There is a movement centered around a tattoo; of a semicolon. The idea that when a sentence could have been ended it chooses to continue. The sentence, of course, being a life. The catch is that sometimes the sentence ends before it should have. The pen goes dry. This idea connected for me because I thought the semicolon might be a symbol for colon cancer (no humor intended I really considered it.) Turns out it is for depression and suicide survivors.
When I turned sixteen I got a 1984 GMC Custom Deluxe. It was custom for sure. Deluxe was debatable. Every day I gave a ride home to two of my friends who lived near the school. One was an excellent artist. The other would prove to be a daredevil.
That day was a warm day, because we had the windows rolled down and we were listening to Sublime the self-titled album. Brian, the artist, had a portfolio of artwork that he had placed in the bed of the pickup truck under our backpacks. The vortex of air in the truck bed started blowing things around in the bed of the truck. I told the guys that I would stop the truck and we could get everything collected. My daredevil friend says, “I got it.” And the next thing I know he is standing on the window sill with his hands on the roof of the cab.
Oh shit. I am scared but I keep my cool and allow the truck to coast into a side road As we are losing speed we hit a bump. The jolt tosses Mr. Daredevil into the air and he lands beside the truck on his feet but running backwards. The rear tire grabs his shoe and pulls him in like a pasta machine. The truck consumes him from the tip of his toe to the top of his head. From the driver’s seat I can’t see anything. The entire truck lifts into the air for what feels like five minutes and then thumps to the ground with a sickening thud. I sit frozen for a minute and exchange a look with Brian that says, “Holy shit I just killed someone.”
I turned off the engine and jumped out of the truck to find Mr. Daredevil rising to his feet with a black tire mark up his khaki’s and his shirt up to his face where broken glasses and an eyebrow hung from his ear. He was alive and except for some eyebrow stitches, he was no worse for the wear. He was granted a stupidity semicolon that day.
The events had happened within 50 yards of Brian’s house so we went inside and Mr. Daredevil caught a ride, from his very pissed off dad, to the local ER for some stitches. I stayed at Brian’s and played a puzzle game on the original Playstation. I remember the hour of just sitting around and laughing like it was yesterday. The next time that I would be in that house would be when I found a note written one week before he committed suicide. Brian didn’t get a semicolon in his sentence. Depression took him all the way.
It felt just like you probably feel right now; There was a funny happy-go-lucky story that got real sad real quick. Everything about the scenario was heartbreaking. He planned his suicide weeks in advance. He went on about his normal life visiting family and playing with younger siblings. He stole a gun from his father’s house. He drafted a note at his mother’s and threw it away. It was at the bottom of a full trash can. A few weeks before, he told me he thought he was crazy and depressed. I told him what any eighteen year old guy says to his friend. “Hey man dont worry about it, things will get better.” I didn’t understand. He was visiting a friend in a rural area and went for a walk to clear his head. When he didn’t return they called the Sheriff department and a deputy found a set of footprints in mud leading into an abandoned barn. One person walking in and no one walking out.
Those situations are all so strange because everyone’s mind is racing, trying to grip what has happened but no one is talking about anything. We searched his room and found a note that outlined a general frame of thought; (a) I’m not good enough, (b) I have ruined my life, (c) I want to be in heaven and be perfect and I don’t want to wait, (d) Everyone who judged me can be happy I’m gone.
I don’t think any one of those statements were true. I mulled them over as I carried his casket to the cold hole in the ground.
One of the first things I ever wrote was a poem for his funeral. It was published with the eulogy so technically my first published work. I couldn’t say the words so another friend stood beside me and read it aloud. The pastor who performed the funeral service turned it into a warning on suicide and the everlasting-hell-that-awaits anyone who makes that choice against God. He reminded us that our friend was lost to the depths of Satan’s fire. Real appropriate. Fuck that ass-hat chump right in his bible-thumping face. It’s judgmental fuckery like that which causes problems.
The loss didn’t stop at Brian. His mother lost an only son and her mental health for many years to come. Brian had a cousin who made a similar choice. I can’t help but wonder if he was influenced by his older cousin. I know somewhere his father lives everyday with the thought of what could have been done differently. I struggle with that same question.
To lose someone that close is hard. To lose them unnecessarily… is traumatic.
Depression is real. It is chronic and sometimes terminal. It affects the future. There are non-existent kids that I would want my children to know. There is an element of family to all friendships and your sphere of influence is much greater and longer lasting that you imagine.How many people might we save by letting each other know that we care?
If you have lost anyone to depression, this post is for you. If you know someone is struggling, take them to brunch and tell them you love them. It might make all the difference in the world. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.