My best friend checked into a motel with a shotgun he’d just bought, stuck it in his mouth, and blew his head off. While he did this, his wife was outside with a megaphone pleading for him to return home with her. Dozens of police had amassed on the scene, but it was too late to save him. The police’s overreaction likely exacerbated the situation—they even sent in a bomb-disposal robot. And because he had a gun, the cops wouldn’t let his wife near the room where he was holed up. The story made the online edition of the local newspaper, complete with heartless comments by those who had no idea about the circumstances.
My friend’s wife and family were devastated—all of us who cared for him were. Though she is a strong woman, the widow’s life has been forever altered. She now suffers panic attacks at the mere sight of police cruisers.
After the initial shock wore off, I became angry with him. I keep imagining him ascending to heaven as an angel complete with wings and a little harp, and then my hand wraps around his ankle as I pull him back down to Earth to kick his ass. I would love to tell him about the many evenings I’ve spent on the phone with the woman he left behind, trying to soothe her and help her understand why he did it. I wish I could tell him about the mess he left behind for his mother and for all the people who’ve asked me why he did it. Hell, I wish I could ask him why he did it.
Such a violent grand gesture of personal negation was obviously meant to send us all a message. He told his mother shortly before he pulled the trigger that he was angry and bitter at his estranged father. Maybe we all let him down. Perhaps he thought he wasn’t good enough, and this fueled his self-loathing.
But I wouldn’t know, because he didn’t tell me about his plans for self-destruction. I wish he had. In our last conversation, he mentioned emotional struggles but downplayed them. Maybe I didn’t recognize that as a possible symptom. We both agreed that his quality of life was predicated on the love of a good woman. And the most important thing was that he had someone so completely and unconditionally devoted to him that she would have done anything for him. I thought he would’ve done anything for her, too. I was wrong. What a pity he threw that away when so many truly lonely people don’t get the chance to experience it.
Many people contemplate suicide. I have in times past when I felt the futility of life bearing down on me. Those feelings passed. A wise old man once told me that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Ultimately, I’ve realized that I have too much fight in me to take the cowards’ way out. Besides, I wouldn’t want to give my detractors the satisfaction. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the old cliché is true: A life well-lived is the best revenge.
To anybody reading this who may be contemplating suicide, consider that the peace you seek in death is the peace you deny those who care about you in life. Consider the toll of emotional destruction you’ll leave behind, and the way that the act can be perceived as an affront or even insulting. You are obligated to those who care for you as much as they are to you. If you’re hurting now, how much might you hurt the ones left to pick up the pieces?