LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Musician and singer Joe Cuellar not only plays live music in the Lufkin and Nacogdoches area, but across the state as well. However, he came to fall in love with music through an unusual route.
He explained how he used music to overcome trauma he faced at a young age after his father took his sister's life and then committed suicide.
"He ended up taking her life with a pistol first and then his own," Cuellar said.
It was during a time when he was a 13-year-old teenager that he learned the most devastating news of the loss.
Months after the news, more questions and doubt grew.
"When I was a kid, I was angry, hurt," Cuellar said.
He said forgiveness came with time as he managed to grasp the reality that his father had taken his sister's life.
"I know that what he did is hard on anybody, but I forgave him a long, long time ago," Cuellar said. "Even though he wasn't alive for me to forgive for what he did, I forgave him then. I knew he loved me, I love him. He was my father."
He channeled his energy into what would become a passion in his life, music, to cope with the trauma, and hurt left from the loss. One song that helped the healing would be his father's favorite: Purple Rain.
"After he took his life and that of my oldest sister, I would stay locked in my room and listen to that song over and over, over again," Cuellar said.
Inspired by the song sung throughout decades, he reflects on the mental challenges his father faced after serving in the Vietnam War.
He recognized that his father was suffering from the traumas of war which he believes led to tragedy.
"Through the years, there were things that where he would lose his mind or flashbacks from the war and whatever and put us all in and the family in dangerous situations," Cuellar said.
Cuellar soon began to fill the void through music, and he said he credits his mother for the strength in uniting the family.
"To me, there's healing powers in music. It helped me as a kid to get through that terrible time in my family's life," Cuellar said.
He shares one message to the people he comes across.
"Hope that people who are contemplating suicide or think of doing something like that, that it affects those who are left behind," Cuellar said.
Cuellar said he learned at an early age to lean on love over bitter emotions.