, three attempts…”Hi you’ve reached the voicemail of Leroy Allen…” I didn’t want to keep him long, just wanted to let him know that I would be heading out shortly for Detroit. There was no answer, but this “no answer” was different, something just didn’t feel right.
I called his girlfriend Marilyn, who tells me that she hasn’t talked to dad since last night. “He was supposed to come over, but didn’t.” However, she didn’t want to bother anyone. This concerned me because this was his weekend get-away. I called my sister, Jaime; “No, I haven’t spoken to him, but I’ll drive by.” Minutes later, “He’s not home.” My next call was to Pomroy, his fishing buddy. Hey Pomroy, have you talked to dad? “He called, but I’ve been really busy. I need to give Roy a call today.” I’m now on the phone with all of the hospitals in the Kansas City area – remember, something didn’t feel quite right, this time. I finally contacted my Aunt Peggy who said she and Marilyn would meet up and head that way. Isn’t it amazing how God works? He brought the two of them together to make this journey. On the other hand, He would not allow my sister to enter the house alone even though she had a key.
I decided to go ahead and take a shower because I had a bus to catch. It was at that time while showering, I prayed and asked God if everything was Okay. His answer was clearer than it had ever been in any of our other conversations, “No.” Once again, Lord is everything okay, and again, “No.” At that moment I saw it…a funeral, as well as the untimely black dress that I would wear to this funeral.
Moments after getting out of the shower, the phone rang and I hear the confirmation of that ‘NO’, but I immediately hang up. They call back, I hang up, again. I run back and forth banging on the walls in my hotel room, saying, no, no, no. I call my mom, she begins to holler and cry, “Tia come home, Tia come home!” I call my sister; she can now barely see where she’s going, as the tears flow down her cheeks. My job makes arrangements for me to leave out on an emergency flight back to Atlanta. I sit in the very last row on the plane in a daze, shocked, confused, reminiscing, questioning God and not caring who sees me cry, wondering what I did to deserve this! What did I do to deserve those harsh words, “Tia, he’s dead. The gun is in his hand!”
Dad meant everything to us and we knew he had begun to act a little different, but nothing to cause any alarm. I guess it was because of his protective nature, he never wanted anyone to know he was hurting.
He drove me back to Atlanta in February of 2007 and March 2007 he was gone. As we went through his belongings, we discovered hidden, never taken, depression medication, depression help line numbers that he had jotted down. There wasn’t a note, however there were signs, signs that really were not anything to worry about, or so we thought. There was even a message, when I checked his voicemail, a very eerie message, from a young man who was like a son to dad which said, “Leroy where are you? Give us a call if you’re not dead.”
We now understand that dad was not happy with life and it’s something that we can’t explain, and obviously he couldn’t either. He just knew that he could no longer go on. Depression is serious, it’s a disease. We don’t know what it’s like, but we do know what it feels like to lose someone to the horrible illness.
It’s been eight years and dad’s legacy has been placed on hold. Dad was too good, too talented to just have his works go unnoticed. He deserves for the world to know just who Leroy Allen was and that’s why we are giving you this gift, by reviving his Legacy. As the song says, I can see clearly now that the rain is gone – timing is everything and now is the time. ..