In June, my nephew Jason died. He was thirty-four. At the time, no one knew what he died from. Was it a heart attack (heart disease runs in my family) or did the mono he was recovering from take a turn for the worst and no one noticed? All those things went through my mind after my sister Cindy woke me up screaming his name with the words, “Jason’s dead, Jason’s dead.”
It is hard to lose a loved one. Harder to lose someone who isn’t supposed to die before you do. I’m fourteen years older than Jason. I was supposed to go first.
Just like me, Jason had trouble in his twenties with alcohol. I knew I had a problem and after five grueling years of denial, quit cold turkey. I’ve never looked back. I was 28 when I became sober. Jason also knew he had a problem and also had a difficult time giving it up. My five years became his ten. Finally, last June he called me up and told me he was ready to quit. Together, we did research and found a facility that would support his new desire for sobriety. He was gone 30 days and came home sober but not at all happy. The hard work was just beginning.
I would tell Jason over and over again that he and I were alike. I didn’t want to quit drinking and I was angry that I had that darn gene that made me lose control and lose my senses whenever alcohol touched my lips. He didn’t want to quit either. I understood. Boy, did I understand. But I also understood I didn’t have a life, I wouldn’t have a life, until I did quit. That has proven to be true. Jason, on the other hand, didn’t know how he would live without alcohol. While I became moody and depressed on the stuff, Jason became superman and garnered confidence with a beer by his side. What do they call that? Liquid courage? Yes. That’s what Jason thought alcohol gave him: courage. But it also gave him depression and obsession and low self-esteem so when he called me and told me he wanted to quit, I was thrilled.
He did quit. The autopsy report showed no alcohol was in his system the night he died. I hope he was proud of that. But it did find other things. After almost three months we received the toxicology report and it said, in black and white, that Jason killed himself that night with a lethal does of a prescription drug. Suicide.
First my father and now my dear darling nephew. Suicide kills more than the person who dies, it kills something inside the survivors. We are left with our guilt and pain and wondering why. We are left asking what we could have done, what we should have done. And could it happen to me?
Yes, I know I was good to my nephew. And yes, I know his suicide isn’t my fault. Yet, I am left wondering (or is it worrying?) what this suicide means to the legacy of my family.
I think about Jason a lot. His photos are on the home page of my computer and I click on them one after another looking for signs of why and for anything that shows me the spark of life he was so good at portraying.
I love him dearly. And I keep wondering? Why suicide Jason? Why suicide? I know I will never get an answer. I’ve been down this road before.