Michael was my brother-in-law in a prior marriage. He was gay. Once a long time ago, he stood by the river alone. Who knows what he was thinking? We just know he committed suicide.
I have such mixed reactions about suicide. But today it seems appropriate to honor his memory when the world is wearing purple against homophobic bullying. I’m not saying Michael was bullied. I just know he took his own life and it makes me so sad to think that he must have felt helpless in that one moment.
There were lots of rumors – some factual – some I’m not sure. I think that angers me even more to know that once he had taken his life, some people felt the need to label him. I don’t want to talk about all that here. I want to honor Michael and let him know that we think of him and miss him and wish he had held on. The world has become gentler and a bit more understanding since you made that decision standing on the bank of the river. I know he was loved by his family. I won’t say everyone understood completely – Michael’s approach to approval or his ‘in your face’ way of fighting against disapproval was sometimes difficult. That’s all I will say here for each of us have our own thoughts and memories – especially when we look retrospectively.
One of the last times I remember seeing Michael was at Christmas. He went down in the field with the family to ride the snowmobiles. I remember thinking how happy he was to be doing the thing that his family always loved together with them. It is a beautiful memory that I will never forget. Michael loved antiques. He brought gifts for my children. Beautiful porcelain faced dolls for Melissa and an antique chair for Ed. He really stayed in touch. Cards, letters, phone calls. He tried so hard.
Now, this, Michael is for you:
I remember so many phone calls with you. I sometimes got angry, but more because of the alcohol. I know now you may have used it as a crutch. Who knows really. I just know it was hard sometimes to talk to you. I know you felt like you could not talk about your life much because you often met with disapproval. I know that sometimes people ‘used’ you because you would do ‘outrageous’ things to make them laugh or just to fit in. Oh, I hope you see the world today. It’s not perfect. It’s a long way from perfect, but it is so much better. I hope you can see that being HIV positive is not an ultimate death sentence now. The research and drugs are helping. I wish I had the opportunity as an adult woman who has cast off her own burdens to sit and talk to you about things of substance. If I had any part in making you feel out-of-place, I hope that you will forgive me. Your death affected us all in so many ways. It’s hard to lose someone you love – especially knowing it was at their own hand. Most of all, Michael, I hope today you are at peace. I hope you look down and laugh at the struggles we all have and take comfort that your worldly problems are behind you. Most of all, I want you to know you are not forgotten. God bless you, Michael. We love and miss you still.