To find out that your child is no more over the news is a devastating feeling, knowing that you couldn't even say a final goodbye.
When The Dark Knight actor and legend Heath Ledger passed away, it shocked the world. But no one could have been more shocked than his father, Kim Ledger, who found out that his son was no more on the news. And it devastated him.
On 22 January 2008, news broke across the globe that the 29-year-old actor had passed away due to an accidental “abuse of prescription medications,” according to History. He had been using a mix of prescription drugs in order to handle his insomnia and stress. His unresponsive body was found by a masseuse and housekeeper who were unable to rouse him.
But while this was happening, Kim Ledger had no clue that he had just lost his son. Speaking in an episode of Nova's Addicted podcast, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, he recalled that he had received a phone call from a business partner asking after his family. Confused, he turned on the television only to see footage of Heath's body being loaded into the back of an ambulance.
"We kinda felt like we were the last to know," he said. "We literally turned on the television on [and] the first thing I saw was them carting the stretcher out. That's the vision that will always stay with me. I couldn't believe it." He also mentioned that he was hurt by all the rumors and misconceptions going around about his child's death.
"There was all this craziness around the world," the father said. "People pretending to be me and flying to New York. The police were meeting them at the airport and they were going to see my son's body. If only I were there, woken him up or done something. We're in Perth and he's in New York and you think, God, if only I could have been there. You almost feel guilty as a parent that you weren't there to help him out."
Overridden with grief, he didn't want others to suffer the same way that his son did. Though the father-of-three understood that his son's problems were self-induced, he didn't want others to go through the pain of losing a loved one to such an issue. “There is pressure on everybody, especially young people, to perform and to keep going. He was a young guy that travelled all the time for work. Even as a two-year-old, he hardly ever slept. He was trying to work and travel and do everything in a short space of time," he said to News AU.
When speculation arose that the actor might have committed suicide due to the maniacal role of the Joker he was playing, his father strongly disagreed. He said, according to Cinema Blend, "It was totally his fault. It was no one else's -- he reached for them [the prescription medication]. He put them in his system. You can't blame anyone else in that situation. That's hard to accept because I loved him so much and was so proud of him."
He also spoke about the last words his beloved son uttered. “The last conversation Kate [his sister] had with him was this discussion about his medications and she warned him, 'You can’t mix drugs that you don’t know anything about'," the grieving father told News AU. “He said ‘Katie, Katie, I’ll be fine’. Well, that’s a cavalier boy’s answer. It just put his whole system to sleep I guess." He continued, "Heath mixed a couple of drugs together with sleeping tablets and he’s gone forever. That’s something we [himself, wife Sally and sisters Kate and Olivia] just have to deal with."
Now, more than a decade has passed and the family has moved on. However, the memory of his son's death is fresh. When accepting a GQ award for the scholarship he started in his son's name, the Perth-based businessman said he experienced the same loss and pain he felt at the same event nearly 10 years prior, according to the Daily Mail. He said, "That kind of memory doesn't go away."
No, it doesn't. Especially when it's your own child you have lost.