[“And when the lights shut off and it’s my turn to settle down, my main concern – Promise that you will sing about me – Promise that you will sing about me” – Kendrick Lamar]
A few years ago, Chris, my step-brother, committed suicide at the age of 29 by hanging in San Antonio, Texas. He left behind a wife, a daughter, and a son.
I was driving my wife and some close friends back from a great dinner when my other eldest brother, Channing, called from Texas to give me the news.
“I have some bad news. Chris killed himself.”
I took the call while driving and thought it wise to pull over and let the news sink in.
My first thought was toward his mother. Chris was technically my step-brother, and he was his mother’s only child. I’ve been described as cold-hearted on numerous occasions, but that night my heart broke for her.
In the following days and weeks, we learned that Chris blamed much of his circumstances on his marriage. He left a note written on a chalkboard and a final text sent to his wife. Words that night fueled by frustration and despair amplified by a figurative swimming pool of alcohol deep enough to drown those piercing emotions.
I never fully understood his motives as family members of suicide victims are often left to question things they could have done to prevent such preventable tragedy. And therein lies the true hurt of suicide – the guilt left behind and distributed amongst the living with questions of what we could have done differently.
I can only imagine the hurt he must have felt strongly enough to leave behind his two young kids. I hope to never be able to truly relate.
Individuals who haven’t been exposed to mental health experts or even familiar with mental health issues are greatly disadvantaged to fight this monster once it shows up. I feel as if I couldn’t write enough about this subject and particularly this incident, which is why I’ve avoided posting this article for so long. I don’t know what comes next, but I do know that we need to start talking about it.
Within the black community, the fear of hell is becoming less scary than the fear of continuing to face the rest of life under their circumstances. For what is hell other than a place of no hope for anything better? As long as this trend continues, we can expect more suicides on the horizon.
I remember talking to a friend after the incident and both us agreeing that we could never see ourselves in such a mentally precarious position to ever contemplate suicide. Thinking back, clearly at least one of us was lying.
At Chris’s funeral I recall only a few things:
* his body didn’t seem like him
* the sheer number of people of that attended, which I wish he could have seen
* how it felt hearing Deitrick Haddon’s “Resting Place” and Coldplay’s “What If” [which happened to be the last song he posted to his MySpace page]
* my wife wouldn’t stand with me to go see his body
* not one person, including myself, stood to say any words
This article has no nice summed up conclusion. I still struggle with the incident. As does his mother. As do his children. As do millions more of us.