‘I would give anything to get five more minutes with him’
A FATHER coming to grips with the loss of his only son to suicide has resolved to rise above the pain that came with the loss to turn an emotional rock bottom into a catalyst for positive change.
Caspian Leonardi was the sort of lad who would light up a room when he entered.
The olive-skinned, green-eyed 20-year-old had the world at his feet when he took his own life at a Rossville property in 2014.
Father Giovanni Leonardi will never get over the loss. But the death of his only boy has been the trigger for life-changing introspection and the chance to rebuild after years of living life against the grain.
"It could have gone one of two ways: I could have spiralled down or I could have made a lot of changes," he said.
"I could have kept going down or opened myself up and shone a light directly in."
Soon after his son's death Mr Leonardi claims he took the rap for a mate and ended up doing a stint in the Lotus Glen Correctional Centre.
"I did three out of eight. It was the best thing that happened to me," he said.
Looking back, he admits he may have been punishing himself for not providing a positive role model for his boy.
With plenty of time to reflect on his role as a father, Mr Leonardi walked out the prison gates determined to do things differently.
"I was at a rock bottom for the last 30 years (and have) tried to look at (the loss) in a positive light," he said.
Since his son's death, Mr Leonardi has turned his life around. He has formed a closer bond with his daughter and is about to welcome his second grandchild into the world.
"(Suicide) might seem like a solution at the time but if they could see the effect it has on the people that care about them, they would never do it," he said.
"There is always help. People are not mind readers, they don't realise how bad it is and if you don't ask for help people are not going to be aware of it."
In 2014, Mr Leonardi was living in Melbourne with his son, who had started using crystal meth.
"We sent him back up (north) to get clean and he was doing really well," he said.
"(But) unfortunately, because of the life that I led when I was young, I didn't set a good example and he followed in my footsteps."
Mr Leonardi said the sense of loss never got easier to bear.
"It doesn't get any easier; it's something that you carry with you," he said. "I would give anything to get five more minutes with him."
Originally published as 'It's always with you': Pain of son's death catalyst for change