One thing that surprised me was learning how meticulous Mike was. When I arrived in West Virginia the week after Mike died, my parents pointed to several boxes of paperwork and said, “Here’s your project for the week.” The task of settling Mike’s financial affairs went more smoothly than one would think. Who knew that Mike would have perfectly organized files with every document I needed? He even had a list of his online accounts and passwords. Had he always been this organized, or did he intentionally get his files in order because he knew we would inherit them and need to make sense of them? I feel sorry for whoever inherits my own chaos.
As awful as his death was, there were little things he did that showed he was trying to be kind to others. He left notes for us to try to explain his actions instead of leaving us to wonder. He killed himself in a remote area where his neighbors and vacationing families would not see him. He used a method that would make his body appear to be intact so we wouldn’t have to see the destruction. He left notes and numbers so my parents would have people to help them. Suicide is inherently selfish, because the one who does it cannot see past his own pain. Certainly he didn’t know how his death would change us forever. But even within this blindness, Mike performed small acts of kindness in his final hours.
I was inspired my Mike’s files, although he held on to too much. Since I've been home, I have been organizing my own files. My home office is filled with mountains of paper that I have been trying to sort for years. Now I feel like I am doing it for him.
I have one folder in my file cabinet that is called “Mike”. It is not a folder of Mike’s life. It is a folder of his death. Here is a list of its contents:
- A copy of the note Mike left on his neighbor’s door the morning he killed himself, asking them to help our parents. He tried to leave my parents’ cell phone number, but he wrote the number down incorrectly. The neighbors left message on Mike’s cell phone instead—messages Mike would never hear, and I would be the first to hear 10 days later.
- A copy of the note he left on his body for whoever found him, telling them to contact our parents and his employer, his address, and that there were more letters back at his apartment.
- A copy of the letter he left for our parents.
- A copy of the letter he left for Dolly and me.
- A copy of the letter he left for our aunts.
- Lists of people who could help and other contacts that he left with the letters.
- A list of grievances he had against his employer that he left with the letters.
- An old letter from his landlord that he left with the letters.
- A Wikipedia entry for Wendy O. Williams that he left with his letters, apparently to argue that suicide can be justified. He quoted from her suicide note in his letter to my parents.
- A copy of his death certificate.
- A copy of his obituary.
- A list of the telephone numbers that were in his cell phone, just in case we need them, which I doubt we will.
- A list of his creditors and notes of our contacts with them.
- A list of resources for survivors of suicide.
- A copy of the receipt for the gun he bought from a pawnshop in Virginia Beach.
The “Mike” file is a time capsule of the end of my brother’s life, and the worst month of my life. It sits in my file cabinet in between “Medical Bills” and “National Lawyers Guild.”