Leticia: Your Worst Day Isn’t Your Only Day
When Leticia Ochoa Adams lost her son Anthony to suicide, it made her rethink everything — from her previously unshakeable faith to the very place she called home. With a Texas-sized heart and a heaping dose of dark humor, Leticia recounts her path from teen mom to grieving parent, and all the moments she shared with Anthony along the way. She opens up to Stephanie about how her views have changed in the wake of loss, including her relationship with God.
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Leticia, Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 00:00
Hey, LAST DAY listeners, I wanted to remind you that we are always looking for stories for the show, moments of big change where you can see all the ways that you live, breathe and think differently. After that moment. I personally find myself extra aware of how things have changed when a holiday comes around. And you know, we’re going to have to be out here buying decorations soon doing all the jolly traditions, even though lots of time has passed, and so many things are different and that changes the holidays innately. So if you have a story of change that makes the holidays complicated, we want to hear from you. Head to our submission form bit.ly/lastdaystories or click the link in the show notes for this episode. Okay, housekeeping done. Thank you so much. On to the show. Just a heads up today’s episode discusses suicide. If this is a potentially triggering topic for you feel free to set this one out. If you do stick with us. Please listen with care.
After Anthony died, I just started analyzing my entire freakin life with like a microscope. You know, how did I end up here because you’re just like, how did I end up? The mother of a child took his own life like how did that happen?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 01:50
This is LAST DAY, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Today, a story of questioning every single thing you ever accepted as true in the wake of loss, and how it changes you from the inside out. The voice you’ve just heard is Leticia Ochoa Adams talking about her son, Anthony. Anthony’s story, unfortunately ended way too soon. And as we’ll talk about his death has fully reshaped Leticia into the person she is today. But years ago, it was Anthony’s life that marked the biggest change for her when she first became a mom.
Anthony was I mean, adorable. First of all, he was like the cutest baby. And, you know, I had him when I was 17. So I would put him in this Parsi and like at my high school that I went to after school, everyone would like drive around the school 40,000 times it was like the after school parade where you saw everyone you would pull over and talk to your friends was like this huge thing, right? The Cruise is what it was called. And I would put my baby in a car seat and go on the cruise with him. So right off the bat, he was socialized and then became a very social person like he was stressed just a social butterfly. And when he was about four and a half, maybe five I started working at Hooters and I would just take my baby up there because though day wage, what did the day waitresses was my babysitter. So I would just say my baby up there. And then he would sit there during jumpstart which was like the little meeting that they have beforehand to tell you like your once again selling wings and wearing short shorts.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 03:50
In case anyone’s forgotten,
In case anyone’s forgotten. And there’ll be some sports on TV that you don’t understand. Right? So I would have my baby would be there and he’d sit with like all the regulars at the bar. And they would just teach them how to make paper airplanes and they would have conversation with them. So became a great conversationalist. So at like nine or 10 I mean, he could hold a conversation with adults like no big deal. And that just made him the most outgoing friendly person. He thought the best of everyone he had such a positive outlook on life.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 04:26
Anthony and Leticia were two peas in a pod all the time, not just at Hooters, so close in fact, that as he got older, there were a fair share of awkward moments.
He was my best friend so like we were always together. He told me his pubic hair started coming in. He was like Mom, I got a hair down there. I was like, okay when we don’t have to be that close, like that’s not required. Like, I get anywhere on my armpits or whatever, like he told me everything.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:01
Of course, by the time he was growing hair down there, the puberty talks and sex ed began at school, and it got the gears turning in his middle school aged brain.
And he was like, wait a minute, I feel like my mom was a teen. And so he comes home and he was like, was it an accident? And I was like, No, you’re a miracle. And he was like, but you were a teen mom. And I was like, I was a teen mom. And it was awesome. Because I got to take you with me everywhere. And this idea started coming in his head that he was a burden or of some kind or, or an added thing. I you know what I mean? Like just..
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:44
Yeah, like my life would have been different if he hadn’t been born. And so one morning I just wrote a note on his whiteboard in his room and I said, You saved my life. I love you. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you. You are a gift.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 06:03
As they both got older, more peas join the pod. Leticia married her husband, Stacy and they all settled down in the suburbs to live happily ever after. By the time Anthony got to high school life was pretty good.
So his first girlfriend him and his first girlfriend were the cutest she was a cheerleader. He was a football player. It was like the American dream for him. His best friend Caleb had a boat when he was like 16. So Anthony just came into his own as this handsome teenage boy who was playing varsity football going, living in the suburbs, a two story home, he had his first bedroom, and he was just so thankful. Like every morning, he will just say to my husband, I’m so thankful for my life. I’m so thankful for my house. I’m so thankful for my best friends and my girlfriend and and it was great.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 06:58
Like most high schoolers, Anthony was busy planning for his future during this time as well. And despite how far they’d come, he never forgot how hard they struggled when he was young. Leticia was a teen mom with only a high school diploma who said she worked her ass off to provide for them. So when one of his high school counselors made a harmful offhand remark about how he should get used to manual labor, because he’s not college material. It set him off and Leticia to so much so that she knew she had to do something about it. So the next day, she enrolled herself in community college.
My very first day of college, I took Anthony with me. And he was like, Where are we going? And I was like, I’m going to school. He was like, what I said, I’m going to class, this is my first class, you’re gonna go with me for my first day. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can again do. And I was 33 years old, you know, with a DI D. And he was just like, What the hell? And I was like, Yeah, I’m gonna go to college. You don’t have to go to college, but I’m gonna go to college because I always wanted to go to college. And now I’m gonna do it. And I and I love you and you never stopped me from doing anything, because I’m still your mother. And I’m still parenting you and I’m gonna go.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 08:14
Leticia was leading by example, but never wanted to assume that Anthony would follow in her footsteps. And while his future plans were still uncertain, there was one path Leticia was hoping he wouldn’t follow her down. Teen parenthood.
The goal from there became graduated from high school without knocking anyone up. Like that’s what he kept saying, like, I’m going to graduate from high school without getting a girl pregnant. And I was like, Okay, so on his graduation day, he looked at me, he was like, I didn’t know I can have a baby. And we’re like, no. I didn’t want to say that. I didn’t want to like, but I was just like, let’s not do that, buddy, you know.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 08:53
But after high school, things began to change. Anthony and his high school sweetheart, Patti eventually called it quits. And Leticia began to see him picking up some new habits.
So him and Patty broke up, and he took it so hard. And part of the reasoning given to him was that he was too good. Like, he was a nerd, basically, like he didn’t do anything wrong. And he didn’t smoke pot and all this and that. And so, of course, he’s breaks up with the squirrels. So he’s like, You know what, I’m in a party like it’s 1999. So he’s going out these parties. He’s drinking, he started smoking pot. Like to me it was like, this is normal first breakup, and he’s doing it working. He’s working full time. He’s 18 years old. He graduated from high school, like, he’s got a good head on his shoulders. So it didn’t concern me. Of course, as a mom, I had to be like, just say, No, Anthony. And then just like last year, it worked about as well for him as it did for all of us in the 80s and 90s. You know, yeah, not at all.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:56
No, I decided I will never say no to my kids. I’ve decided I’ve putting the gauntlet down. I’m not fucking doing it. Absolutely not. I do not subscribe.
Do not subscribe. Exactly. Yeah. Anyway, yeah. So, again, normal stuff. So he comes to me and he’s like, Okay, I met this girl at a party. And she’s super cool. And this is not her name’s Ariana. And like, we could hear them talking on the phone. And it was just this, like, you know, episode of Friends were like, Ross is talking to Emily. And he’s like, No, you hang up. No, you hang up. No, you didn’t. And Rachel just hangs up the phone. Like, that’s what we did for weeks and weeks. We’re just like, No, you hang up, you know? And then he’s like, Okay, I have to talk to you. And I already know what that is. I was I was the girl, you know. And so him and Ariana sat on her bedroom floor, and he was like, Ariana is pregnant. And I was like, okay, what do we need to do? Anything you need, blah, blah. And he’s like, Well, she doesn’t have a card, she needs to go to work. And so I’m gonna buy her car. And I kind of want her to move in with me here, the house. And, you know, my husband, Stacy was like, I don’t think they need to move in together just because she’s pregnant. Like, you know, this isn’t 1947. And and so I told them both that like, you know, and I told Arianna, like, I’ll help you get to work, and I’ll support you anyway. You know, y’all don’t have to move in together. Like y’all can figure this out a little at a time. And both of them were very adamant that they wanted to do it together. And Anthony, since he didn’t really know his biological father, a lot of that came from that trauma. You know, he wanted to be a good father. He wanted to be with his child, every day, from the moment he found out that Ariana was pregnant. And so he did that. And he just was an amazing dad, he went to every doctor appointment, he saw every ultrasound, they decided on a name. She put her crib together, like, I mean, everything. And then when she was born, he never considered like, I’m babysitting my kid. He was just like, I’m with my kid. He took Alia to the skate park, like, as a baby should be sitting on his lap. And he’d be, there’s a picture of him just sweating. And he has his skateboard in one hand and this baby in the other hand, and that’s how he was and so like, honestly, like, when I think about him, from the time he was born, until the time he had Alia, like, nothing changed. Like he was just such a inherently good person. Like, I know. I, you know, I believe everyone’s inherently good. But I mean, he was outwardly expressive of his Yeah, goodness, you know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 12:38
For sure everyone’s good, but some are better. And he and he was, I get it, I get it. Yeah. Anthony and Ariana do eventually move in together, they have a baby girl who they name Alia, and then go on to have a second child named Cameron. While all of this is happening, and Anthony’s life, there are some equally big shifts happening in Leticia is perhaps the biggest is converting to Catholicism. She said she grew up in a family that was technically Catholic, but they were just checking the boxes. Stacy, however, took it much more seriously. And if they wanted to get married in his church, Leticia was going to have to fully convert. That meant she had to start taking Catholicism classes. And she made it very clear from the outset that she was skeptical, even to her instructors.
And that would be like this stupid, this also dumb, you know? This, sorry, he’s not doing it. And so we sat down in his office, have a conversation once and I was like, You know what? I said, I don’t actually want to be Catholic. I just want my boyfriend to marry me. And he was like, Okay, well, tell me about that. Like, why don’t you want to be Catholic? And I was like, because y’all are fucking nuts. One and to like, I, I don’t, I don’t want to hate gay people. I’m not going to hate gay people. And he was like, okay, so hands me the Catechism. It’s a book. It’s like, all lays out all the teachings of the Church. And he’s like, You go home and read this. You tell me if you find anywhere in there that says you have to hate gay people. And I was like, this is a frickin trick. And I already know it. salutely you know? Absolutely. I already know this trick.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:20
Even though she saw it coming. Leticia still fell right into his trap. But as she reads more, and dives deeper into the theology, she becomes enamored with some of the teachings. The ideas actually feel more modern than she had imagined. And she ends up fitting in pretty well, for the most part.
I did have a very good community. And they were so nice to me and so great to me and so awesome to me and supportive of me. My priests were great. So yeah, it was this sense of community. And even when I started saying, like, this is kind of fucked up over here, and they would be like, Oh, that’s just Leticia. She’s so honest. You know what I mean? And they accepted me anyway.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:01
Anthony, on the other hand, had a very hard time accepting his mother’s newfound faith and pushed back aggressively and vocally. years ago, they would talk about annoying Christians together, as they call them. And now she was one of them. But he was an atheist and wanted her to know it.
I think he had a sense that he lost his mom when I became Catholic, because I became very Catholic and very nuts. I was like, a nut.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:31
I truly, I cannot imagine you in that character in that costume.
And that’s the thing is that it was a costume and I knew it and it was an itchy one. You know, like, it made me break out in hives. You know, like, you have a sweater, you buy it and you think like, oh, that’s a beautiful sweater. It looks so good. And it fits you perfectly. And you’re like, Oh, this is so great. But then you wear it for like an hour. And it’s like the most itchy fucking sweater ever.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:57
Destroying you from the inside out. And like It’s like getting into your cells and like breaking you down slowly. Yes. As the years went by, Leticia kept that sweater on, no matter how good she had got, because at the end of the day, it still looked pretty good, and it kept her warm. And I’ve lost track of the metaphor here. But basically, the supportive community was enough to keep dismissing some of the more problematic views she was coming up against. But things began to shift for everyone after a death in the family.
My uncle died, and my uncle was like a father to both of us like Anthony used to spend the summers with him fishing and helping him with stuff around the house mowing his yard because my uncle was a little bit older. And Anthony ticket so freaking hard, like, extra nomic ly hard. My uncle died April of 2016. In May of 2016, Anthony roughly quit his job that he was making the most money had ever made in his life. He lives in a very nice apartment with Ariana and the two girls. Everything was great on that front and then all of a sudden he just quit his job moved out of the house. This is Anthony guy goes like left his family.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 17:16
Did you have a conversation with him about it? Where are you? Like, what are you doing? How was he rationalizing the choice?
Yeah, I told him, what are you doing? He was like, I am gonna become a rapper. Like, it’s my dream. I’m been writing songs and all this not and I knew he had been writing like poetry and stuff. And it’s this typical, like, rapper stuff where it’s like, we were so poor and hungry. I told my mom to feed me, you know? And I’m like, bro, you were never hungry. Once in your life. I worked my ass off. You know what I mean? Like, no, no, no. So So I learned about that. And we had had those conversations. And so when he quit his job and was acting like this was his career move. I said, this is fast. This is a huge transition. And why do you have to leave your family and Ariana doesn’t understand my dreams. And now you’re starting to squash my dreams. And I was just like, I’m the last person to squash your dreams. Like I’m the one that’s like been supporting your genes. And I promise if you want to be a rapper, I support that. But you also have to be a father.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 18:21
At some point, it became clear that this was something more than dreaming big. Anthony was having delusions and needed real support for his mental health. And Leticia is estimation, the copious amounts of marijuana he was smoking probably also wasn’t helping. Either way, he and Ariana eventually did go to counseling, which didn’t really work for Anthony, and he was hesitant to spend time looking for a different therapist. Meanwhile, the symptoms kept getting worse.
On one particular time he had he was just having such bad delusions, he got kicked out of a festival on Sixth Street in Austin. Like, listen, if you get kicked out of a festival on Sixth Street in Austin.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 19:02
You gotta be next level.
It’s bad. It’s really bad. And so I took him to the psych er, and the doctor was like, yeah, he has signs of delusional thinking, but he still gets to decide if he wants to be admitted. And so then the doctor was like, you don’t even have to let them be in here when we’re talking to you. So Anthony was like, Yeah, I want them gone. I’m like, why would I want them here? If they’re the reason why I’m crazy. And that really hurt my husband because he was just like, What? What are you saying? And so when we left there, we got in the car and Stacy was like, Man, you really hurt my feelings and Anthony’s like, Why what happened? And he acted like that just never happened. Like anything got home. He told everyone he was fine that the doctor said he was fine. And I was overreacting. And so so then I started thinking like, Am I overreacting? I don’t know like I am I felt okay, maybe I am.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:17
We’re back. So Anthony is showing signs of delusional thinking. But unless he elects for treatment, there’s not much anyone else can do. So life goes on. But on one particular night, he shows up at Leticia his house, and her mom’s sense kicks in.
So he got dropped off at my house because he told Arianna, he needed to be she needed to be with me. Like he needed to talk to me. And he needed to be with his mom. And so when he walked in the door, I didn’t ask him anything, because I didn’t want him to run off. Like I didn’t want him to take off. You know, I felt like if I asked him too many questions, he’s going to bounce. And so it turns out that he was like, right before he got dropped off at my house, he told Arianna, like, I think I have schizophrenia, and how am I going to live like that? And Arianna was like, if you do I mean, he, there’s medication, like he may seem to get you a diagnosis. And he was just like, I just don’t know, what if I hurt my kids like, so all of these things were like, in his mind about, like, scared, like, he was scared. You know, and that’s what he looked like. And the definitely, so he ate dinner. We had meatloaf the night before. And so he looks like someone who was leaving on a long trip. You know? How do you mean, he kept looking at all of us, like, and pausing, you know? Um, so it was like, she looked like he was trying to take us in trying to take the dinner in. And he would ask questions like, I don’t know, like, like, open ended questions, which he never did before. Like, he was trying to remember us. And I don’t know. And then he, and he did it. He looks like, you know, he looked like someone that was about to get shipped off to war, like, he was going. And he had, and he had accepted that he was going, but he didn’t want to go. And I was just like, What is this vibe, like, what is this, you know, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then the whole time at dinner, I was like, There’s something wrong. This is not right like this is, there’s something wrong.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:35
Anthony spends the night at Leticia his house and the next day, he goes into her room to talk with her about going back to church. But remember, this is Anthony, the atheist. So among all the other recent changes in his behavior, this newfound interest in Catholicism was yet another mysterious piece of the puzzle. Leticia says Anthony even described seeing demons as part of his hallucinations. But she remains steadfast that Anthony should be seeking professional mental health support, not religion, leader, while the tissues out Anthony calls her and wants to go visit their priest. He’s clearly committed to this idea of exploring his faith. Despite Leticia is skepticism. she reluctantly agrees to let him use the car when she’s back home. But when she gets there, he’s nowhere to be found. So she assumed that he’s just walked down the street to the church on his own and goes about our business.
And I’m upstairs doing homework and I hear someone screaming downstairs, whatever. And then I saw Stacy’s face when it came down the stairs. And I was like, it’s Anthony. He was like, yeah. I said, is he gone? And he was like, yes. And so I tried to go in the garage and stays with it. Let me go in there. He’s like, I’m not gonna let you remember him like this. And I was like, get the fuck out of my way. That’s my kid. And he was like, nope, not doing it. Go call 911. And then by then my other two sons are coming down the stairs and gate calls 911 I’m calling 911 So we have to nine one calls to like 48 that because we live in the suburbs, of course. So those 48,000 police officers showed up to eight months is to fire trucks. I just left my body. I just like left my body. I to this day. Don’t remember what Anthony look like. Like, like my entire brain was like this is a solid note. Close the curtains. We’re not remembering this.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 24:36
Anthony had taken his life in the garage of their home. As the next few impossible hours start to unfold, scored by sirens and police tape. The religious community she’d come to rely on appears among the chaos. But the priests don’t show up as overly serious clergymen. No They know Leticia so well, and they know exactly what she needs in that moment. And as I’m sure you’ve heard, Leticia is a brutally honest person who looks for humor in even the darkest places. So the priests meet her rate where she’s at.
He was right behind the ambulances. And when he gets there, I’m like, he’s having a Catholic funeral. If I’m priest was like, of course he is. He’s like, I don’t fight you on a good day. I’m definitely not fighting you now. And it was like a week after Ash Wednesday, and I was like it also I gave up Dr. Pepper for Lent. I’m gonna go fucking get me the biggest Dr. Pepper ever and he was like you do that Leticia, you know. And I appreciated that so much. He just treated me like a person and like he wasn’t different. And then my other priests father, Jonathan, who was with me, when I became Catholic and celebrated our wedding, he baptized Anthony. He got there, he blessed him with nice body with a crucifix that has that he blessed his grandmother with what she was passing away. And he let me hold it. And when we were done, I was like, I’m keeping this and he was like, over my dead body.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 26:18
Unfortunately, not everyone Leticia encountered during this phase was as emotionally in tune with this dark humor that she’s so desperately needed in order to get through this fucking nightmare.
When I went to go get my hair cut for Anthony’s funeral. I told the stylists do not talk to me. I like don’t want to talk. I don’t want to answer questions. Don’t ask me about my kids. Don’t ask me what I’m doing today, unless you want to be traumatized. We took Alia to JC Penney, and I bought her everything she wanted. So she had like, an arm full of toys, and you have like this cart full of shit. I don’t even know like, costumes and all this and that. And this lady was like, Oh, it must be a special day. And then Lee is like, Yeah, my dad died. And that lady was like, you know, it’s like, don’t do that lady, like, please just let her express herself.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 27:15
Eventually, Anthony is laid to rest with a proper Catholic funeral, of course, as she wanted. And yes, her priests remained emotional pillars for her. But elsewhere, the church has little to offer beyond religious platitudes and thoughts and prayers. Maybe Anthony was in heaven now. But the day after the funeral, Leticia is still very much on Earth, dealing with everyday realities. No divine intervention in sight. You literally had a flat tire the day after? Yeah, no, you did not. Yeah. No, you did not.
That’s the kind of shit I’m talking about. Like, oh, so the tire doesn’t work. Okay, like you’re in the middle of the worst shit in your life. And then something just ridiculous happens. And you’re like, Why do I have a flat tire? Like I just buried my kid yesterday. I feel I don’t know. This is just me. But I feel like maybe I’ve hit my quota of stupid shit to deal with this week. It’s like how does God belong here?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 28:36
We are back. Anthony is gone. And now Leticia is faced with what to do after this devastating loss.
I lived on the couch for like, three weeks. Well, first, I didn’t eat for like three days. Like I refuse to eat Academy. I just occurred to me. I wasn’t really even refusing, but I couldn’t. And then I was sick of everyone telling me to eat so then it became refusing where it’s like, leaving the fuck alone. Like, my kids. Dad, what the fuck do you care if I eat a sandwich, you know? And so then a friend of mine was smart enough to know that if she walked in my house with Dairy Queen cheeseburgers, you know what I mean? And I remember I remember sitting on the couch and like, she went by like this whiff of Dairy Queen cheeseburgers. And I was like, Oh my God, give me one of those. And they’re like here half.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 29:31
And that’s medicine.
Like stop telling me to eat and bring me food then I think that that’s what I tell people all the time because they’re like, What can I do? Like stop telling them stuff and do it for them? Do it with them, Pan them ice cream. You know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 29:49
I have said it before and I will say it again. You bring dinner. You drop it off on the porch. you text them that it’s there. And don’t you dare forget paper plates and cutlery. Don’t over think it just bring the food. But aside from the temporary relief provided by dq cheeseburgers, Leticia was deep in her grief and coping any way she could.
So I sat on the couch, and I watched comedy specials and like funny, sitcoms like Grace and Frankie, like that shows saved my life because it’s just so funny. And I didn’t laugh. That’s the thing. Like, I watched it, and it made me feel good, but I couldn’t laugh, you know? And then I started watching hoarders. And there’s like, this episode where this lady is like hoarding these dead cats in her freezer, and like the psychiatrists in the like, cleaner guy get to the freezer and opens it. And they’re like, What? Like, they’re like, Oh, what is this? Like? They’re trying to be so politically correct. Like, what is this one you can see on their face? Or like, What the fuck? And she’s like, Oh, they’re cats I found because they died alone. And I didn’t want them to be alone. And then the psychiatrist is like, so what happens? Like, why do you think now she’s like, Well, my son died, but I’m fine. And I was like, looking at her. I’m like, You’re clearly not fine. And I’m like, Oh, God, I’m clearly not fine. So I’ll just reach over text my therapist, and I’m like, Fine, I’ll come see you. And then Anthony’s daughter, so she’s fourth time, she started having panic attacks. And it’s like a four year old, having a grief stricken panic attack is the absolute worst sound in the world.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 31:37
What does it sound like?
It felt like she was burning from the inside out, and there’s nothing to put her out, you know, and you just have to hold her. And then, but because of that, because I knew I was the one person that could calm her down. Not that I could, but I had it within me to do that, like Ariana was last. Without Anthony, like, bath time, Anthony gave the girls bath time and bedtime every night, even after he moved out, he would come to the apartment and do it. So now she’s doing it. And she’s not doing it because he’s working. You know. So this is a green shield chore now. So now she couldn’t hold her four year old while she is having a frickin panic attack and screaming like she was on fire. She just couldn’t do it. I was just so numb that I could do it. And so that’s a theme that I kept thinking about. It’s like I have to be here for Alia, you know, dropping her off at kindergarten. So Anthony died in March and Alia had to go to kindergarten in August. And I was like, There’s no way there’s no way we can drop her off and let her cut like no, no. And her therapists like no, it’s really good for it’s good for her to see that she can get dropped off and then Y’all come back for her. This is part of her healing process. Like she has to know this and like, so I would drop her off and she would cry. She’d be like, don’t leave me with these people. Mei Mei. And then I would sit in my car and cry for like four hours while she was in there. So me and her just like, torn to pieces, you know. But again, I was the person that could do it. Because I was in the most pain of my life anyway, so there was no adding to it. You know, there was only every day.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 33:20
Yeah, you couldn’t you couldn’t go down any further. Exactly. And there’s also like, my mom always says that my daughter saved her life without a doubt, like saved her. Holding her was like medicine. It was the only thing that felt remotely good.
100% and then she would fall asleep, she would have to fall asleep holding my hand. And it’s and she has Anthony’s baby hands. So it’s just like, this weird ability to hold his head. You know what I mean? Like, and, of course, I had to work on separating the five she’s not Anthony. She’s only she’s not Leticia. She’s Alia. But it’s a beauty. It’s a beauty and a gift to be able to still have a piece of ham and love her, you know and love her. Yeah, so it was it? Yeah, that’s true. It’s the only thing that felt good. And then, you know, after like her first week of kindergarten, I was like, Have you ever had a dip cone from Dairy Queen and she was like, No. Freak. Are you kidding me? So we go and get one and she’s like, holy, like this is so good. And I’m like it is and so like that shared experience like gave me hope. You know that. Okay, your worst day isn’t your only day. And not just that but like I tell people this all the time. Like how are you today? Sad. I’m always sad like it’s always sad but also the In this in this but then it’s good and it’s sad. It’s beautiful and it’s sad. It’s fun. It’s sad, you know, there’s always.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 35:08
T status quo. It’s always sad. And like chocolate dip ice cream from Dairy Queen is fucking good. It’s like, Whoa, good. It’s honestly, the thing I miss most about Texas. This is the craziest part about grief, those little things you took for granted and the before times make such an impact in the after. Flowers, clouds chocolate dipped cones from Dairy Queen. Yes, you are in the bad place. But these little treasures and sparks of joy hit so much deeper when everything around you feels so sad. And as time continued to move, and Leticia got further and further away from that terrible day, the deep reflection phase set in.
After Anthony died, I just started analyzing my entire freakin life with like a microscope, you know, like, how did I end up here? Because you’re just like, how did I end up the mother of a child that took his own life? Like how did that happen? And I’m just like looking at my life. And I see a complete lack of intentional choices. I was looking at this whole picture and I could just see how like, whoa, I’ve never made responsible intentional choices like I just flew by the seat of my pants. I wanted to do things differently.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 36:46
About four years after Anthony passed away, Leticia and her husband, Stacy, were ready for a big change. But Leticia wasn’t quite ready to move out of their house, she felt like she’d be leaving a part of Anthony behind. But the tipping point for both of them came during the chaos and instability on full display during the January 6 riots at the Capitol. That was the last push for them to get out of the Austin suburbs, sell their house and buy a plot of land far, far away from everyone else.
And so finally, I found 10 acres owner financed. And we bought it without even looking at it. Like taking it because there’s like nothing else like I’m gonna live. I’m gonna end up living in the Rio Grande Valley in the hottest part and RV like No, no, no, we’re taking this. It’s yeah. So when we come out here to look at our property line, there’s a creek on the back of our property. And it’s beautiful. There’s deer everywhere. It’s a mile from the road, so I’m secluded. And so we started building and my husband started building fences. I got chickens, I learned how to raise them. So all of this stuff from my childhood, this is who I am, this is who I am. This is how I grew up. This is I know, horses, you know. And so I have four horses now. It shocks everyone who never knew me growing up that I can talk to these horses. But everyone who knows me for my childhood is like, Finally, my great grandmother was born in indigenous tribe, like two hours from here. I mean, two hours isn’t that far for indigenous people I’ve traveled so I can only imagine that at some point, someone that was related to me hundreds and hundreds of years ago, walked around here, you know? Yeah, so I love it. And it’s an it’s reconnected me to what I believe.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 38:46
And those core beliefs have fundamentally changed as a result of losing Anthony. Really, from day one.
For the first time in my entire life, I questioned the existence of God. And so then from there comes like all of these Christian Greek stories that always come with this beautiful red bow at the end of it and like everything’s gonna be and the reward for beautiful suffering. If you suffer beautifully and faithfully and with strength and perseverance, then your faith story will get turned into a video and you you can get paid for the book. You know, I couldn’t find any real gray stories from Christians that were like, What the fuck, you know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 39:40
And Leticia needed to say what the fuck? She needed to cuss and cry and fall apart and not sugarcoat any of it. She was completely broken. And she needed to be honest that Jesus wasn’t making it any better. Like everyone was saying basically to bring it back to our metaphor from earlier, the sweater was getting too itchy to bear. And when the 2016 election kicked off totally polarizing her local church community, she had to throw it away entirely and forge her own path.
I believe the Church’s teachings, right, but I believe them all, where it says like love everyone except everyone, everyone has the right to their own choices, everyone has the right to choose their own religion, or to choose not to be religious. And that doesn’t give you the excuse to dehumanize them, and also not supposed to just be friends with people because you want to get notches on your evangelical belt like your convert belt, you know what I mean? And so, so I live my faith in a completely different way than almost any other Catholics that I know, obviously.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:55
But much like the deep self examination it took before she moved, it took the same kind of faith examination, to bring her to the place she is today.
One time I was sitting at his grave, and it was one of those times where I was really thinking about do I actually believe in God, right? And then I was thinking about how I do, I do believe in God. And I believe that Anthony is, wherever Anthony is, is with God. And I can’t trust my child with someone I don’t know. So that was my only option was to get to know God. And in that, I realize that that God doesn’t impose himself on us, right. So when we make choices, we make choices. And the choices are what they are. And that’s what Anthony did. But also, because I’ve gotten to know him, and everything. I know that God would never let me live in a space without my child. And so that’s the part I can’t explain. I can’t explain how I know Anthony’s with me, but I do because I knew my kid. If your kid walks up behind you, you know which kid it is, you can literally close your eyes and have one of your kids walk up behind you. And you’ll know which one of the both of them it is, you know. And so that’s the thing. I know Anthony’s with me, because I know my kid. And he is on this ranch. Like he brought us here. This is the life he wanted for his children. He told me that before when my uncle died, we were back home in my small town that I grew up in and he said, like I belong here. This is Beauty to me. And so he’s here.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 42:55
And not only is Anthony with her on the ranch, so it’s God.
He’s not a fairy in the sky that grabs my wishes. He’s the Creator and Maker of the universe, the energy that keeps everything together. You know, he’s a vibe. I don’t mean that some hippy thing. And it’s a man. Yeah, like, I look at the sky, look at the stars. And it’s like, that’s God. To me, I look at my horses. I see my, you know, the fact that I had Anthony that he was mine for 22 years, like, I’m lucky to have that. That’s God, the love that I have for my grandchildren. The smile on their faces, you know, to me, that’s all God.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 43:40
The fact that you have them that you have them to see. Anthony I’m sure you see him in them all the time.
100%, especially Alia, who looks just like him, and acts just like him. And me, you know? That’s like that. And so and so I you know, I believe the whole thing. I believe the entire enchilada. I just don’t I don’t focus on the cheese. I see the whole thing for me, you know. So when I go to Mass, it’s a whole experience of connection to God. And it helps me stand in any stand with everyone. It’s like the connection that you have with other people who lose their people, right? It doesn’t matter what y’all believe. Like, no one’s like, Okay, but what do you believe about this one thing? No one, it’s like I get it. I get that connection with you because you’ve lost your person. I get that connection with other people who lose their kids to suicide or anyone and to me, that’s God to like that connection of we’re all here for a reason like a reason like no matter what you call it. Something somewhere decided the world needed a Stephanie and Alicia and amp Me and Stacy, you know, and that’s fucking awesome.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 45:06
I love that. I love that. These days Leticia and Stacy both attend the parish in the small rural community that they live in. She says she still misses maths but also has a lot of mixed feelings and complicated emotions surrounding it. She says God is never trying to punish us for anything that we do. He wants us to be whole and healed from all the bullshit that trauma does to us. For Leticia now, religion has taken the shape of love in her life, including her love for Anthony. I think he’d be so proud of of the way you’re living right now.
Yeah, that’s where I miss him. Like I do miss, like, having those conversations like this is what we’re gonna do the land. And this is the craziest system that I’m putting in. And I do miss that and it misses feedback. But I don’t know what that’s like, I don’t know what goes on past this world. But somehow I just. I don’t know. I feel like one day we’ll know. And it’ll be awesome. But until then, it’s a dumpster fire.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 46:20
Eating Dairy Queen, chocolate, ice cream cones in the midst of the burning around us.
There’s even more LAST DAY with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like an AMA with yours truly. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything in case you didn’t know. So just FYI and FYI means for your information. So subscribe now in Apple Podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.