Nearly three years ago, someone very close to me made the decision to take his own life. For many people, talking about the effects of suicide is considered too taboo for every day conversation. Whether they hope it will never happen to anyone they know or they simply think that the subject should not be discussed, the possibility that suicide could claim the life of someone you love should not be ignored.
On May 29th 2008, my beloved adopted brother Kevin made the decision that his life was no longer worth living. With little disregard for how his actions would forever alter the lives of the people close to him he ingested several weeks worth of prescription medications and, after falling into a brief coma, on May 30th succumbed to a toxic and fatal overdose.
Knowing that Kevin had been hospitalized, I had dreaded every phone call that came that day, hoping that I could in some way alter the turn of events by leaving each call unanswered. I will never forget the anguish and pain I felt when my mother called to deliver the terrible news. Kevin’s pain had ended, yet mine was just beginning. I remember being sad at first, but quickly my sadness dissipated and anger took over. I was angry with him for thinking that his life was so insignificant and doomed to failure that he could just go and end it. Evict himself from the world like the thoughts and emotions of everyone whose lives were made better just by knowing him meant nothing. Even more so, I was annoyed with myself for being angry. Did I have a right to grit my teeth and be angered by another person’s suffering? Was it hypocritical of me to believe in freedom of choice, yet at the same time feel that he had no right to make the choice he had?
My anger was short-lived and I felt myself asking the same question everyone who has ever been affected by suicide asks – why? Why did he do it? Why had he not come to me for help? Why hadn’t I seen the signs? Did I even know what the signs were, would I have recognized them if I did? Even now, every time I think of Kevin and the pain he must have endured, I still ask myself why. I know that I will never know the answer, yet my brain refuses to let me stop questioning the events the occurred that day. What is my obsession with having to know what he was thinking at the exact moment he decided that life was no longer worth fighting for? Is it because he had always told me never to give up, that life was what you made it? Or, is it because we as humans are hard wired to need ‘closure’ and I will never be able to process until my questions are answered.
What was it about life that was so unbearable that made him feel that his only way to cope with the desperation and sense of hopelessness was to die?
Disturbingly, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadians aged 10 to 24, and it is estimated that one person around the globe dies from suicide every 40 seconds. Asides from the religious suicide bombers and those hoping to be martyr, I still ask WHY.
Rest Peacefully Kevin Schuster, my life will forever be changed.