*** TRIGGER WARNING: suicide, suicide ideation, suicidal thoughts.
One of the fun parts of recruitment is that they play on the last few remaining strands of your humanity by showing you what you death did to those who loved you most. Their favorite one to show me was about my mother, and how she found my body.
My parents had worked so hard on the house in order for me to come home. They converted the living room into a bedroom for me so that I didn’t have to climb the stairs in my wheel chair. My mother never lost hope that I would walk again - I think that’s why they left my bedroom the same. I cringed every time I saw the living room. My mind burned with memories of being gathered around the television during Sunday supper, my young and naive self, sitting too close to the screen as I jammed fork after fork of mac’n’cheese into my mouth.
As I sat in the middle of my family’s living room, slumped over in my wheelchair, all I could think about was how much my mother was now going to have to do for me. The idea made my guts ache like someone had run a hot knife through them, and my mind spiraled out. The only reason I had even found myself in a position to be blown up was because I was adamant about dying the soldier’s death. Seeing as I had no honor left for me in the States I figured that I would just go out with my boots on.
I can hear God laughing at me now.
Sometimes I wonder if God had more in store for me than to just become this shell of a man who had nothing left to live for.
Even in the wake of everything my parents still found it in their hearts to care for me, to make room for me. In spite of my father’s bitching, mom made it possible for me to come home. No doubt she would have to take heaps of emotional grief for it but I knew she only did it because she loved me. That’s what made it so difficult to watch her find me. Why couldn’t it have been my dad? Certainly he would have been able to break the news to her more softly than I did…
She had been out shopping. I remember because when she had come in she was wearing her jacket. If I had been alive I would have been able to smell the scent of peppermint from the little candies she always had in her pockets. She would joke about how she would carry candies in her pockets until she died because you would just never know when you’d come across a small child who needed a peppermint candy. I was usually the only one she gifted them to but sometimes, if she was doing laundry or the dishes, she would joke about how she couldn’t wait to treat her grandchildren to the peppermint candies she kept in her pocket.
“Fletcher, I’m home!” Her words rang out into the empty house. It was quieter that usual – that kind of quiet that is deafening when she had just left a house full of people.
“Hello?” She said when her words went unanswered.
She walked into the living room, clutching tightly to the brown bag of groceries that she had carried in. As she made her way into the living room she saw that my wheelchair was empty. “Fletcher!” She gasped out in a panic. Clearly her thought was maybe I had fallen out of the chair and hurt myself trying to do something on my own.
If only that were truly the case.
She dropped the bag of groceries she had been clutching to when she rounded the couch to find that I had been laying on the floor the whole time, unmoving and cold.
When I watched the look overcome her face, my heart shattered into a million pieces. It was such a contorted blend of concern and fear with flickers of hope that what she was seeing with her own eyes wasn’t true. Can os spaghetti-o’s and boxes of mac’n’chesse filled up the space next to her feet, a can rolling to thump into my leg as it laid there unmoving.
She stooped to her knees, her hands curling over my arm as she tried to flip my body over. She was frantically saying my name over and over again, no doubt in an effort to get me to wake up. She strained trying to pull the whole weight of my two hundred pounds over onto my back. When she did I hit the wood floor with a thud as my limbs laid lifeless beside me, my head slumped over to the side. My face and the floor had been covered in vomit; my eyes were puffy, my cheeks swollen.
My mother let out the most unearthly, blood curdling scream. After the scream she started shouting for my father. He had left just a few minutes before I had collapsed. He always had great timing.
“Robert!” She belted out through the house as she frantically pulled herself up from the floor to scramble for the phone hanging on the wall. Her hands were shaking so much that she dropped the phone, and it smacked against the wall as it hung from its cord. She let out a frustrated wail as she scooped it back up into her hands. Frantically she dialed for emergency services, who begged her to stay on the phone until help got there.
“I don’t want to leave him alone in there,” my mother cried out on the phone. “He’s all alone, my baby, he’s all alone!” She sobbed. If there was anyone who truly understood the levels of suffering I faced in my daily life, it was my mother. To this day I am still so ashamed that she had to be the one who found me. In all honestly I was hoping that I would have been the home care worker that they had hired for me before I came home, but she was stuck in an appointment and had been coming late that day.
Jokes on everyone, though. No matter who found me, they wouldn’t have been able to change what had happened. I had been storing up my pain pills for over a week to make this happen.
When emergency services came, they declared me dead at the scene. My mother stood there alone as a police officer stood beside her scribbling down notes. She had called my father at his office but he hadn’t had time to get there because the message had been left with his secretary. Figures.
It didn’t take long for them to get my body into the back of an ambulance. My mother stayed behind at the house because she wanted to wait for my father to come home. A police officer lingered for a little while to ask her questions about foul play. It wasn’t hard to figure out that this was an overdose though. For many years my mother believed that it was she who killed me because had to be the one who gave me my morning medications that day.
My father didn’t help, either. They fought a lot after my death, some of the fights doing irreparable damage to their marriage.
Of all the things I’ve ever regretted, hurting my mother this way is probably the biggest. When they stand my soul at the gates of hell, may they make me suffer at the hands of evil for the pain I have brought upon my mother.
Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry. Mama's gonna make all your nightmares come true. Mama's gonna put all her fears into you. Mama's gonna keep you right here under her wing. She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing. Mama's gonna keep baby cozy and warm.