A word that describes what it feels like to lose someone to suicide? That doesn’t exist. It’s actually a whole jumbled up pool of emotions. Almost unbearable comes to mind, but that still doesn’t quite cover it. You never think it’ll happen to someone you know, much less a family member.
Let me start off by telling you about my experience. I was up late one night studying for a big nursing test I had the next morning. My phone started ringing, and I automatically assumed it was my boyfriend who knew I would still be up at midnight. It wasn’t, though. It was my mother, who usually goes to bed before 10 every night. I knew something bad had happened.
“Mama, what’s wrong?” I could hear her crying already. “Baby, Andrew shot himself,” my mother then told me. I flooded her with questions. Where? Is he okay? Why was he playing around with a gun this late? What happened? She then said, “No, baby, he killed himself.”
Disbelief was my first reaction. No, that couldn’t be true. Not my Andrew. Not my 17-year-old, crazy, silly, cousin Andrew. Not the kid who eats sour Skittles while we walk through Walmart and then throws away the pack before we get to the register. Not the kid who, while we all lay in the floor in Grandma’s living room, is constantly cracking jokes and telling us stories about how he’s a real ladies’ man. This can’t be real. I’m gonna go home and it is all just gonna be a mix-up.
It wasn’t, though. I sat in the home of my grandparents, with the rest of my family, confused. We tried to go over what could have caused him to do it. Was it a girl? Did we do something wrong? He acted normal. Nothing seemed off, but I guess nobody will ever truly know.
For a minute there I was mad. How could he do this? Did he not know what this would do to everyone? So many people loved him. I just couldn’t understand, but I wasn’t Andrew. How could I understand?
Regret was my next feeling. Why didn’t I do more? What could I have done? How did I not notice he was hurting so bad? There wasn’t anyone who knew, though. For the longest time, I told myself that I should have texted him more or just made sure he knew I loved him. In the end, I always realize that there wasn’t anything I could have done and that he knew I loved him.
The funeral was almost insufferable. A church filled with people who loved Andrew. People that would never get to see him or hear his laugh again. The casket was closed and the whole time all I could think about was how I just wanted to hold his hand one last time. My brother, who spent almost every weekend with Andrew since they were little, didn’t even want to go inside. They were only a year and a half apart. At one point he just fell to the ground in tears. This kind of pain is the heart-breaking kind. The pain of picking a 15-year-old off the ground when he hurts so bad he can’t even go on anymore.
This led to heartache. I thought so much about how his life was way too short. He would never get to graduate high school or go to college. He would never get his first grown-up job. He’d never get married or have children. Dwelling on these thoughts did some major damage to my heart. We missed him. We wanted him back, but we could never go back to how things were.
For a while after, I could honestly say I was numb. It had hurt so much I think my body shut down for a little while. That disbelief would pop up again and I would forget it was real. I’d try to block out the reminders but that doesn’t really work. Every time I see sour Skittles I think about him, or wear this certain pair of earrings he’d always try to get me to give him.
This past week marked a whole year since he passed away. What am I feeling now? Still all of these things plus a little more. Longing is a good word. I miss him every day and wish so much that he was still here with us. I’ll see little reminders of him and smile or laugh. We had so many good memories, and I could never forget those or him. That’s what I cling to now. That was my Andrew.
In Loving Memory of Andrew Allen Boykin (1997-2015)
“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”