I've never been a stranger to the so-called "darker" sides of life. Teased as a kid, suicidal teen years, dysfuctional relationships, antisocial and sociopathic tendancies--the usual. I'm sure plenty of people like me have figured out you can get past all of that, if you make a choice to. I suppose another large portion of people never do realize that. Doesn't mean it all goes away forever, though it nonetheless simply comes down to circumstance, in my experience... but, I digress.

Although I never was an extroverted person by nature, I've also had a various few friends I've been close to for most of my life. Among them, I have known people who engaged in all manner of self-destruction from the archetypical drinking and drugs, to the less understood--and probably more stigmatized--self-injury and eating disorders. I've seen family members, friends, and friends of friends lost to accidents, suicides, illness... just as many people have. Yet, there is one death that ends up standing out in my mind recently, of all the people I've known to die. Maybe it's the circumstance under which it occured.

My cousin, Carl, shot himself friday. 12-gauge shotgun to the neck. It was one of those situations where it's easy to see at least something coming in retrospect, but less so at the time. To be slightly trite, hindsight is 20/20. Everyone said the usual stuff; he was the nicest guy you could meet, he was so helpful, a good son, good brother, et cetra. Not that I'm trying to contest any of that or detract from their opinions. It's true, Carl was a really good guy. He had been helping his parents a great deal before he killed himself; his father had had a massive stroke recently and couldn't do too much. I think his case was mainly one of quiet desperation: a culmination of circumstance. His dad's stroke led to him moving back there, so that he could help his parents more effectively. There's really no word on the situation--he left no note or anything like that--but in my decidedly non-professional opinion, it was the stress from this, coupled with his dad's situation and his mom's inability to handle it well, on top of some pre-existing depression that really drove him to suicide. The night before he did it he was talking to his grandmother, who lived down the road. I didn't get the whole conversation, but it apparently went basically along the lines of "we've got a lot of good memories, don't we?" She's feeling kind of guilty after this, maybe feeling some sense of responsibility after that night. I've seen it before... understandable, really, if rather unfounded.

In any case, that's the abridged version of the story. Actually, Carl was the first person to die on my dad's side of the family in almost twenty years. Most of them live in a pretty tightly knit southern area, though, and see a lot of older friends passing away... suffice to say that funerals aren't entirely uncommon there, so that side of the family is used to dealing with death, even though they haven't had quite such a personal one in a long while. Most of the people, when I went down to visit, were handling it well enough... but this brings me, in a somewhat rambly way, to the point of my little story. Honestly, if I was asked to pick beforehand who, out of that side of my family, was most likely to kill themself, I'm not sure if I would have picked Carl. You kind of get an intuitive feel for things like that when you experience them a few times, but I don't know that I would have agreed with that choice on an intellectual level. He was the nice guy, the helpful son and brother, the pleasant cousin, the guy that always helped cook. By some outlooks, the poster child for an "unexpected" suicide.

The main thing that gave me pause about Carl's death was how he carried it out. While I might have chosen him if posed the aforementioned question, I doubt I would have called his method. I would have seen him as more of a hanging... or perhaps OD-ing person. I've heard the numbers; females attempt suicide more frequently than males, but males are three or four times more likely to suceed because of typically more violent means... not that I'm sexist in choices of killing oneself, but that's the data I've heard. Still, a 12-gauge to the neck just didn't strike me instantly as in character for him. Just another one of those (to use a cliché, simply for the sake of doing so) "don't judge a book by its cover" moments, I guess.

I came to terms a long time ago with the darker sides of this physical existence of ours. I probably come off as more morbidly pensieve now than I typically care to, but this is just my current musing. Everything is a duality, two sides of the proverbial coin. Yin and yang, in and yo, light and dark, solid and empty, what-have-you... I also believe that a person's actions are all you can base an appraisal of their character on; but hey, I don't judge. People will live their lives as they see fit. I just found it interesting how much people can reveal of themselves in the way they choose to die.

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