My life, and that of my family, was changed forever on March 11, 2003, when my brother Adam killed himself using a gun. He had just returned home from being hospitalized for nearly two weeks because he was having suicidal feelings. Adam had told his doctors that he was feeling better and had gone home with his wife. They ate lunch together, and then she went to take a shower. While she was showering, she heard a loud noise, like a thud. Once out of the shower, she found that Adam had killed himself using a rifle that they kept in a closet. He had put the end of the rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Adam had struggled with depression and anxiety for over 10 years when he finally took his own life. And yet, when telling me about how it happened, my sister-in-law said, “I never expected it.” I don’t think she saw the gun as a threat, but I don’t understand why she hadn’t removed it from their house before Adam came home from the hospital. One simple act might have made a difference that day. If the gun had not been there, perhaps he would have lived another day and gone back to the doctor to say, “I was wrong – I am still thinking about ending my life.” I don’t blame my sister-in-law for his death, I blame a culture who doesn’t see that depression can be fatal and that guns should not be kept in homes where depressed people live.
Perhaps he really did feel better when he decided to leave the hospital and then, once home, took out the gun in moment of weakness or regret. Perhaps he lied in order to go home to get the gun, planning all along to end his life. We will never know. I do know, however, that he left behind a grieving family, some feeling guilt, others feeling shame, and all with a huge hole in their life where Adam used to be. We loved him, but our love was not enough. A gun made it too easy for him to leave us.