Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on the Banks of the Mighty Mississippi

About Finding Out "WHY" Suicide:

There is a natural curiosity regarding a suicide. Everyone wants to know the cause and the signs leading up to the event.

Just a few thoughts on the two suicide situations I have been directly involved with. We should realize that as a diverse population, we will never agree on what I will share. And, this is okay.

Moving to St. Louis (1977) we began to attend a new church. We became your-place – our place friends with a couple, who had three grown, married kids and over time five grandchildren. For more than two decades, Kathleen and my wife, Rebecca became joined at the hip in church women’s ministry programs.

Kathleen’s husband, Joe, and I were not like “joined at the hip” but shared backgrounds in Houston, Texas, family and other interests. Over the course of fifteen years, we did a lot of painting and repair work on the church facilities. We were cooks and clean-up partners for Saturday morning Men’s group. Joe experienced a stroke shortly after turning sixty-five. At this point, I became one of the family “go-to assistant." This role had passed the five-year stroke stage, so we knew each other well, or so I thought.

Joe and Kathleen had just returned from a family vacation. All their children and grandchildren had gathered for a week at a cabin in Colorado. I hung up from a lengthy review of the trip. Less than three hours later the phone rings and Kathleen screams, Joe has shot himself. I have reflected back on that last conversation endless times . . . not the slightest clue . . . just one of our typical calls.

I don’t care who you are or how many letters follow your name. No one, including my wife, could ever explain this suicide thing with a single cause. Whether they leave a note or no note, makes no difference – think about it. It would take a publication the size of an encyclopedia to even begin. That is simply not going to happen.
It is ever so common for survivors to latch onto a significant issue and attempt to seal and store the issue away. This seems to work for some survivors, but it would just not work for me. I took a while for this whole suicide issue to sink and to regain some balance.

Was I curious about Joe, yes for sure? But never talked to Kathleen about it until after Rebecca’s death. Then I learned a lot of stuff, I did not know . . . but nothing that would make the decision to die . . . Ok, certainly not one thing. I am indebted to Kathleen for all her tutoring.

Kathleen died (2005) of a heart attack, at home alone. The kitchen was cleaned up, she probably sat down in front of the TV for the evening news. She is discovered there in her chair the next afternoon, by her daughter and son-in-law. Kathleen deserved PEACE after all the trauma she had endured.


Those that or outside our circle think of it like the series on TV . . . i.e. CSI. Sort of ask a few question and from that determine what “the cause” is. After being at it (trying to get a grip on the whole suicide thing) all these years, I have personally come to believe it is a way more complex issue.

I existed in the “I will find the cause state - and not give-up short of the goal” for several years. The true cause can never be validated, so we are left to accept the fact we can never really know.

It took a lot of years to find PEACE, partially after accepting the fact “I don’t know and - it can never be known." For years, even I thought, there was a “the cause” judgment. I no longer think that way.

This change in thinking has relaxed me enough to say . . . simply “I don’t know.” Because that is the truth and it avoids those endless discussions, theories and analysis base on endless assumptions. It is beneficial to learn to avoid them. They take you nowhere . . . and versions of your details will come back to haunt you as time moves along. They should not - but that IS the way it works. Your original assessment and subsequent version is retold - person to person and the results are WILDLY off the center line.

I always drop back to the analogy of “the cup.” It fills a drop at a time and finally runs over. Is there one drop responsible? Well no, it is the results of a gazillion drops that proceeded the one that causes the cup to run over . . . so not just “one.”

Again, I would avoid “the cause thinking." It is frustrating and leads to anxiety, and anger and resentment and in the end, you are right where you started.