Twenty Years Later, Pain and Memories

Submitted annonymously

The last time I saw Chris was the day before he died. I was worried because of two things, one — he was bringing things home he said he didn’t need, and two — he had a big smile on his face. This was unusual for Chris because he rarely seemed to smile. At this time I had very little knowledge of suicide. However these two things brought up red flags in my mind. I remember wondering why he was doing this. I got a bigger hint that night when I dreamt about him and the answer when my mother called me the next morning to tell me Chris was dead. I knew when my mom called & told me Chris was dead, that me and my family would be going through hell. My mother shouldn’t lose her only son one week before Mother’s Day. My grandmother shouldn’t lose her only grandson the day before her birthday, but they do & they did.

When Chris died I remember feeling stunned & angry, thinking who the hell do you think you are? Later we found Chris’s diaries. He had the whole thing planned — the how, the why, & the where. He even left his leather jacket on my mom’s front porch with what reminded me of a to do list, though it only had one item on it. It read: “Ask mom (mommy) if I can wear my leather jacket at my funeral.” Even though we were told by the county coroner that this would need to be a closed casket, Chris wore his leather jacket. We dressed him just the way he would have in life & even played his favorite music at his memorial service. Some people weren’t very happy with this but we felt that this is what Chris would have wanted. When we finally did purchase a tombstone for his grave-site, my mother felt that my sisters & I should be involved & we chose one together & had Chris’s favorite thing…his car carved into it.

The night Chris died he talked my mother into driving him to his house almost 40 miles away. She agreed — but only if when they arrived he would give her his gun. He agreed. When they did arrive, he said he searched & said he couldn’t find it he said he would be okay because a friend of his was there. He told her “Mom, nothing will happen to me.” Well, he lied. Chris was in his bedroom, his friend in the living room. His friend said he heard a noise & thought Chris dropped his soda can, when he didn’t hear anything else he checked on Chris & realized what really happened. Chris ended his life with a gun.

After Chris died I was depressed for a year, I had panic attacks daily but told no one just so I wouldn’t have to bother with going to see a therapist or take drugs. My youngest sister was fifteen years old when Chris died, It was extremely difficult for her. She tried to commit suicide twice just so she could be with her big brother. Even at the funeral home & later the cemetery her father had to pull her off of Chris’s casket when we were leaving. It just broke my heart to see my mother & sister in so much pain, that hurt me more than I can say.

I mourn for anyone who has lost a brother, because like me & my sisters we will no longer hear his voice. Even though we did argue alot I would love to hear his voice & be able to argue with him again. I wish I could listen to his favorite songs without getting that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I wish I could have done something to stop Chris from committing suicide but deep down I know if it didn’t happen at that time, eventually it would have happened. And don’t let anyone ever tell you “you will get over it” — there is no such thing as “getting over it” — you will get through it the best that you can but you will never get over it. There is no such thing. Instead, eventually what replaces the pain are memories.

Chris’s death changed me in a lot of ways. It is now almost ten years since his death and my mother, sisters, & I talk about him a lot. After Chris died it was difficult to hear his favorite songs without crying. Once, shortly after he died I was shopping in a crafts store when Chris’s favorite song began to play, I became panicked & wanted to run out of the store and never go back again, instead I just stood there the whole time the song played shaking with tears streaming down my face. Now when I think of Chris I think of a little man with a devilish grin and a great sense of humor. He had a sweet, gentle side of himself he he rarely seemed to show. Chris felt that by ending his life he was doing his family a favor. He was so very wrong. I think of him nearly every day especially holidays, his birthday & the anniversary of his death.

I will always love and miss my little brother but when I get sad I try to think of my favorite religious saying: “In my father’s house there are many rooms” & I can picture Chris & my grandparents walking around in heaven together. They are buried near each other. I have never told anyone this but there is a very small part of me that is glad Chris didn’t live after the gunshot only for the reason my handsome little brother would have been disfigured. Also I somehow sensed that if he wouldn’t have completed suicide then he would have continued to try until he would have completed suicide.

The day after Chris died I went to back to work and work after suicide was difficult enough. Then, later, after work, I ended up going to the doctor’s for some very sudden laryingitis. The doctor was stunned when I told him about Chris.

Chris & his best friend were volunteer firefighters. After Chris died his best friend said, “How will I ever find another best friend?” At the funeral his best friend got out his volunteer firefighter blues uniform & stood at Chris’s casket during the entire service. At the end of the service he turned around & saluted Chris’s casket. It is something that even now almost 10 years later the second I think of it it brings me to tears.

Things Chris said before he died:
1) Dead men don’t pay bills.
2) I’ll be dead by the time I’m 40

The first time I heard about Survivors of Suicide was the day Chris died. Ironically there was an article in the newspaper about a family that attended the group. My mother & I decided to go to the next meeting. It was the first Thursday in June 1994. I remember walking into the room stunned at the number of people there. For the first time in my life I was speechless. I remember everyone went around in a circle saying their name, who the loved that committed suicide & how their day was, and how long it had been since the suicide. When it came to be my turn for weeks & weeks they would ask if I had anything to say the only word I could say was no.

It helped enormously to be around people who had been through the same thing I was going through. I remember going home after the first meeting and saying to my mother “I feel better” — my mothers words were, “I don’t but if it helps you we’ll keep coming back.” Ironically my mom went to the meetings longer than I did. I remember when I did go to the meetings having so much hate & anger in my system at Chris. Whenever I went to a survivors of suicide meeting my heart would beat very fast until more people would come only then did I feel safe.

Prologue: Ironically now after almost 10 years I have returned to the meetings not out of need for myself but because I have a deep desire to help others through the same situation I have been through. It does feel good to help others however it always breaks my heart to see another new face. I often say if I could show my little brother and others what life is like without our loved ones here they might reconsider suicide. Very much like the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Yes, my life has changed in many ways as well as my mother’s & sisters’. My extended family is growing, My eldest sister is now a grandmother of 4 children, my 2nd eldest sister now has a daughter-in-law & my youngest sister is engaged & expecting her first child. My grandmother has passed away. Now when I look at my great nieces & nephews I see my brother & think, “Gosh, I know he would have loved this!” Now in my daily life I do not have a lot of sadness — it is more of a mellowness.

Often I feel him here with me, especially when I play his favorite songs. I often feel like I have a sixth sense about things & that at times of great crisis in life, I have an angel looking after me…That Angel’s name…Chris.