To kick off Suicide Prevention Week (September 4-10, 2011) and continue my mission to share the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide in hopes of preventing another one, I am sharing an excerpt from an autobiographical essay that I wrote in 2003. The essay, titled A Brief Eternity is an account of my initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the few years that followed. It was within that time in October of 1998 that we found out my younger brother Kevin had taken his own life at the age of eighteen.
I am honored that the essay itself won first prize in the Arizona Authors Association 2003 Literary Contest, but today I share this passage with you to give a factual illustration of how a loved one’s decision to take their life affects a family. It is my hope to touch the life of someone who may be considering suicide as an option, as well as to soothe those who may have lost someone in this tragic manner. Whichever end you are on, please know that you are not alone, and there are many places that you may go to seek guidance and support.
All I had left to move out of my tiny apartment was the furniture and I was waiting impatiently for my younger brother to bring his truck by to pick it up. He and my father had gone to Rocky Point, Mexico for a family vacation. He was due back that afternoon and never arrived. I waited and waited and waited. I eventually ended up at my mom’s house, where we waited some more. Late that evening we reported him missing with the Chandler Police Department.
It was the longest few days of my life. Everywhere I went I thought I saw him. His cowboy hat; the smell of his Stetson cologne; his smile. Every white Chevrolet truck was his. Every phone call was him. Nobody slept. We all just sat around and waited for something to happen. Did he go back to Mexico for some more fun? Was he in an accident somewhere? What was going on and why wasn’t he home yet? My dad and my uncle went back to Mexico to look for him. The evening they left we would know.
My mother and I were sitting in the living room watching the movie Opposite of Sex, with Christina Ricci. I’ll never forget that night. It was late, probably around eleven when there was a knock at the door that sent my heart straight to the pit of my stomach. All of the blood in my body ran cold as I walked downstairs to answer the door. Standing there under our dim yellow porch light was a uniformed policeman and a detective in plain clothes. They introduced themselves and asked for my mother. I walked them upstairs where she was standing.
I don’t remember what that detective said, or how he said it, but I know that I went numb. He told my mother that my eighteen-year-old brother’s body had been found in the desert in Tonopah, Arizona. He’d been shot. He was dead. It was a suicide. I’ll never forget the sound that came from my mother’s mouth that night. It was a sort of strangled half scream, half cry. The two men stood there as my mom sank down in a chair. She was sobbing. I was staring at the two men. I couldn’t cry. I tried, but there were no tears. I felt nauseated.
I know that questions were asked and calls were made. I called my dad, who was en route back home from Mexico with my uncle. The cellular phone made a dull thud when he dropped it. I called my grandparents and I was surprised at how strong and composed they were when they arrived at our house. I was so spaced-out and emotionally numb that I felt nothing.
Please feel free to share this story with those people you know may be helped by it. I hope that you are never impacted by the loss of a loved one by suicide, but unfortunately to a certain degree we are all impacted by the loss of celebrities and sports stars who take their lives. Their often too public lives cannot escape the drama that will follow them long after their decision to leave this world at their own hand. Please find it in your heart to show compassion for those people and their families, who did not ask to be thrust into the spotlight in this heart-rending way.
If you are feeling hopeless and unsure for yourself or someone who you care about, please do not hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Their services are completely free of charge, confidential, and they are available for you 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to a stranger, please reach out to a friend, school guidance counselor, favorite teacher, church resource, or family member. You are too valuable to lose, and we are here to help you.
Thank you for your ongoing support of my blog and of each other.