When I come home in the evenings, this is generally the first thing I see when I step out of the car:
But rarely, these days, is anyone home next door. Two cars sit there, undriven. The garage is rarely opened. The lawn, which they used to mow meticulously, isn’t as well maintained as it used to be.
Suicide is hell. Not for the victim — his suffering has, we hope, ended — but for his family, his friends, and all those who knew him.
On an otherwise quiet morning, the woman next door opened the door to her son’s room to find him dead. He had become addicted to drugs and found himself unable to kick the habit. His life had spiraled out of control, from a job loss (maybe related to his addiction, maybe not) to having to move home out of a house he owned to an arrest for impaired driving in our front yard.
And one late night, not long after the arrest, he determined he couldn’t take it anymore.
He was 24.
That day I will never forget, from when my dad woke me up early to tell me what happened, to watching the cops, ambulance, and coroner come to the house, to seeing a truck with “Aftermath” on the side pull in front of the house, to watching the body (which was covered) wheeled from the house, to saying a prayer for the kid’s soul, to seeing friends and family come to the house to console the mom and dad, to asking everyone I knew to pray for him.
Over two days, the “Aftermath” people stripped his room completely bare. No curtains. No carpeting. No anything that might have had any part of his remains on it.
And since then, his family’s barely been there. I don’t know where they’re staying or, really, what they’re doing. They drop in sometimes on weekends and do yardwork or cleaning in the garage, and his friends drop in occasionally to let his dog (who isn’t staying there either) wander around the yard, but otherwise, next door is vacant.
Though it’s been more than a month now, the whole mess haunts me. It’s not as if the kid and I were close, but still, we’ve lived next door to that family for 17 years, from when he was about 7. He was a good kid, not that the drugs cared. His parents are good folks. And he lost his job at around the same age I did. I think of when I got hurt, not long after the job loss, and had to go on painkillers. His fate could have easily been mine.
I wonder how his parents, who tried to get him the help he needed, get through the guilt and pain and anger, the feelings that they should have done more. I wonder if they’ll ever be able to live in that house again — and if they can’t, I wonder who would want to live in a house in which a suicide has occurred (and they’ll have to tell prospective buyers, too).
I wonder if they’ll ever know normal again. I pray they well, but suspect they won’t. I pray they find peace, but I fear they won’t.
Meanwhile, the house next door is silent. No family. No dog. No life. Just the kid’s car, his dad’s truck, the closed-up doors, and the eerie feeling that on any given day, at any given time, what happened to them could happen to you.