Tips for Survival: Fight, Faith & Family.
Written by Mack Paulson from the perspective of Joe Daly.
On the evening of February 5th, 2014 in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Larry Daly was shot.
February 6, 2014-Laurence “Larry” Edward Daly was pronounced dead by Florida police.
*Precursor: I was introduced to Joe Daly when I started to work in golf services at Miramont Country Club in May 2015. He taught me everything about the job and we were fast friends. We would work on projects for hours at a time together and have deep life conversations, and I could tell that Joe was a special person the moment we met. It didn’t feel like just a chance encounter; it was his place to share his story and mine to hear and share it.
My dad and me would talk everyday. My dad, Larry, lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida and I lived in Houston with my mom.
On February 5, 2014, I called my dad and told him that he should talk to my sister and stop avoiding conversation. He responded with, “When you have children, you’ll understand.” That was the last thing I ever heard my dad say. We did not conclude their conversation with the usual “I love you”. A phone call came in from a Florida area code the next morning at 5:30. There were multiple missed calls on my phone. I answered, and it was from a police station.
Detective: Are you Joseph Daly?
Me: Yes ma’am.
Detective: I’m sorry to tell you that your father, Laurence Daly, was involved in a homicide and has passed away.
Me: Are you playing with me? Are you even a real person? You can’t be serious? There’s no way, I just talked to him.
I was shaking. I could not mentally register what I was hearing. This was a mental hurdle I was not ever expecting to climb. I did not want to believe it but it made sense. The situation between my dad and step-mom was hostile and I knew they had issues (*certain details have to be left out due to an ongoing court case*). This didn’t change the fact that the internal pain was immense after I heard the news. I was full of anguish, rage, despair, and I cried for many of the following days. I was used to talking to my dad multiple times a day about everything in my life. He was my guide. Larry Daly was a father in every sense of the word. He was a pastor at the local church and a strong mentor to my sister and me. My dad lived on the opposite side of the country, so his death affected me differently because it was not necessarily his presence that I was missing, it was his guiding voice.
The funeral was hard on me. His body was held for 2 weeks because of the immediate investigation. He was shot directly in the chest at point blank range, and this made it more difficult when I chose to have it be open-casket. I felt pure sorrow. As a veteran of the Navy, he had the formal military salute performed at his funeral. I hadn’t heard “Taps” in years. I thought that the ceremony of twenty-one gun salutes was so cool as a child, when it was performed at my Grandpa’s funeral, but when it was for my dad it hit me really hard because I understood the true meaning. He was gone.
Through the years, I was on a roller coaster of emotion. I experienced many highs and many lows. Being a spiritual person, I found comfort in knowing that my dad was close to God. To this day, my dad is still with me and helps me keep the faith. I know that he is safe, and it keeps me from driving into depression. Inevitably, as children eventually we lose our parents, and you have to live with that.
There were times before and many times after that I dealt with mental illness symptoms. In the past, I have struggled with symptoms of depression and panic attacks. I dropped out of high school my sophomore year because I was fighting and skipping class everyday. It led me to stop caring about school and I decided it was not for me. I started to train for the Army, and then the Navy, but a back problem inevitably prevented me from passing the physical. The one thing I did have though was golf. My dad had taught me the game as a boy, and I still use it as a getaway and distraction from the hardships I dealt/deal with. Eventually, I went to play golf at Prarie View A&M. I graduated with a degree in Kinesiology and planned on being a golf instructor or playing and competing professionally. My dream of becoming a PGA Tour professional was literally shot down when my dad died. He was my support system and my teacher, and kept me interested in playing. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t interested in pursuing that career without him by my side. I began to feel lost and stressed about what direction my life was going in. There were many nights when I would wake up in a cold sweat with my heart racing, and I would not be able to go back to sleep.
So, How Did I Get Over It?
I was lost but I feel like a person can control what happens in their life if they believe and have faith. I know my life is going to be OK. I am still living and I will find a way to get through my mental hurdles, and what really drives and motivates me is my faith. My dad raised me to be a tough person and to have a strong spiritual connection. Panic attacks made me lose control emotionally and physically, and I forced myself to go to a different state of mind, one where I would rely on lessons I had read or sermons I had heard. My only option was to lose myself in another train of thought and focus all of my energy toward something else. I learned to block out the negative.
My biggest help has been in my times of self-reflection when I have taken a long hard look and thought, “This is not how my life will go.” To people who struggle with their anxiety, think this: “I cannot control people, places, or things. I can only control myself and how I think.” After my dad’s death, a big issue was that my sister started to spend his life insurance money at free will. I knew that I was entitled to that money as well; I would get really angry and my anxiety would spike up when I thought about it. However, confrontation only contributed to my anxiety issues. My dad used to tell me, “Son, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? Is it worth it?” My sister, Elizabeth, deals with many common life issues and is also raising a child as a single mother. Am I really going to sue her and potentially ruin her life? No. It isn’t worth it for me to burden somebody else for my benefit. In my experience, confrontation results in taking emotional stability and self-esteem from somebody. I would not do that to my sister who I have a lot of love and care for. I am strong enough that I know I can deal with these anxiety issues and symptoms of depression. I would not wish that upon another person. I will be alright. Bring it on.
I spent a fair amount of time in the streets of Houston. I have seen a friend get shot, I have had guns pointed at me with someone pulling the trigger, and I have witnessed people die in front of me. In 2003, my family had to move because my best friend broke into my mom’s house and stole all of her jewelry that was inherited from her mom. She cried because it carried significant emotional weight and she thought it was too dangerous to keep living there. During this same time, I was involved in several verbal and physical altercations with my step dad. It was not exactly an ideal situation for a young man. Eight years later in 2011, my other close friend died of a morphine overdose. I have seen my fair share of death and hardship at thirty-two years old, but I stand by that there is nothing to fear.
Here is how I deal with F.E.A.R.
I think: False. Emotions. Appearing. Real.
Taking a quote from Band of Brothers: “Why should you be afraid to die? You have to accept that you’re already dead.”
Fear gets in the way of what you are trying to achieve. My dad used to say, “Son, what are you afraid of?” You have to accept your fate that eventually one day, you will die. So while you have this time, set goals for yourself and realize that you have a purpose and strive to figure out what it is. You are not alone and you never were. Suicide is not the answer. We were not put on this Earth to live a life of fear. Accepting reality is important, and there has to be an understanding that lots of good and bad will happen in the world that is not always in your control.
Success to me does not mean having cars, a big house, or lots of money. Being successful is staying in the moment and enjoying every second you get to live. It is not worth comparing your life to another person. They might have a completely different idea of what they think success means. It is all about being happy with who you are. Throughout my life, I have had to persevere. That fight never ends. I battle every moment I am alive. If you do not think you are strong enough, find the reason that you think you are living for; find that thing that keeps you persevering. The further I have gotten in life’s journey, I have seen that not giving up has unfolded doors that I did not know could open. When I was a teenager, I was kicked out of my own home. I had a bag of clothes, a loaded shotgun, and a car. I had one of two choices; one, I could give up; or two; I could fight to survive. As you can see, I chose the latter, but I lived for years going back on these two thoughts. At the time it would have been so easy for me to choose the first option. I was nothing. I had demons in my head; it was not easy. So I started small. When I thought hope was gone, I started living by dad’s motto: “Always look for the next right thing to do.” I started to do those right things. I started being a better person. I started to grow up and become a man, even if I had to do it alone. It took everything I had, but I set goals for myself, and overcoming these tough obstacles was my success.
My family has helped me with everything. I put my mom through a lot of tough times. I was a difficult kid to raise but I thanked her everyday for sticking with me when I did not know any better. When my dad died, I lost my mentor and my best friend. The people closest to me are my lifeline: My immediate family, my god family, and my friends.They are the most important people to me.
Eventually, I will forgive the lady who took my dad’s life. That was a woman that my dad cared about and loved. It will take time but it is the only way I will ever move on from this situation. I have accepted that there will never be full closure. If I stay angry my whole life, she has not only taken away my dad but my life as well.
When you are brought into this world, you are given a mind and a heart which I believe are the ultimate tools for survival. My heart has always been there when my mind was not. I repeated to myself, “I am better than this. I will get through this. I will not let myself dwell in negative thoughts.” I persevered mentally and I believe that we all have the mental strength to tackle our issues.
Anxiety has motivated me to better myself. My life has more guidance with the mental hurdles that I still continue to climb today. “Where there is a will, there is a way.” I have seen people come out of this. The pain is not going to last forever; it will subside. I think my purpose is to help people, but I am striving everyday to find out exactly what that means.
Thank you for reading my story.
Dad — I will continue to share the lessons that you taught me with the world. I love you.
If you ever are having thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800–273–8255. Please know that you are not alone and there are people wanting to help. You matter.