I will never forget that phone call in the wee morning hours on June 21, 1998. The police called my house looking for my dad, which was very odd being he didn’t live with me. I called my dad and told him that he should call and see what they wanted. Dad was sort of a wild one, so I just assumed he got in some sort of trouble. Dad called me back, and I could tell something was wrong. He told me to wait at my house for him, that my brother, Bobby, had shot himself. I don’t even think my brain could properly process that. I was so confused. I remember thinking dad lived an hour away and I needed to get to the hospital as soon as I could. I couldn’t wait an hour! So I asked him “what hospital is Bobby at”…..silence. So I asked again. “What hospital is he at?” Dad didn’t really answer me, he just told me to wait for him. I don’t even remember the end of that conversation. Shortly there after I spoke to mom. She could barely speak through the sobs. I asked her, “which hospital are y’all at.” She replied that they weren’t and that she was at the police station. I was so confused. Why hadn’t anyone brought him to the hospital? Then the words….. “he’s gone,” Gone? What do you mean gone? He can’t be gone, he was just here.
Devastated is a completely inadequate word for the way I felt. I don’t think there is a word in the English language that could accurately describe it. I loved him so deeply! I remember crying and screaming hysterically all the way to the police station. Beyond that the next few weeks were a total blur. I sometimes wonder had he not been ripped from my life at our young age, if it would have affected me so deeply. I was 20 and he was 19 when he died. This happened before we had children of our own, and before we were really leading our own lives. I had just moved out about about six months before he passed away. He and I were very close growing up. We had the same group of friends and we all hung out together on a very, regular basis. He was my best friend. I don’t say that because he is gone and I romance the relationship in his death, I mean truly, we were very, very close. I could always count on him. If nobody else on Earth had my back, he always did. We knew everything about each other. We loved each other unconditionally. When he hurt, I hurt, and vice versa.
I had no idea that a heart could break like that. That you could miss another person that much. I had no idea that life could change so drastically, that quickly. As if that wasn’t bad enough losing him, I was left with so, so many questions. Why did he take his own life? What could I have done? Why didn’t I do something? I learned many, many things in the long healing process after his death. Losing a loved one to suicide is horrible and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. It’s pure torture. It’s like finality without the closure…forever. All those questions, they will never be answered…ever.
My grief came in stages. You truly can’t handle something like that all at once, you have to go through it in pieces, so it’s more manageable, if there is even such a thing. For me the first was shock and denial. I felt like on some level it was all a bad dream, as if he were just on some long vacation. I remember being so hurt and confused that I just went numb. For long periods of time. I couldn’t even cry. I wanted too, but the tears just wouldn’t come. I was like this deep, empty well. I was completely void. I just went through the motions for awhile and didn’t speak about it. That’s one of the sad things about the people left in the aftermath of suicide, people don’t know what to say, so they just avoid you. And truthfully the people left behind are in such a state of confusion, that they really don’t know what to say or think about it for that matter.
Once my brain could finally accept that he was really gone, I got really, really angry. I was so incredibly pissed off at him. How could he do this to us? I felt like it was so incredibly selfish of him. And for a rational person, that is a very selfish act. But realistically, a rational person wouldn’t off their self either. Having all that anger towards him was terrible. When he was alive, not once was I ever that angry with him, Not even close. It’s quite difficult to know what to do with all of that anger when the very person that you are so angry with, isn’t even here. I was only so angry though because I was so hurt, and in so much pain. I felt like he abandoned me. I have never felt so abandoned in my entire life. I know now his act wasn’t necessarily to end his life, but to end his pain. It was the only way he saw an end to the pain at that moment, and he took it.
Oh and the tremendous guilt that loved ones suffer in the wake of suicide. I don’t even know where to begin on this topic. You question everything….everything you should have noticed, and everything you should have done differently. Each person close to the deceased feels that they could have “saved” them. My brother came to see me about a week before he died, he hugged me and said “I love ya sis”. Which he never said. That line tortured me for years, as if he was waving some beacon or had a sign on his forehead and I just ignored it. I just knew if I had spent more time with him, he would still be here. It was all my fault, or so I thought for a long time. Somehow I just knew I could have single handedly saved him. Of course, now I know differently, but the weight of guilt crushed me for a long time.
When my daughters were born, I was so incredibly sad that he wasn’t here to know them. They would have adored him. He would have adored them. I wanted to meet his children. All of those things that are “supposed” to happen with siblings as they age, will never happen for us. When dad died, I carried that burden alone. I’m sure my mom will pass one day too, and again I will carry that burden alone, with no other sibling to lean on. I always think how my husband and brother would have been great friends. I think of so many things, still to this day, they just don’t break my heart so much anymore.
My brother was truly one of the most beautiful souls I have ever been obliged to know. I mean that. I thought that when he was alive, so I’m not just saying that now that he is gone. He was one of the most loyal people I have ever met. He was compassionate, very compassionate. He went out of his way often for the people he cared about. He was also very, very broken. I remember from a very young age always kind of sensing that something was very different about him. It manifested more the older he got. He was so sad all the time. I sometimes think that his spirit was just so gentle, and this world a very cold, harsh place. I have never seen the depths of depression the way I saw it manifest in him. It is the saddest feeling in the world to see all the beauty and potential in a person, yet know that they don’t see it in themselves. How do you help someone like that? You feel helpless. I know how much it broke my heart, much less my poor mom. I can’t even imagine going through something like that with one of my children.
Years passed, the sting of it all faded more and more, and eventually I made peace with it. It’s OK that I will never have all the answers. It’s OK that he’s gone. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still wish to this day that he was here, because I do. I do still, to this day, wish that I had reached out more to him than I did, but I’m no longer angry with him or myself about it. I learned that you should love the people you have, because you never know when your last moment with them will be. If you know someone struggling with depression, try to help, you just may save a life. Sickness of the mind and sickness of the heart are very real. They can have permanent consequences. Our world needs more love. More Christ. More compassion. Unearth love and you will unearth life. Have a life-giving attitude towards others, not life-taking.
There is someone out there that needs you, and your kindness and your love. That’s why you are still here. Unearth it!