My Son Died by Suicide, and I Don’t Know Why
Don’t focus on ‘why.’ Focus on why he didn’t ask for help.
July 27, 2019, began as an unremarkable summer day. It was a day for visiting with my mother and doing some chores around her house, a day for walking her dogs, a day for idle conversation and shopping for my youngest son’s freshman dorm room. It was a late afternoon for a hilarious dinner with my sons. My mother spent the entire time commenting on the “atmosphere,” by which she meant the cute waitresses that she thought Ben, the oldest, should ask out on dates. The rest of us laughed to the point of tears as she offered to ask for their phone numbers on his behalf.
It was also the evening that Ben, who left only after a long hug and a “love you” and a plan to get sushi the next day, died by suicide.
It became the night that I sat in the parking lot of a funeral home, physically unable to leave until I’d seen my son. It was a night of begging everyone — the funeral director, the officer at the scene, the State Medical Examiner’s dispatcher — to please let me see my son because I couldn’t begin to accept it until I’d seen him and could confirm to myself that it really was him, because we were planning sushi and how could he be deceased?
It was the night that I was horribly rude and a complete bully to an innocent woman on the phone, telling her in the iciest of voices to “ask your faceless bureaucrat boss how she would feel if she wasn’t allowed to see her dead son whom she’d just had dinner with a few hours ago? You ask her that, and then you tell her that I’m not leaving this fucking parking lot until I see my son, no matter how long that is, or until they take a grieving mother away in handcuffs. Did you get all that?”
It is now the date that is forever etched in my brain as The Night Ben Died. Subtitles include The Night My Children Lost a Brother, or The Night My Heart Shattered Completely, or The Night I Lost My Son to Suicide and Said So Right In the Obituary (and Everyone Had a Judgment About It), or The Night My Son Died by Suicide and the Questions Started.