How My Step-Brother’s Suicide Changed My Family Forever
My step-brother killed himself when he was 30 years old. Steve was troubled. He abused drugs and alcohol. He had problems with impulse control. But his sudden death came as a shock to me. It's been nearly 12 years since I got that phone call from my dad. In the background, as my dad tried to spit out his words, my step-mother made the most gut wrenching noise I have ever heard from another human being. Her cries sent chills through my body. I pray I never hear that sound again.
My step-brother's suicide changed our family forever. The woman I had known since I was 17 years old...the one that silenced the demons of my dad's earlier years...the one I had spent countless late night contemplating life, religion, politics, and my future with...never returned to us after that day. She stopped living for the day, or dreaming of the future. She was frozen in time for the next decade or so. My dad, and her other children, and grandchildren banished to the outside of the wall she built up around herself. It's as if my step-brother killed her too when he pulled the trigger that day.
When she passed away last fall it felt like the culmination of a very long process. Sad and painful. Yet there was great relief...for her, and those who loved her most. She had wanted to leave a long time ago. And I believe she allowed herself to slowly slip deeper and deeper into depression and poor health, resisting offers of help, so she could speed up the inevitable reunion with my step-brother. I don't know what lies beyond this life...but I hope they're together, peaceful and happy.
So this morning when I heard on CNN that the incredible chef, Anthony Bourdain had taken his own life, I was deeply saddened. I loved watching Parts Unknown on CNN. Not just because I loved Bourdain's sarcastic wit and edgy charm...but because I love food. I love to cook. I love to explore...new foods and new countries. And Bourdain encompassed the love of all those things in one place. His love and passion for exploring and capturing it all on camera will be what I miss most. While I've met countless celebrities...even shared a meal with a few....I would have loved sitting with Anthony Bourdain, talking about cooking and traveling.
His book, Appetites: A Cookbook, was a Christmas gift a few years a go. The recipes are creative and complex, and present a challenge I've yet to attempt so far. But I decided right away this morning I'm going to choose one and prepare it next week. When I do I'll share it with you.
This is the second celebrity suicide this week. Fashion designer, Kate Spade, took her own life earlier this week. And while their deaths are no more or less important than a kid in Indianapolis, a mom in California, or a soldier returning from war....we tend to focus on them because they were in the public's eye. They were rich and famous, award winning, celebrated, and honored. We think of people like that as special...above the common woes, insecurities, and fears that most of us have. We think to ourselves, "How bad could their lives be? They were rich and famous. They had it all."
The truth is...no amount of fortune and fame can keep the demons at bay. Be it drug and alcohol fueled, financial problems, marital issues, or depression...many times there's no escaping the crushing depression that wraps around a person's soul...famous or not.
My heart goes out to Anthony Bourdain's daughter and his friends. While I lost someone I looked up to from afar on a TV show...those closest to him feel the real pain. That gut wrenching, overwhelming dark kind of pain my step-mom felt all those years ago. I pray they get the help they need to keep their own lives from spiraling out of control. Or worse...wrapping themselves up in the past, refusing to see the world has so much more to offer if they'll just open their eyes and look.
If you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide...PLEASE call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.