An act which one once legal in England, but only if you were deemed sane (1823). This Latin word originated in the mid-1600’s. Just the word itself leaves me with a knot in my stomach and an ache in my soul. It breaks down ‘sui’ meaning self and ‘cide’ meaning ‘a killing’ (pesticide, decide, homicide, insecticide, etc.) The mere mention of it brings heartbreak to anyone who has been a survivor. Over the years I’ve known many that have taken their own lives, from my elderly neighbor, to my best friend’s older sister, to a good friend from high school (after her daughter hung herself). Then there are the most famous self-killings, Robin Williams, Curt Cobain, Hunter Thompson and Ernest Hemingway. None of these people were ever in my little social circle and have become a distant tragedy, until…
Today in (my own) history was the most horrific day I hope I ever have to live through. It started on a Sunday morning as the sun peaked over the eastern horizon. I heard my husband’s cell phone ring from the pocket of his jeans (which were on the floor). Then my own cell phone vibrated from the charger in the kitchen. Then the house phone rang. By that time, we both knew something was wrong and we each were dashing to the handset of the landline. My husband reached it first. I looked at my cell phone to the missed call, it was my brother-in-law. The two spoke briefly.
“We’ll be right there,” my husband said, “love you, brother.” After he disconnected, he turned to me. “The boys killed themselves last night.”
“What boys?” I asked, still foggy and waking.
“Cory and Christopher.”
My knees buckled and I hit the floor, tears stung my eyes as I pounded my fists on the ground and began to sob. “The boys” were my nephews and it happened to be the youngest (Cory’s) 19th birthday. Him and my daughter were only three months apart and growing up were a lot like siblings. At one point, Cory was the son I never had. Isotopes games, a cat skeleton, tree houses, sleep-overs, sandcastles and a live turtle found in the back yard started to ping through my memory. The idea of him dead was unfathomable. The idea of him dead by his own hand, incomprehensible. Christopher was more than ten years older and I knew him through family gatherings (specifically Thanksgivings). He was always the life of the party, handsome and funny.
Although not all suicides are gun related crimes, this one certainly was. This is the way I understand it to have happened. After an all-night party binge, Christopher said something along the lines of “F**k this life” and put his pistol to his head right behind his left ear and pulled the trigger. Cory called 911 and reported his brother had just killed himself, “…and I’m next.” He then put his own gun to his temple and shot. Christopher’s bullet had gone in and out in one hemisphere of his brain. He was still alive. Cory’s went all the way through both sides and he was dead before he hit the ground. Christopher survived about fourteen hours. That’s when hell really settled over our family.
Losing anyone, in any manner is grim, even when it’s expected as with old age or a terminal illness. Suicide is a different kind of loss. It’s a grief that rocks you to your core, the sadness doesn’t stop. It’s as if a hand grenade went off in your family or circle of friends. The direct blame lies on the deceased. This causes conflicting feelings from rage to remorse, anger to empathy and a load of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. My blame raced to the liberal gun laws in this country, specifically this state. I was angry they had such easy access to something so spontaneously lethal.
Some of the things I’ve learned from losing ‘the boys’ are you never get over a suicide when its someone close to you. There’s an innocence lost within yourself, something that will never be the same… ever. And that life is precious. It’s the only one we get and it’s our own responsibility to make it marvelous. For anyone reading this that has contemplated suicide, that last sentence is the most important. I’ll pass along the suicide prevention line for your reference. Wish it was an easy one to remember, like 1-800-DON’T-DO-IT but it’s more complicated than that. 1-800-273-8255 (well, actually that spells ape-talk, so 1-800-APE-TALK. That’s definitely easier.)
My next blog will be happier, I promise. Until then, rest in peace Cory and Christopher. I’ve missed you madly the last seven-hundred and thirty-one days and will still… every day.