My brother! Immediately I thought he must be in trouble—maybe even in jail. It would be a first, but Paul had a rebellious streak.
I really didn’t want to hear what was wrong, but I joined my mom to support her.
I don’t remember much more. I just know our visitor said my brother was found dead in his apartment. It was suicide.
“No! Not possible!” In jail I could handle. Dead wasn’t even in the realm of possibility.
He was only 28—and my idol.
Paul and I were different from the rest of our family. We had a special bond. He made up stories and crazy schemes that kept us laughing for hours. With him around, I knew I wasn’t alone—and I was safe.
When I was eight, he joined the Navy and became a medic in the Philippines. We wrote letters to each other every few weeks to stay connected.
When he came home we’d break free to take long rides in his Corvair convertible. He taught me to drive a stick shift and later even let me drive his other car on the highway years before I was licensed—a huge yellow antique Cadillac.
I remembered our last ride. When we got home, something urged me strongly to tell him, “I love you.” But we never used those words in my family, so I resisted. Why hadn’t I just said it?
My mind returned to the present. The man, my mom, and I sat stiffly in our living room. He was trying to help. But my mom just sat there, blank. No tears, no cries—nothing.
How could this be?
Paul was my mom’s light. He used to make her laugh until she cried. I didn’t realize it that day, but I would never see my mother laugh like that again.
We had no clue about Paul’s depression. We knew nothing of his suicidal thoughts. He had just become an emergency medical technician and was going to save other people’s lives.
In a single moment our entire family was devastated, including our four-year-old nephew who also idolized Paul.
Decades later, I still can’t comprehend why this happened. Losing my brother is the biggest regret of my life. I’ll never know how life would be different if he were with us.
Your life is bigger than you
If suicidal thoughts are taking over and you’re considering suicide, know that you’ll leave others behind. You’ll traumatize them. Some will carry the burden of guilt with them forever. Others will doubt their own existence. Still others will end their own lives in despair—or suffer from severe depression. The reactions are endless.
The time your loved ones will spend reliving things said and not said, over and over again, wondering how they could have changed the outcome, will be long and grueling.
When you take your life, you take others with you—children, spouses, moms and dads, siblings, extended family, friends, and co-workers.
As difficult as your life feels, try to remember this: if you can’t live for yourself at this moment, think about living for them. Your moments of despair will pass, and you can address your own pain when it does.
If you choose death instead, those you left behind will agonize and despair for many years. Where will they find comfort?
Think beyond yourself
My brother’s death contributed to something positive. Using my experience, I was able to stop two friends from choosing suicide.
Kris was my best friend in Florida. Her daughter, Jill, married right out of college and moved to a different state. Kris needed a good relationship. Things hadn’t worked out with someone she was dating.
One day she called and said she wanted to kill herself. I asked her to talk. I knew she loved her daughter more than anything in the world. They were so close, so I told Kris what would happen to Jill if she chose to end her life.
We spoke for hours, and I told her my story. She finally changed her mind and promised me she meant it.
Today Kris is happily married to a pilot. Her life is wonderful.
Ron was a dear friend I met when I was laid off. He had helped me through some rough times. One day he called me and said he was holding a gun to his head.
The feeling of dread that shot through me when I heard his suicidal thoughts… .
I talked him through his crisis, recommended a compassionate counselor, and told him to bring the gun to me for safekeeping, which he did.
I explained the same thing to him—suicide accomplishes nothing for you, and it harms your loved ones forever.
Today, Ron is happy at his job, has a great cat for company, and has never looked back on that day.
Every bad experience is temporary
It’s said that we’re never given any burden we cannot bear.
We have so many resources to help us choose life. We have psychologists and counselors to help us get back on track. We have natural means and drugs to address depression. We have friends and family to support us. We have music, poetry, and other art to uplift us.
We have access to a wealth of information to help us understand and connect with other people who are going through similar life challenges. We have spiritual resources based on every belief to help us move through our toughest moments.
And we have each other for support.
Every beautiful thing that happens to us and every life challenge is temporary. Situations change. And we can change our situations. We can alter the way we perceive life and the way we see our problems. We can grow stronger because of them.
If you ever have suicidal thoughts, reach out to all of the resources at your disposal. Face your problems head-on and work through them. Nothing can stop you from discovering the way out of your darkest moments.
You have a way out.
Give yourself this gift, and give this gift to all of those whom your life has touched.
Never give up.