Suicide has been a haunt throughout the last decade of my life.
My first taste of her horrible awfulness was in 2005 as I watched my husband’s face go pale while speaking to someone on the phone.
He listened, paced the floor, cried, asked how, said goodbye, then—dropped the phone. Holding his head in both hands, he said, “Dan shot himself.”
Daniel was the best man at our wedding and my husband’s closest college friend. He struggled for years with depression after losing his sister in a house fire. He was intelligent, successful, funny, and handsome. He disguised his demon to the world well. The constant, intense therapy continuously placed new Band-Aids on the burns of his tired, guilt-ridden heart.
I remember the day he married a wonderful girl, full of light, and moved to Florida to begin their family life together. All seemed well with the world from the outside. It felt like the battle was finally won and a new life had begun for him. However, depression, being the whore she is, perched herself on the rooftop and waited patiently for his worst day.
Watching for the door to open a smidge during their first fight—a money problem, bad nightmare, or possibly a problem at work—she painted her nails red and styled her hair, preparing to walk her boney feet into the house where peace lived for a season.
The day of his shooting, my husband missed his call while riding home from work on the bus. I’m not sure he has ever totally recovered from missing that one single call. That one call, in thought, may have saved his life. That missed call haunts him still.
A simple voicemail was left saying, “No need to call back, just checking in.”
Sometime within the next couple of hours when Dan arrived home, he found her, depression, straddled on the chair of his office, luring him in with her intoxicating perfume. She promised it would be alright—that it was for the best. She pulled him in and stroked his hair as she whispered, “You are so tired, sugar. Come rest with me. You can trust me.” She placed the bullet in the chamber, he pulled the trigger, and put a bullet in his head.
Most of us have been touched in some way by death. Suicide is a gut punch. No, suicide is cutting a piece of your heart out and placing it back inside your body, to live with the impossibly debilitating handicap. The numbness of never completely understanding the whys, remedies, or the question “how could I have stopped this?” is overwhelming. The guilty thoughts of missing a sign or call for help whisper shameful doubts in the minds of those left behind to sweep the chards of the life shattered.
She came ever closer during the last few years. Holding the hand of my firstborn, standing on the edge of a four-level parking garage roof. What was racing through their head while looking over that edge? I imagine the dirty toes of their favorite shoes extending beyond the cement barrier, bits of gravel falling downward. Did they think of me in that moment? See my face smiling? Hear my voice begging them to stay?
They had been sorting through enormous burdens that I was unaware of. Feeling a misfit and uncomfortable in their own skin. Wrestling with how to tell me—and the harsh world around them. Wondering if they would be discarded, or worse, rejected.
Burdens churned inside their belly like a pile of stones in a tumbler. Stones so heavy at the time it felt easier to free fall from the top of a parking garage than speak them aloud and accept what may be the result of that choice. Hopelessness and anger led them to a dangerous perch.
This story ends differently than the first, and I am forever grateful. I was given the chance to embrace my child again. To hold them tight. To tell them that I love them without condition. You see, moments before taking that step off into ending, the strong hand of their younger brother pulled them back.
Told them they were loved, worthy, and it would be alright. They came back home that day and unleashed the secrets, distinguished the shame, and allowed the vulnerability of love to put the seducer—suicide—in check. Although there is still much work to be done to repair and strengthen the mental health of my child’s heart, it began that day when a brother pulled them in and gave love instead of shame.
If you know someone who is hurting, struggling with decisions, failures, shame, or many other things that could bring a person to the edge, have empathy.
Remember, everyone we meet is going through a battle. Where they are or how they handle those battles, we usually are not privy to. So be kind, lend a smile, a compliment, a hand, or a comforting word.
I implore you, reader, if you have smelled the scent of suicide’s perfume, heard the seductive words she whispers in the darkness, “You’re tired. You have failed. The world is better without you,” or perhaps you have even heard the click of the bullet ready in the chamber, stop! Ask for help. Tell someone: You are worthy of love. Your life is valuable. There is nobody else on the planet like you—one of a kind you are. You can’t fail if you don’t give up. Do not give up!
If you need help today or any other day, dial 988 for the Suicide Prevention Hotline.