Suicide is a powerful event, not so much for the dead ones, because they’re no longer here, but for the loved ones – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, boyfriends and girlfriends. Suicide carries a connotation of instability, depression and weakness, and these qualities reverberate back on the family and close friends, setting off shockwaves of guilt, remorse and regret.
Why didn’t we see the signs? Why didn’t we intervene? Why didn’t we help more?
My brother committed suicide last week. It was a complete shock, but not a surprise. He had attempted suicide once before, but couldn’t go through with it. Over time, however, he seemed to have overcome his anger and depression, and we all carried on “normally.”
But then, late on a Sunday night, he rode the bus to the Mississippi River, walked into the woods along the riverbank and shot himself. The police identified him through fingerprints. He left notes on the kitchen table back in his apartment.
My brother never had much of a chance in life, as if the road he travelled was booby-trapped with obstacles. He quit high school and this always disqualified him from decent-paying employment. Despite the lack of education, he was an intelligent man – astute enough to recognize that his life of near-poverty was the result of a sick, twisted culture dedicated to consumption, accumulation and social anomie.
He hated the city bureaucracy that held power over his terms and conditions of employment as a cab driver; he hated modern technology and heaped scorn on computers and “smart phones”; he hated the political and economic elite; he hated the maze of laws and red tape imposed on him. However, I never imagined he would become so low and depressed as to quit living.
I’ve had thoughts about suicide, what it might be like and under what circumstances I might consider it . . . and if I had a fatal, debilitating illness, I might regard suicide as an option. Otherwise, I can’t see suicide as a response to feeling bad about myself and my life.
I’ve hit rock bottom twice in my life – when I lay on the floor sobbing as the darkness closed in on all sides. But suicide never entered my mind, mainly because I was so focused on the pain and discomfort. But crying cannot be sustained. And the cats and dogs have to be fed, and I have to make dinner . . . and life goes on. The depression fades.
But some people are prone to depression and think differently. My brother concluded that he’d be better off dead than to keep living in this world. Although I don’t understand it and I’m angry about it, there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. My lovely brother John is gone forever.