I still remember The Awful Knock.
It was 4:19 a.m. — but my husband wasn’t home. Why? Well, the man I loved was now someone I barely recognized. Given to terrifying mood swings, he sometimes had me literally running for cover.
He had left the house that night, closing the door gently, leaving his wallet behind. Now I opened the door and saw a uniformed woman. I knew the news would be bad.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” I said. “Yes,” she said softly. “I am so sorry.”
He had just shot a fatal bullet into his head.
Once, he had been my best friend — funny, smarter than he thought, an engaging storyteller. He was even movie star handsome.
Then he began to hate work, friends, life. Our baby could snatch him out of his self-loathing, but only briefly. His refusal to seek help was defiant: he could take care of himself. Later, I found out how – pills and cheap alcohol.
Afterwards, in those first months, the baby saved my life, although sometimes I longed to join him because I loved him so. I worked in television, but that kind of life now – the ability to function on a daily basis –was out of the question.
Eventually I discovered why he had left his wallet behind. Inside a secret compartment were snapshots of the baby, ones he had never shown me. I knew he would never have been able to kill himself that night if he had looked at any of those images, even for a second.
Until his death, I had no idea that one in five people who seek no treatment for their depression commit suicide. A mom in my daughter’s playgroup… my realtor… my friend’s high school buddy… all confided that they, too, knew about suicide firsthand.
Why do these deaths so often go unspoken? Shame? Because the thought of suicide is unthinkable? Because survivors believe there’s a black mark against us?
I do know this: for a very long time, I told strangers he died in a car accident. You see, most people have no words, although one man suggested that peanuts would have cured his depression. How does one respond to a well-meaning idiot?
Three years ago, I married again, after having moved to a new home many miles way. It is a happy and loving slate, and I have moved on in so many other ways. Here, in a place he never was, there are no reminders of him. I like it.
But now I have decided do something else: if someone asks, I will tell the truth. I will also tell everyone who asks how much he once loved life. And I will then tell them he was depressed, refused help and then killed himself.
I will also tell them I did the best I could.
I know now that his suicide had everything to do with him and nothing to do with me. My only part was that I loved him.
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