My brother Sean O’Shea took his own life at the age of 18, the night after his high school graduation and party in 1983. He used a handgun the family knew nothing about. He was abusing drugs, had broken up with a girlfriend, and was apparently dealing with some depression. He left behind my mother (a widow) and nine siblings (seven brothers and two sisters). Rather than tell the details of his story, I would like to share a poem I have written in recent years about the aftermath of his suicide.-Mary Redman
At My Brother’s Casket
I also greeted visitors, distracted
by the infant on my hip and my need to learn
from mother, as she received guests,
who’d come to pay respects.
The June day was warm, and air-conditioning
could only do so much to counteract
the closeness of this crowded space, grief
smothering all under a soggy blanket.
My son squirmed restless, craving a chance
to crawl on the floor in the forest of legs
gathered for this sad occasion. Instead,
I shifted him from side to side, hoping
I could keep him quiet for a moment
longer. The calling hours could not last
forever, though they seemed interminable
— as I pushed dark thoughts
from my grieving heart—How could a parent face
the loss of a son by his own hand?
I kissed the top of my little one’s head,
swallowed and smiled—at the next in line.