He shot himself.
Right in front of his wife because he learned she was sleeping with someone else. Just a few months ago, she gave birth to his third son.
And now he’s gone.
It feels so unfair to love someone when they don’t love you back. You want so badly to settle the score. To balance the scales. To make the pain go away.
A dramatic act of violence in front of his wife who’d rejected him seemed the most-effective way to even things out.
Taking his own life seemed the most-effective way to make the pain go away.
Pulling the trigger seemed the most-effective methodology.
He was a man who grew up surrounded by crime and poverty. Death and violence are interwoven into most stories that begin there.
Despite overcoming enormous odds and achieving financial success and settling into family life, death and violence are what he knew.
He died yesterday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound intended to eliminate his pain, and as an unforgettable goodbye note to his wife.
We do what we know.
The Suicide Kings
People sometimes call the King of Hearts in a deck of playing cards “The Suicide Kings.” Because they appear to be stabbing themselves in the head with their swords.
There’s no blood. It’s not a violent image. So maybe the artist meant to show a brave king wielding a sword behind his head, preparing to strike an enemy.
Or maybe it’s designed to evoke images of a sad, lonely man considering taking his own life, but unwilling to do so.
Maybe the heart has something to do with it.
All we really have in life are the people we love and care about, and the people who love and care about us. That’s why it’s so hard for many people to move far away from home.
Our roots are important to us. They provide sure footing during uncertain times.
And when we’re away—disconnected—and facing life’s inevitable hardships, we can feel lost at sea without that anchor of comfort and familiarity. We can feel isolated, lonely and lost when we don’t have, or are far away from, home.
Because home is what we know.
I don’t think we ever lose the natural instinct to run into our parents’ arms when we’re hurt and want someone else to make it better for us. It becomes more of a metaphor as an adult. But our human instinct to crave comfort and reassurance remains.
The hard times—particularly the first ones we experience as people—feel REALLY hard.
I often use the word “dying” to describe it. It feels like how I imagine dying to feel. Maybe worse. There’s a difference between the pain we feel in a physical sense—like a flesh wound or bone break—and the pain we feel when something happens to us internally.
To our hearts.
To our minds.
To our souls.
When we break on the inside. They don’t make painkillers for broken hearts. For poisoned minds. For torn souls.
Your entire body is tense, aching, and you feel like a prisoner inside it because there’s nowhere to run and hide.
And when it happens for the first time, it’s the most-frightening thing that’s ever happened to us because we didn’t know our bodies were capable of feeling like that.
What if I never feel like me again?
Is this how it’s going to be for the rest of my life?
I didn’t know it was possible to hurt this much.
Only in that moment can a person understand why another human being could take their own life.
You can’t know until you know.
Misery Loves Company
I didn’t know how common this reaction to a life hardship was until I was feeling it myself. When you go through difficult times, other people sometimes are more willing to open up about their hard times. Sometimes, those talks can help both people heal a little more.
I’ve talked to SO MANY people going through challenging times over the past couple years. Divorce and broken families are the most common. But sometimes people died. Sometimes people’s children were suffering in extreme and unimaginable ways.
The theme is often the same, and it’s the EXACT same thing I said after my wife left and I eventually learned about her new relationship:
“I don’t want to die. But I kind of don’t care if I do. Because at least then I won’t feel like this anymore.”
My friend texted me about yesterday’s suicide. She was shocked and devastated to lose someone she talked to and worked with every day. She was asking so many questions.
“I keep thinking… ‘What if Matt had done that?’,” she said, drawing parallels between how her now-departed friend was feeling relative to how I was feeling 18 months ago.
I remember driving by the hospital where my wife met the other guy. Sometimes, I had to drive by on my way to the office. Tears fell more often than I care to admit. My insides twisted. And I couldn’t escape.
And I’d think: Would it really be so bad if I just went head-on into that massive concrete Interstate pillar? Do I really care whether I wake up tomorrow?
It’s the closest to suicidal I’d ever been and ever hope to be. It’s scary to understand that. I spent my entire life not understanding how someone could ever want to kill themselves, and I’m confident in reporting that it’s infinitely better when you’re too innocent, happy and ignorant to understand it.
The truth is, I didn’t want to die. But I felt like I’d exceeded my pain threshold. And all I wanted to do was make it go away. I couldn’t function in any area of life, making the entire exercise seem somewhat moot.
Just. Shut. It. Off.
The Sun Will Rise
“Why does one person shoot himself and the other start a blog?,” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“I know why. It’s what they know. He grew up in the slums. He knows violence. Guns. A lot of gun death.
“You know words.
“We do what we know.”
Why did that man kill himself when I wouldn’t?
Is it because I don’t know gun violence? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I don’t know.
But I do know some things.
I know life is precious.
I know good conquers evil.
I know happy is better than sad.
I know happy is good.
I know perspective matters.
I know there are billions of people who would gladly trade lives with me right this second if they could because they believe I have it so good.
I know we have purpose and it’s our job to seek it.
I know I love. Deeply. My son. Life. You.
I know every day I wake up could be the best day of my life, and sooner or later, that day is going to come, and I choose to look forward to it.
I know I have a choice: Despair. Or, hope.
And I choose courage. I choose love. I choose hope.
That’s why I’m still breathing.
That’s why I started writing.
And that’s why I’ll keep trying to do both for as long as I possibly can.
We do what we know.
So, know it: The sun will rise tomorrow. Everything’s going to be okay.
Without the low, there ain’t a high.