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.