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Last week I was talking to Greg at church. He and Bill would sit in the back of the library between classes and heckle everyone who came in for chalk while their wives did the work, rolled their eyes, and giggled at their husband’s antics. I’d go even if I didn’t need any chalk, just for the comic relief.

Even as I walked away down the hall, I heard the last joke wafting after me. “I heard that, Greg!” I called back. You could hear the snickering all the way to the Relief Society room.

On Wednesday afternoon, after singing karaoke on the porch and mowing his lawn, he climbed in his paraglider, flew to American Fork, and shot himself as his parachute drifted into an open field.

I think I can speak for all of his neighbors. We wish we had known.

Do we really do enough to surround others with love? Do we truly mourn with them and bear their burdens? Do we regard each other as brothers and sisters, worthy of the greatest effort?

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • agardner September 27, 2007, 7:14 pm

    The questions you raise are excellent. Something for us all to think about! And some people are so good at hiding their needs that you just really don’t know sometimes. It sounds like Greg was one of those.

    I’ll share a little about those close to me, in the interest of hopefully helping someone to see a need when it is there.

    The first suicide that was close to me was my cousin. He was 2 years younger than I was and our families had always been very close (we lived less than 1/2 mile apart until just a few years before his death). I was a senior in high school and got a call one day saying that he had been shot. At first, we all thought it was an accident because they were a big hunting family, but it turned out to not be the case. He was 15. I think of all the things I’ve dealt with in my life, this was the hardest – maybe because we were close in age, maybe because our families were so close, maybe because it was also just at that time where you are dealing with so many emotions in life anyway. In fact, the weekend he did it, I was just leaving to make a college visit to a university I was interested in attending. It was just a really horrible thing. This suicide was mostly done out of anger – he had been in some trouble the day before and felt he had been dealt with too harshly.

    They kept him alive overnight (he was brain dead) in order to donate his organs. At his funeral, I played the piano while all the cousins sang “I Am a Child of God”. I have no idea how I got through that because I was bawling the whole time. Lucky it was a familiar song, I guess. I think I just played it by heart.

    Fast forward to spring of last year. My parents, sister and I were on vacation in New York and Washington D.C.. We celebrated my mom’s birthday there and had a wonderful time. When we got home, we found out that my cousin had gone missing a day before (on my mom’s birthday). After searching for a few days, they found his truck and then his body. He had hiked into the mountains and shot himself. He had lived a troubled life for many years, but had fairly recently gone through the temple and we thought was doing well. He was dealing with a custody battle and his ex-wife had moved out of state with the kids. He had financial troubles. He had recently started drinking again. He left behind two young children. This one was really really tough on my mom. She had always called this nephew “her baby” because he was born while she was in high school and she spent a lot of time with him. He even lived with us for a time when he was going through some trouble at home. He shot himself on my mom’s birthday.

    Just a little more than three months later, my mom’s brother, just 17 months older than her (the father of the first suicide I mentioned) went into the mountains and shot himself. Again, a troubled life, years of depression, a divorce, and health issues. To be honest, many of us could see him struggling and did all we could to help. Some days he would be doing great, and other days not. My grandma was living with him – when she got home from church she saw a note on the table that said he had gone on a ride up the canyon and she knew what that meant – he had never left a note before. She immediately called the police and they found him very quickly. Again, so hard on my mom. She loved this brother dearly but they had a falling out years ago. She tried many times to reach out to him but was always turned away. In his suicide note, he said to tell her that he did love her…but she was still wrong. Getting that last word in!

    Of course the family of this father and son that did this 17 years apart are the most devastated by this. You can’t even believe the repurcussions this had in especially their immediate family but also the extended family as well. I know my mom will never be healed from it fully.

    Before I was married to my husband, his brother-in-law also shot himself, leaving 4 young children. Again, from what I know it was a troubled life. My husband’s sister had told him that day that she was filing for divorce. These children are now teenagers and wow…what a lot to deal with!

    About a month after I was released as Primary president, my best friend (former counselor, current Primary president) called in near-hysterics. I had heard the ambulances, but didn’t realize they were heading to the home of one of our Primary children. This one was in the news in Utah because of the age of this suicide victim. He was only 10 years old. Absolutely heartbreaking.

    I can only imagine that in order to do this, people must feel just completely beyond any hope. I also think in at least one of the cases, and most likely in two (the youngest two) they really didn’t understand that what they were doing was really going to end their mortal lives. They were done in haste without thought.

    Through the years, we have lost other family members and friends to illness and accidental death, but something about it being a choice just makes it so much more difficult to deal with. I really worry about my mom sometimes because I’m not sure that she copes with it very well and it’s been so close to her.

    Anyway, not to be a downer. I love all of these people and I know that Heavenly Father knows what was in their hearts and their minds when this happened. I leave it to Him to judge, for He is the only one who really knows the whole story. Those of us left behind can only hopefully learn from it and watch for signs in others that we know and love.

    I’ll add to Alison’s: Goodbye E, R, S, B, and R (I had typed their names but then decided maybe out of respect for the family’s privacy I shouldn’t).

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