Never Saw it Coming
*All names have been changed. *Trigger warning – suicide. Helpline numbers below.
It is World Suicide Prevention Day. I saw a tweet that said everyone has been affected in some way. I think that is probably true as I remember Mark.
It is late summer and my best friend Christy and I are really bored. We have been for a swim in her neighbours’ pool, their girls attend the Catholic school two blocks away so we only really see them in school holidays. At fifteen, Shannon is a year older than us and her sister Missy is a year younger. The girls’ parents Lisa and Mark were only eighteen when they had Shannon so are still really young and rather cool, as far as parents go. The house seems relaxed and we are allowed to do pretty much what we want.
After swimming we all go inside to get changed. Mark is home lying on the sofa, and asks if we all want to watch a movie. He puts on Children of the Corn and we all lie on the sofas and the floor sprawled out for the afternoon. We have snacks but the film is too gory and I feel put off eating. I am terrified by the end, and secretly glad it is still daylight outside. After the movie, we all start saying “Malachy” in creepy voices and trying to freak each other out. Mark makes us all laugh too, doing impressions and messing about pretending to be the characters from the horror film.
December 23rd, the phone rings just before midday. It is Christy, she calls every day, sometimes a few times. But now she is crying. She’s actually so distraught, I can’t really even understand her so I tell her I’m on my way. This was not uncommon, Christy phoning me and me heading over to her place, but she was so upset now. I grab a jacket, and run round the block to her house faster than normal, wondering what’s up. There are police cars on the street which slow my footfall as I approach Christy’s porch, now realising something is very wrong.
Mark has killed himself. He had got in the car in the early hours of the morning, inside their wooden garage, which he had sealed up and turned on the engine. He’s dead.
I only went swimming once or twice there after that. We had to walk through the garage to get to the pool and it was too much, knowing what had happened in there. The family moved a year or so later. Mark had not left a note. No one knew why he had done it. And no one would ever know answers to so many questions. Why he had left Lisa and the girls. Why everything felt just too much. Why he did it so close to Christmas. Why those in Mark’s life never saw it coming. Mostly, why he saw no way out other than suicide.
I don’t know how to end this piece other than to say, we just never know. Even when we think we know, we really don’t. We might never see it coming. Be available, have compassion and look at people when you ask them if they are okay. Ask them if they are okay and mean it.
And let them know you are prepared for whatever their answer is.
UK Samaritans – phone 116 123 USA National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 800 273 8255