I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the hand gun the father of my children used to end his life. I never had seen a gun before and felt sick in my stomach at the thought of it!
The Police Station was in a basement and Natalie and I went down the steps carefully, holding the banister. It was cold and rainy. The weather matched our sinister moods.
The Policeman invited us into a small, plain room: A desk, two chairs… was that a double mirror? I imagined it must have been the room in which they brought criminals for interrogations while the good guys watched them through the double mirror, like in the movies. We were not in a movie, this was our real life!
The Officer laid on the desk two hand guns, a worn out black wallet, keys… a lot of keys.
He started to write a personal property receipt.
Before writing down the description and serial number of the first hand gun, he picked it up and said:
“This is the gun that ended his life, a 9 mm automatic Smite and Wesson.”
Natalie’s eyes were bulging. Without a word, she stood up and walked out of the room, leaving the door open. I could see her back only, her shoulders trembled slightly and her head was bent…
I run after her, I wanted to hug her, wipe her tears, take her pain away. She pushed me away gently:
“I’ll be okay, go back.” She said.
I felt paralyzed by my own confusion, and slowly collapsed back in the chair.
“Too much for the poor girl to see the gun which ended her father’s life!” the Officer commented. “How old is she, 16?”
“We didn’t know he even liked guns,” I justified my daughter’s reaction, as if it needed justification!
“For almost twenty years he told us, our children, stories about how he hated guns and that’s why he didn’t go to the Vietnam War…”
The Officer wasn’t listening anymore, he continued to write the report. Natalie returned and sat next to me. I reached out to take her hand into mine, but she wouldn’t let me…
“Would you like to examine the weapon?” He asked me.
I looked at it from across the desk but dared not touch. I wondered if it were cold, if at first when the Police found it by his body, there was blood on it… his blood!
” When did he exactly die? What triggered it?” I asked the Policeman.
“About a week ago… it seemed on October 27 Chrysler repossessed his 2004 Sebring convertible, and that triggered the suicide!”
Over the car, I thought, the car he purchased the same day he told me he had no money for child-support…
Silence felt heavy in the room, and the Officer explained:
“For some people this is a way of life. When they are broke, when they see no hope, they just… go!”
Death is a “way of life?” They go where? I thought, how could he have just left and not think of his daughters? How could he have taken the quick way out? He died over a car? Didn’t care about his children? About the pain his death would cause everyone?
Suddenly I recalled another possible version of why he killed himself. I remembered once, our therapist tried to define Kevin’s attitude towards the world, and this was what he said:
“Kevin thinks the world doesn’t appreciate his value and he gets angry. He punishes the ungrateful world by punishing himself, by withdrawing from it. Like saying, “You didn’t appreciate me! Well, let me show you! And he disappears…”
Perhaps, I thought, his suicide represented the ultimate withdrawal. What difference did it make why it happened? No matter why, the pain left behind was the same. The real tragedy was not why it happened, but that it happened!
I was angry. I was confused. It seemed absurd! I said nothing.
“We found no money in the house.” Continued the Policeman.
Now he was writing down the description of the other gun…
Different sizes, I thought, which killed quicker? Less pain? Equally deadly. The gun he was registering was grandfather’s, the one we had in our home for twenty years and didn’t know about it…
“Does this gun work,” I asked pointing to it.
Part of me didn’t want to know the answer, but I had to ask, I needed to feel the reassurance of the betrayal, the hurt of the response.
“Of course,” The expert answer came promptly. “That’s why businessmen like this type, small, easy to handle!”
Now the Officer was writing down the description of the two boxes filled with bullets. Different sizes for the two guns.
He was almost done. His movements seemed surreal, almost as if filmed in slow motion.
He picked the 9 mm automatic and showed it to me:
“This one, the weapon of the crime, is a recent purchase. He bought it on August 8, 2005.”
August 8th? I thought. This was his birthday! He bought himself a birthday present to end the gift of life!
I examined the hand gun from afar. it was just a little larger than a man’s hand, looked smooth, black and silver. It looked impersonal and helpless if not in someone’s skilled hands, filled with bullets. Still, it could have ended anyone’s life, but it helped my children’s father ended his…
“I am not taking the guns with me, nor the ammunition! I am leaving them here, in your custody!” I told the Policeman.
He finished the report and handed me a receipt.
My hand was shaking. I signed.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“I never … we, my daughter and me, never saw guns before, except in the movies…”
I put the receipt and the keys to his house in my purse. The Policeman placed the guns and bullets in a locker. He shook our hands and we went out the Police Station, into the rain.
Kevin’s house was two blocks from the Station and we walked slowly, as the drops of rain were awakening us to the reality of our tragedy.
Sooner or later we had to go inside, confront the fears he was still there, his ghost… was I prepared to fight a ghost… did I even believe in them?
Inside the house it was cold and his smell lingered on.
“We must bring and burn some sage here, clear the energies,” I told my daughter.
She didn’t answer yes or no, but the look on her face seemed to speak to me, ” Mom lost her mind?! What sage, what energies? What?”
His things were everywhere. I could feel his energy all around us. Unsettled, sad energy! Yes, I thought to myself, I must burn sage!
Throughout the house, top of the line appliances, everything high-tech and piles and piles of unopened bills. No food in the refrigerator except half a gallon of ice cream. I counted 82 cents in a dish in his bedroom. The Police thought, there were no money, and look at that!
We looked for the cats throughout the house. Were they hiding? Did they leave in the chaos of the moment when the doors were wide open? My ex-sister-in-law, the younger brother’s wife looked for them before, but with no success. They also helped with the most gruesome part of the cleaning of the “crime’ scene, a favor they did us, which was much appreciated. We couldn’t find the cats. We placed flyers and pictures everywhere, but no sign of the cats.
Natalie and I walked through the house again and down in the basement. We called them by names, Phoenix, the cat who was still-born and I revived by massaging her in luke-warm water, was slightly retarded but her brother, Mercury, was the smartest cat we ever had. They were born of the same litter, in our home, about 8 years prior. Mercury and Phoenix were inseparable from the beginning. He was protecting her, he seemed to guide her steps, so we kept both, they truly needed one another. When we divorced, because cats were easier to care for, Kevin kept the two cats while we kept the four dogs and the parrot.
We were now in the basement of his former house, and as we were about to give up looking for the cats again, they came out from under a radiator.
“Oh! Here they are. Thank God!”
We took them home, to the house we had been calling our home, that was. I wondered what the cats had witnessed and if cats might possibly suffer from Post Traumatic Stress…
I remembered the psychiatrist’s explanation about how we were all given at birth a bucket of resilience, and it wasn’t the same for all. I guess it applied to cats as well.
Mercury died of a heart attack on Christmas Day of 2005.
Phoenix lived to be 18.
And we, the human survivors of suicide loss, started sorting out through the shambles, physical and psychological, left behind by the unimaginable!