On July 4, 1998, in the rural town of Kearney, Missouri, fireworks were going off.
While my family was outside celebrating the good ol’ US of A, my Uncle Jim went back into the house to “grab some popcorn.”
He never came back.
At 11:22 p.m., a sound erupted from inside of the house that shrouded itself inside the forest of the countryside. It didn’t sound like the usual dull boom of a firework, as my dad described it. It ripped through the air, leaving a feeling of dread over the party-goers. The people watching the fireworks jerked and looked back to the house, but eventually returned to watching the colorful explosions.
My father and mother eventually went inside the house to check out what the sound was. Possibly a dishwasher was broken or one of the house pets knocked over a cabinet. Eleven minutes later police had surrounded the house. Two minutes later my mother was crying uncontrollably into a police officer’s arms. At 12:02 a.m., my uncle was pronounced dead due to self-inflicted wounds. Also known as suicide.
I was only two months old at the time. I was back at our house in Overland Park, being cared for by one of my aunts, so this is just how my dad described it. Whether some of it is dramaticized, I don’t know.
My uncle’s death was instant, a .44 magnum shot through his skull. But my family’s sorrow evaded the treatment of countless shrinks and doctors and still lingers above my household to this day.
I didn’t know about my uncle’s suicide until recently. It must have been one of the things that my parents didn’t feel the need to tell me about until I was older, which I understand. There’s no way I would have understood how big of a deal it was for my parents to walk in on a deceased relative. When I did finally learn about it, I didn’t really care.
But the effects of my uncle’s suicide became evident to me in eighth grade. It was February, just after Valentine’s Day, and my family wasn’t in the best spot economically after my mother was fired from her job. The third time in five years. She didn’t leave her bed for a week, either because she felt embarrassed or disgusted with herself. Any chance to talk about finding a new job or just going out to eat resulted in a conversation full of screaming, cursing and slaps across the face. And tears. Lots of tears.
Eventually, the stress got to her. It was too muche to care for me and my sisters. Not to mention she was always getting in fights with my dad over the smallest things. Life became too much of a burden.
She tried hanging herself.
The noose snapped off of the ceiling after my mother had kicked the chair away. The fall left her unconscious, but by some whimsical chance, this is one of the few moments that made me believe there is a god. Unconscious in my parents’ bedroom, with a noose around her bruised neck and a suicide note left in the corner that my father didn’t let me read.
She looked like she was sleeping when I found her.
There was dust on the bed, and a hole in the ceiling. The room was white, with columns of light from the two windows breaking through the dust to illuminate the dirty clothes on the ground. At first, I didn’t say anything. My brain didn’t register what was happening. A rope, a hole, my mother on top of the covers instead of under them.
I screamed and cried, and shook her to wake up. I pawed my way across a desk that sat next to the queen-sized bed that only my mother slept on, knocking over pills and hand lotions until I grabbed a cordless phone through my tear-filled eyes. Eventually I dialled three numbers, and I’ll never forget what the operator said to me.
“Hello, nine-one-one, what’s your emergency,” the voice crackled through the Nokia phone.
“My mother tried hanging herself,” I said in an emotionless tone, something I’ve become known for. Whether I’m super depressed or super excited, I always give that tone now. I guess that’s one way I’ve been damaged by all this.
“Oh god honey. Oh my god.” said the operator, with just enough emotion that you could tell she wasn’t prepared to hear a kid’s voice say that to her.
“Just hold on, everything will be okay. We’re sending an ambulance now.”
It wasn’t all okay. It was far from okay. I was scarred for life, my brain burned with an image of my mother’s lifeless body on the off-white bedsheets.
The next day at school, I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t tell anybody for two years, until now.
Thankfully, I never went through an “emo” phase, wearing all black clothes and hating every day and wishing it was my last. My other two sisters did. I was emotionally unstable, and I still am, but I learned to find comfort in the little things. Sports, video games, cars.
I bought a Yamaha Ec-12 eterna, a really basic guitar, for $80 from a friend of a friend, though I still haven’t learned how to play the damned thing besides a few chords. I tried everything and anything to push away the thoughts of knowing that mother hated my father so much that she wanted to die above the very bed they sleep upon at night.
“He ruined my life,” I could hear her mutter under her breath after one of their fights.
My sister never found her solace after the attempted suicide. She ballooned to over 300 pounds, had no social life at all and didn’t attend a single college class for about a month.
Then two weeks before my birthday, April 27, she tried to overdose on some prescription drugs she bought from a friend. While it gave her the illusion that she was slowly dying, she really was just going into shock. Twenty minutes later my father came home from work and find my sister foaming from the mouth and twitching on the floor of her own bedroom.
Why my sister tried to take her life, I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s because of my mother trying to snap her own neck or some deeper social issue that I haven’t heard of. She doesn’t do much, like an old dog that just lays around the house. I think sometimes that while her physical body survived the attempted suicide, she still killed herself mentally.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve had plenty of moments when I seriously considered putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger. I still do. The only thing that keeps me on this earth is not really me. I couldn’t care less what happens to me, but my friends and my family. I know that if I decide to take my life my dad and mom and all my sisters would be grieving for their entire lives. With the things that have happened to our family, I doubt any of them would be dying of natural causes.
It’s the little things that keep me going, whether it’s going to Starbucks with a girl I have a crush on after the Harbinger deadline to playing old Nintendo games with my friends on a Saturday night. Anything that keeps my mind busy. It’s when my mind has time to think and find the problems in my life that the thoughts come back. You’re stupid. You’re ugly. You’ll never succeed.
Nobody will ever love you.
While suicide is one of the last acts you may ever do, you have to realize that there are people out that love you. That care for you. There are people out there that wake up every day just to talk to you, to see you smile and to hear your problems.
If you decide to kill yourself, somebody will find your body. They’ll find your lifeless body on the floor, the blood splattered on the walls or the noose on the ceiling. They’ll never be the same. Like the two girls recently who committed suicide, and like my story, one person taking their life can take so many other lives with them.
There will always be a better option than suicide. Just remember, as I’ve said to myself countless times.
This, too, shall pass.