Today marks the four-year anniversary of my brother’s suicide, and once again I am haunted.
Haunted by the last conversation I had with Mike the weekend before he died. He was panicked and overwhelmed over some issues with his job and with his landlord. He was being kind of a drama queen, his stress way out of proportion to the problems he was facing. I wasn’t worried because I knew things would work out one way or another. I had no idea he was teetering on the edge of sanity. Only in hindsight can we identify the warning signs we didn’t notice at the time.
Haunted by the voicemail messages he left for my daughter Dolly two nights before he died. He said he’d been having a hard time and thought hearing her voice might cheer him up. In reality, he had already made his plan and was calling to say good-bye.
Haunted by the text message I planned to send the next day but didn’t. “Hang in there, kid.” Composed in my head as I walked into my office, but never typed, never sent. Also haunted by every detail of the work I did that day before he died, when I didn’t text or call him.
Haunted by the walk to the park the morning he died, when I didn’t know he was already gone. I said to Dolly that we needed to call Uncle Mike after her race because he really wanted to talk to us.
Haunted by the Girls on the Run 5K in Golden Gate Park that morning, the strange voicemail message from my parents alerting me that something was wrong, the aggressive ass-hole who yelled at me and threatened to sue me because Duncan’s dog wouldn’t stop barking while Dolly and Duncan were running in the race, and the foggy notion that maybe I knew what had happened before I called my parents back because it seems like I did but how could that be possible?
Haunted by the park bench across the road from the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park where I called my parents and they told me that Mike was dead, that he had shot himself in the head with a shotgun. Whether I knew or not, whether I suspected or not, whether I had prepared myself for this eventuality after two earlier suicide attempts in his teens, no imagining could have ever prepared me for what it was like when it actually happened. The world opened up and swallowed me whole.
Haunted by the gunshot that I didn’t hear, his body by the trashcan someone else found. Haunted by my parents driving to Virginia to get him and clean out his apartment. Haunted by his suicide notes. Haunted by his last text message: “I am so sorry. I love you all.”
Haunted by December 5 for the rest of my life. And so, so grateful the other 364 days of the year are no longer like this one.