And yet, there are too many. They fill my head to the point I'm dizzy, literally nauseated by trying to hold them in. I've sat on my hands, keeping those words locked up, but now I've been given permission from those at the emotional ground zero of the matter. She understands this is part of my healing and has given her go-ahead for this post. I will still tread lightly.
Content Warning: Suicide, domestic violence.
I'm the youngest grandchild on my mother's side. Most of my cousins are about 20 years older than me, but my cousin Mark was three-and-a-half when I was born. We lived three hours from his family when I grew up, but if we were in the same place at the same time, we played together. With a shared passion for Star Wars, it was easy to find common ground. I heard my first ghost story from Mark. Saw my first horror movie with him.
We drifted, as sometimes happens in life, but over the past few years had reconnected on social media with a renewed friendship based on geeking out, comics and conventions.
I saw him in April at our grandmother's funeral. We didn't talk much. A quick hug. I met his then-wife. Got to see how his son has grown.
Sunday morning, my mom called with the news that Mark had shot himself. As the hours unfolded and more calls and texts flew across the country, blips of frantic electrons between Arizona and Indiana, we discovered more than just the tragedy of a father, son, brother, uncle and friend succumbing to his Depression.
The Kokomo Tribune posted a very clinical citation of the police report. While his motivations are nebulous, the end result is this: after visiting his first ex-wife and their son Sunday morning, Mark went to his most recent ex-wife's home, tied up her 10 year-old daughter, stabbed his ex multiple times before shooting himself. The girl was not hurt. The woman was airlifted to Indianapolis where she is in stable condition, I'm told.
There are other elements that are being investigated, speculations as to his motivations. Those things are important, yes, but they are describing the color of the water while someone is drowning. The above is the gist of it. And it's more than enough, I think.
I've been trying to wrap my head around this. Trying to understand. And it's slippery. I mean, I understand suicide. I get that. I get that it only takes one day for the lying bastard that is Depression to win. I see the allure of the Emergency Exit. And Mark had been struggling with Depression for ages. I've been in those trenches. I get that. I really do.
But this....? I just... my brain locks up on it all.
Thinking back on our relationship, it seems that Mark has once more introduced me to a new brand of horror. But this one isn't Freddy Kreuger or an urban legend. This kind of thing...it happens to other people. It happens to that friend of a friend's family, or on an episode of your favorite crime drama. But surely no one you know would do something so desperate and visceral, something so permanent and scarring. His ex will have to overcome her injuries, but also the psychological trauma. And her poor daughter, that little girl has seen something no child should have witness. They will both need incredible support moving forward. And we, Mark's family, have to deal with this burden that one of our own visited this terrible thing onto someone else as well as our loss.
There is a modicum of shame that comes with suicide. And that is increased by the rest of this grisly story. Someone we love not only lost his battle with Depression, but was also capable of this. I can't live in that kind of isolation. I need to shed light on it, expose it because to let it fester in the dark is to let it win.
In fiction, things need to make sense. The real world doesn't have to because weird things happen. Inexplicable things happen. Senseless things happen. And I keep trying to fit this event into some sort of sense that I can understand. And I just can't. It's not there.
And my brain keeps shifting between absolute shock, grief, anger. I want to scream at Mark. I want to shout and wail at him until he answers me. What were you thinking? What the hell happened? Why didn't you talk to someone? And then I remember that there are things he'll never see or do now. He won't see Star Wars Episode VIII. He won't see The Killing Joke on the big screen, with his beloved Mark Hamill reprising the Joker role. He won't see his son grow into a man.
Before he did this on Sunday, Mark posted on social media, "Remember me for who I was and not for who I became."
I know that right now this is so raw, and that distinction is going to be very difficult to find. That line between the boy I played with and the man in the headline will, hopefully, grow more distinct in time as we all are able to heal.
At the time of this post, there are no plans for a funeral. In his name, I would ask you to send donations to the Autism Society of Indiana to help take care of his son's future. I would also ask you to consider getting involved with organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, RAINN, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Treatment Advocacy Center. With the possible exception of the Autism Society of Indiana, I understand that none of these charities is likely to directly benefit those Mark left behind--our family, his ex-wife or her daughter in their journey toward healing--these groups do important work. (You can even use your Pokemon Go miles walked to donate to charity via apps like Charity Miles. Please look into it.)
Our family has been through a lot this year...losing grandma, other people having health issues, and now this. If you're the type that prays, or works with energy or juju, please consider keeping us in your thoughts as we try to heal.
Thank you for listening.