Devastating Losses: How Parents Cope With the Death of a Child to Suicide or Drugs — (Springer Publishing)

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Springer Publishing Company

Pages 4-5

I remember the day of Jesse’s death – July 12, 2002 – as vividly as if it were yesterday.  The phone rang at 6:30, waking me up. Susan, Jesse’s fiancee, was calling from California, where she had gone on a business trip.  Sobbing, she said, “Bill, I don’t know how to tell you this, Jesse’s gone, he’s gone.”  I didn’t know what she meant until she finally said, “Jesse’s dead…He hung himself.   I can’t believe it!   Evan [Jesse’s good friend and neighbor] found him and called the police.  Evan felt Jesse’s limp body against the closed bathroom door in his apartment.   He immediately called 911 and the police found him.”

Heartsick, I told Bev what happened.  We sat in bed in shocked disbelief.  Every parent’s worst nightmare had come true for us.   As I got dressed, the same thoughts kept swirking in my mind: why did you do it, my boy?  How will we manage without you? How can we possibly survive this?

Over the course of that dirst dreadful day, several images and impressions became fixed in my mind.   The contrast of our sadness with the beautiful early July day – brilliantly sunny, clear and dry – was startling.  “How could anyone take his like on such a perfect day?” I thought.  I felt sorry for Evan, w ho had had the shock of discovering Jesse. Only a few years earlier, he had discovered the body of his younger brother, who died at age 19 from a first experimental use of heroin.   Even had also lost his father, who died in his mid-50s after a long and painful illness.

I will never forget the yellow crime-scene tape draped around the doorway to Jesse;s apartment, not the sight of the bag containing his body being transported through the hallways of the building.  Several neighbors stood by while the body was carried out, commenting, “That was the nice young man who lived in 4D.  WHat a horrible tragedy!”

…The last things we did that day were to return to Jesse’s apartment and go through some of his belongings.  We searched his briefcase, which was in reality a deep red Naughahyde bowling ball bag.  Jesse, an aspiring filmmaker, was always ready to defy conventional fashion and taste.  He wanted people to know he was an independent thinker, who did not blindly follow traditional practice.   The unique briefcase was trademark Jesse.

In the briefcase, we found many telling indicators of the disorder, conflict and confusion in Jesse’s life.  There were rumpled scraps of paper listing appointments he had made and a notepad with important phone numbers, sketches, and doodlings.  In addition, we found cigarettes, nicotine gum, and several asthma atomizers.  (in recent years, he had made several urgent visits to hospital emergency rooms for asthma attacks; and ER doctors had often told him to quit smoking.  We also found Zoloft and Ativan, the most recently prescribed psychotropic medications, as well as Advil and Viagra…

In the days that followed, we tried to make sense of Jesse’s death.  There were several things that did not quite add up, suggesting little pre-thought on Jesse’s part before he took his life.   He had told Beverly that he was looking froward to spending the next weekend at the family’s country house and asked to be picked up at the late afternoon train on Friday.  On the day he died, he had sent off a cheque covering the next 3 months’ rent for his Manhattan writing studio.  These facts suggest that his death was impulse-driven, perhaps a quick decision, made in an isolated moment, to relieve his extreme pain and sadness.