April 10th, 1985.
I was in first grade. Almost eight years old. I remember being taken to an adjacent classroom and throwing a chair after Mr. Szudy told me my uncle was dead.
Uncle Ed was my favorite. My memories of him are few because I was so young, but I remember he was my favorite. No offense to all my other uncles, of course. Uncle Ed had a great smile. He was fun. He worked at a car dealership and I have a fuzzy memory of going to visit him there and riding around in miniature versions of the bigger, real cars.
Then, on April 10th, 1985, Uncle Ed kissed his kids goodbye in the morning, got to work early and took his own life. He didn’t leave a note. It was a shock to everyone. Last year I talked to my dad about what happened that day. The wound, some 26 years later, was as fresh as the day it happened. The emotion just as sharp. The love, the longing, the confusion, the anger, the sadness.
We’ll never know exactly why he did it. And that’s really hard. But we still love him. And we always will.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. On average, 3,000 people take their own lives every day. Every day. And for every person that is successful, twenty more try and fail. Thank God for failures.
I’m afraid to say this, but it’s important…I’ve struggled with thoughts of ending my own life before. I try to handle things on my own; I hide things and it becomes too much. A person can only last so long that way. I’m getting better, though. My wife calls it “living in the light.” It’s hard sometimes, but it’s the only way to truly live.
When I spoke to my dad that day last year, I hoped against hope that I remembered it wrong and that my uncle did leave a note. It scared me that he didn’t. Because it reminded me of me. I can imagine he was going through some hard stuff, trying to fix it on his own, not letting anybody know about it and then it just all became too much. I know how easy it is to get to that place.
I’m grateful for those around me, my family and friends, who won’t allow me to get there. Ever. And I don’t want you (especially family that might be reading this) to think I’m there now. Far from it. But, I feel like sharing my personal experience is the honest thing to do. To let you know that there is hope.
If you are thinking about taking your own life…stop. Please. Get help. Whatever it is that’s making you feel hopeless is a lie. There is always hope. Always. If you feel like a failure, like the world or your family is better off without you, that’s a lie. We need you. We need your smile and your voice and your talent. You are necessary. If you feel like you just can’t do it anymore, I get it. But please, hang on. We’ll pull you. Drag you. Push you. Whatever it takes.
And to everyone else, please look around you. Do you sense someone is struggling? Call them. Invite them to coffee or to a movie. Let them know they’re not alone. You’ve heard the story, “I was about to…and then so-and-so called out of the blue…” Be that person. Be The Interrupter.
Will you take a step today? Please do. Make a call. Reach out. It’ll be ok.
We’re all in this together.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255