May 8th

May 8 was for 32 years an ordinary day. It held zero meaning in my life. Absolutely nothing significant about it.

Eleven years ago that changed.

Back then I was living in California. I was teaching at a college and that particular May 8th,  was an absolutely gorgeous day. For some reason the electricity on the campus I was teaching at had gone out and with no resolution in the near future all afternoon classes had been cancelled.  I loved my job, but was excited to be getting off a few hours early. I also love my family and was eager to get spend extra time with them.

I remember how happy I was. How good it felt to be there that day. I was driving home planning the evenings events in my head which included grilling kabobs and making a batch of fresh margaritas.

Unfortunately, there was to be no dinner. In fact, I think it was about 3 days before I ate a single bit of food as that May 8th was also the day my brother killed himself.

He bought a shotgun, drove himself to a hotel and shot himself in the head.

From that day until this one, May 8th is a dreaded day in my home. It’s a very difficult one. It is a day full of anger and sadness. I always expect the next year to be easier, but it never is.

I always wanted to be like my brother. He was smart and funny. He was breathtakingly handsome and everyone liked him. He was a charmer. He was a Marine and I looked up to him for what I believed was his courage.

Our life was hard. We grew up in a Lifetime movie kind of hell and I always felt like I was weak and he was strong. We were close, but didn’t talk much about our childhood and I just assumed he handled it well.

Up until that May 8th, I always envied his choices.

On this May 8th, I sit and reflect on the choices he made. On the way he chose to handle life’s hardships. On the way he chose to not handle life. I don’t really envy those choices any longer. Suicide is a complicated issue full of pain and I do not claim to understand everything about it, but I do know I do not appreciate the way he chose to end his life.

This morning a person I knew a long time ago and have not spoken to in years wrote me to tell me she was thinking of me, but that was not really the point of her email. That was just the lie she used to make me think she was kind and sympathetic. The real point was to harass me about my pro gun stance. It went something like “since you know first hand the damage guns can do, how could you promote people having one.” I have to say that using the day my brother died as the one day out of 365 to bring this up does not seem all that caring.

My brother’s death causes me great pain. Me. Just me. His choice effects no one else. Not the president, not the folks at the Brady Campaign, not the long line of celebrities who espouse love and concern for people killed by guns and not this “friend” from my past.

For all their concern, not a single one of them has expressed an ounce of sympathy to me. I dare say neither my brother nor I matter to them at all. But, they will include his death in their numbers to justify how evil guns are. They will use his death as one in a long line of emotional stories to manipulate the emotions of others and frankly that pisses me off. The only time this “friend” has ever spoke to me about my brother’s death was today and that was all of 5 words. The rest of the 6 paragraph email was about how wrong I am and how guns are bad and I should be sharing my brother’s sorry as a cautionary tale. Outside of the “I am thinking of you” sentence the rest was about the evil I am spreading(albeit probably out of being so naive) and how if we can save just one life…blah, blah, blah. She has not bothered to stay in contact with me, so she doesn’t know that I was attacked or that guns play a vital role in keeping my life safe, but of course my life doesn’t matter. My life isn’t part of the plan. What I do day to day has not mattered to her at all. Just today. Just the day Allen died. Her line saying “thinking of you” just doesn’t feel sincere for some reason.

The tragedy in his story is the abuse he suffered while he was alive and the loss of his life. The loss of his life is what sucks about this day.

His is not a gun death. It is simply a death. A sad, tragic, end of a life. I wish just one single anti-gun person would knowledge that. Acknowledged that his death is what haunts my dreams. That when I think I about him, I think about how my kids don’t know him or how strong I have become and he will never know or how much my son is like him or how empty it feels to now be an only child. I don’t think about how he died, but I do think about how he lived. In a home without guns, but one full of tremendous violence. All of that is very emotional and it only matters to me.

My brother’s life doesn’t matter to this “friend”. Guns do. His death doesn’t matter to this “friend”. Guns do. The tears of great sorrow that I have cried do not matter to this “friend”. Guns do. Only she and those like her focus on the thing. I focus on the life. I celebrate it, I mourn it and I fight for it.

The irony that the tool my brother used to end his life is the same one that saved mine is not lost on me. One of us chose to fight against the evil in the world and one of us chose to give into it. The things around us are irrelevant  The lessons are in our actions. There is plenty to learn from his choices and from mine.

This day is about nothing more than a man who made a choice to end his suffering and how that choice has affected those he left behind. Nothing more.



50 thoughts on “May 8th

  1. As someone who doesn’t know you outside of some of the posts to this blog I offer you my sympathy. Thank you for sharing this experience, and your thoughts with it. I found this post very moving and will be recommending it to select friends of mine who have also dealt with the loss of a loved one.

  2. Will keep you in my prayers today. My only suggestion would be to simply experience your day . . . . it will be what it needs to be and you honor his life best by honoring your feelings – all of them.

  3. Having dealt with the suicide of someone that I loved as a brother, I can empathize with you a little. I am sorry for your loss. 🙁

  4. I too have lost loved ones to suicide, first cousins, both by guns. One, a 16 year old w/a shot gun & the other, a 35 year old with a hand gun. They died 15 or 20 years apart. Neither were abused or lived horrible lives, quite the contrary. They were both severely depressed. None of our family blames the guns. Some blame themselves for not seeing what pain each was in at the time. Maybe something could have been done to help them but alas it wasn’t to be. It still makes me sad to think about.

    I am so sorry for your loss and that you have to live this year after year.

  5. A Girl,

    May 8th is etched in my brain, a day I will never forget. We both lost loved ones on this day. Your brother, Allen and my dear friend, Toni. Both strong people who wore uniforms and fought for our country’s freedoms. I pray both have found their inner peace, and now they are free spirits watching over us.

    I so feel your pain, and pray over time the pain will subside, and only beautiful memories of Allen will remain. As for your friend, I’m sorry to say, I would not consider this person a friend. She is out for one thing and one thing only her own agenda.

    If I have over stepped, I apologize.

    • Oh Sandy…I pray they have both found peace as well.

      You absolutely did not overstep. Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. I pray that the good Lord brings you comfort today… I have experienced the loss of a very close friend to suicide several years back… their chosen device was pills… although, you know as well as I, that if they pills weren’t there, they would have found another device…

    The gals and I are sending prayer your way today…

    Dann in Ohio

  7. Wow. That was powerful. Thanks for sharing that piece of yourself that so many others would hide away.
    What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. You’re one of the strongest people I know.

    (No HUGS, but I love ya too…)

  8. A gun did not end his life, it was the free will of his hand. Without that hand, and the pain that drove it, the gun was simply an inert object, a tool.

    There are no words to help you with the loss. They won’t bring him back, it won’t make it stop hurting. They won’t ever fully explain.

    But know that many people admire your strength, your will to fight and protect, so that your own family suffers no further pain, with whatever tools you have.

  9. 1) I am so sorry,
    2) Put the ” friend’s” email address in the spam blocker.


    • Yes, I did delete the email and I will definitely move on. I have no desire for drama or people like that in my life.

      Thank you!

  10. You know, some folks are a waste of oxygen. It is useful when they make identification easy and remove all doubt. Concentrate your love on those worthy of it and ignore the “Sphincters”.

  11. Again, that Dr. Seuss quote (whether or not he originated it, its attributed to him) about “be yourself: those who mind, don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind” comes to mind. There are always people out there who are unwilling and/or unable to accept that others think differently than themselves. They want everyone to toe their line, and will use as much force as necessary to get everyone else where they think they should be…make no mistake, this person used the force of your personal pain against you. This person is completely unwilling to see another viewpoint. You’ll never be able to convince an individual like that of why you chose to carry a gun, whether you tell her your story or not. I would echo quite a few of the previous comments…put her email addy on your spam list, put her out of your mind (the Bible calls it “shake the dust off of your feet”…sorta). Remember the good times with your brother, and know that we’re all praying for you!

    • There’s another story, about Paul.
      Last year I had someone from my past turn up to take a basic pistol class. He said, “I remember what I told you back then. Can I still stay?”
      So I let him. He listened, did as he was old, nothing special. His hands shook as he fired his first shots, but he did okay. Not bad, not good. Middle-of-the-class okay.
      Afterward he came up and said, “Thanks.”
      It was obvious he wasn’t ready to say anything else, so I said, “When you’re ready.”
      He drove off. Maybe some day I’ll hear a story.
      Epiphanies happen. Don’t count on them, but don’t rule them out.

  12. An extremely powerful post. My thoughts are with you.

  13. My condolences. Eleven years too late, I know.
    I also know words are inadequate.

  14. Shelby, I am so sorry for your loss and pain. As I mentioned to you before, I lost my youngest daughter six and a half years ago. It was ruled a suicide, but all people who knew her know otherwise. I have never fully rid myself of the guilt of not being able to protect her. It would have been impossible, (distance, circumstances, etc.), but the guilt is still there.

    The pain dulls and fades some, but never goes away. The hole in my heart has gotten slightly smaller, but it will never fill. The total damage to her children can never be measured.

    I only say this to let you know that I can, in some small way, understand. Through your blog and email,(you know where we live), you will always have electronic ears to listen and an electronic shoulder to cry on.

    As for your “friend”, goodbye. This toxic, thoughtless, and un-caring person will have no positive effect in your life. I try to deal with angry, negative, bitter people as little as possible and almost never on purpose.

    Love and hugs from us,
    DRJ & “L”

  15. Pingback: Quote of the Day–A Girl and Her Gun (5/9/2013) - The Minuteman

  16. As may 8th is my birthday. I am sorry for the loss those 11 years ago of your brother Allan. I will be sure to light a candle in his memory in the years that come. You have my deepest sympathies.


  17. I’m sorry for your loss and for a thoughtless “friend” not doing anything to comfort you. I am happy that you separate the loss of your brother and the tool he employed to end his life.


  18. You are loved. I am so very sorry for your loss. I am so sorry that he chose to check out instead of fight. You are right, the tool is irrelevant.

  19. Please, please, don’t “What if. . . ” yourself.

    We have NO idea what goes on in another person’s head, no matter how “well” we know them. People make their own choices and while, Yes, we do influence them, in the end they are all alone inside their Minds, just as each of us is.

    If there’s ANY-thing useful that can come from this it’s that you have a reminder of just how IMPORTANT it is to tell the people in your Life how much they matter to you NOW – TODAY. Don’t put it off, don’t wait “for a better time” there might not BE one.

    The only certainty in this uncertain life is that sooner or later it WILL end. Don’t wait too long to share the important things.
    They’re the only ones that matter in the end.

    • Thank you Leo. One thing I am very good at is telling people how much I care and trying to show them. Sometimes to their dismay(just ask MSgt B:), but I refuse to let people I care about slip out of my life and I refuse to let pride or embarrassment keep me from telling them how very much they matter.

      Thank again!

      • Although, I do not chase people. I make an effort, but if they clearly do not want to be here that is absolutely fine and I move on.

        I have never walked out on a friend especially in their time of hardship but I have without a fight allowed others to move on.

  20. That person was and is not a “friend”. She is someone with an agenda and wanted to beat you over the head to prove her point. Your real friends know the truth and many of us have been in the same place. While we can never truly understand your pain, we have similiar stories to tell and have a common bond. We love you.

  21. I am so sorry for your loss. Suicide is so complex and leaves so much pain behind. But it’s never the gun or the razor blade or anything else that does it. It’s the complex human mind that sometimes breaks in ways that we can neither anticipate nor understand.

    I’m glad you won’t let yourself be used, because that is what others with an agenda do when they think they’ve spotted a weak spot.

    • Absolutely. My point exactly…it is not the method that is the problem and violence is way to complicated an issue to boil it down to that. Not to mention totally ineffective.

  22. I’m so sorry you had to suffer this loss, and appreciate very much that you are willing to share with strangers like this. Peace be with you.

  23. I’m sorry AGirl. The first anniversary of Mom’s suicide is coming up in a few days. I don’t know how I’m going to react but this Mother’s Day is already looking to be one I am going to try and forget.

  24. One thing you said really struck me because I felt something similar the day my father shot himself.

    “Unfortunately, there was to be no dinner. In fact, I think it was about 3 days before I ate a single bit of food as that May 8th was also the day my brother killed himself.”

    We hadn’t had anything to eat after finding my father in the kitchen with a bullet hole in his head and a pool of blood the size of a basketball on the floor. After hours and hours in the ER the doctor told us there was nothing we could do so we might as well go home and wait. My brother was hungry so mom suggested pizza.

    I don’t think I ate anything for days and I didn’t eat pizza for years afterwards. My mind seized on pizza, of all things that day, and associated it with my father shooting himself. My friends would get together and order pizza and I’d get something else or just go hungry.

    I didn’t know how to explain it to anyone. It took years before I could eat pizza again.

    I’m sorry for what you suffered. I truly am.

  25. Girl –

    I am in the baptizing, marrying and burying business. Not much of an educated guess needed there, eh?

    While society and the “official” Church speak of suicide, I do not. That subject is so complicated the word should be stricken from dictionaries and lectionaries.

    Jean’s son – he was in so much emotional pain, and nobody really knew. A .22 through his temple. Of course, it did not make sense to us on the outside looking in, but he was on the inside looking out. I did the funeral, without question.

    God is most forgiving, and suicide is not the “unforgivable” sin. His Mama needed Christian consolation, and that is what I do. His brother, a professed and quite convinced atheist, became a Christian because I did the funeral. He said he never expected what I did. But I didn’t do it for him – I did it for his brother – I just did my job.

    It still hurts me 20 years after the fact – they were not family and I was only the pastor then. Yet, somehow, it got handled in the right manner, and there was a measure of peace for all involved. Richard is home safe. Of that I am sure.

    Suicide is “officially” self-murder. I beg to differ. Far greater forces and pressures are in play. It is my firm belief, and I operate on that principle, that virtually no one has a “death wish” (suicide) . . . they just wish to be rid of pain and find no other way out of their pain.

    May 8th ( every year) is Psalm 118:24, as is every day.

    As my wife says often – she remembers her brother on his good days (died of brain cancer), and puts aside the day (and those just before) he died. She salutes his life.

    Your “friend” is anything but a friend.

    Girl – salute your brother’s life. Give it extra meaning by living on – with him in mind. Your brother is home. And – at peace.

    You, too – be at peace – jb

  26. I am truly sorry for your loss and the pain it still brings to you.

    You made many great points in this entry but there are two that stood out the most, to me. The first was how the loss of your brother made you an only child. I have a brother, and I guess that is why it brought tears to my eyes. I could not fathom loosing him to ANYTHING. That brings me to the second point you so succinctly made, “His is not a gun death. Just a death. A sad, tragic, end to a life.” Again, I am very sorry for the pain you go through but I do appreciate your honesty and the words you write.
    I look forward to reading your whole blog.

  27. Have not been online much and just saw this; I never knew, I am so very sorry. My beloved bride lost her younger brother in a mine accident when he was in his early 30s. They were not just siblings but growing up, best friends. She said something to me a couple of years after that event which has remained with me, and it describes the way that I felt after losing her. She said, “Some things you never get over; you just get through.”
    Will be praying for your peace. I know you may never ever get over this – but you will get through. God bless you.

  28. This “friend” is not sympathetic. They’re simply using your brothers death as an emotional bludgeon in order to berate and guilt trip you over your political stance on guns. That’s pretty low IMO.

  29. I am new to your blog (since last night). Thank you for doing it. I have a son with depression. He likes to shoot. So we pray, supervise, and have lots of gun safes. I believe suicide is the result of illness, just like cancer or any other fatal disease. Not the “fault” of the person. You honor your brother by remembering him and living well. Keep up the fight until we all meet again. God bless you.

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