Essay, Research Paper
My Beautiful Friend
Suicide is a deep and complicating loss. It leaves a profound and everlasting effect on everyone it touches. The mere word “suicide” conjures up a sorrowful and tragic image coupled with pity and disbelief at such an outrageous, selfish and extreme act. When someone you care about commits suicide, the burden of guilt and pain are overwhelming. The aftermath of a suicide is complex and almost seems to consume you. The tragedy of loss is only magnified.
I was present when one of my dearest friends, Kenny, chose to end his life. He was only nineteen years old. When Kenny died, my life, my world, was instantly turned upside down. Everything became immediately foreign and I was changed as a person. In a second, I lost all control over my normalcy.
I went to school with Kenny’s brother and roommate, James. We were all very close and spent most of our spare time in each other’s company. They had a house, just down the street from their parents’, in the mountains, about a half-hour from town. When I wasn’t at work or school, I was there. I would frequently spend the weekend there sometimes just hanging out with the boys, doing a whole lot of absolutely nothing.
We were really into punk shows, and, in fact, that’s how I met Kenny. Right after they had first moved in the house, they had a show (a great party centered on live bands) to “break in the place”. I hung out with James at school most of the time and whenever he stayed in town, but had only been to his parents’ a handful of times (usually to get him and go back to town). They really lived in the sticks! I knew James’ younger brother, Mike, but, until that night, I didn’t know Kenny, his older brother.
The show was fabulous, tons of people, several awesome bands, a huge mosh (love to watch, but am not big on getting thrashed around and bruised in that mess), people everywhere. I had lost James and the rest of our friends to the mosh and beer runs and was walking around saying hello to people, enjoying the music. I was standing alone when this tall, good-looking guy came and stood next to me. I didn’t recognize him and yelled over the music, “Who are you?”
He gave me a bizarre look, as if I was the stupidest person alive and answered, phrasing it almost like a question as if surely I must know, “Kenny? I live here?”
I was absolutely horrified and apologized profusely, introduced myself and generally felt like a complete idiot. He was completely cool and laughed and said he’d heard of some of my adventures with James. That was it. After that, we were nearly inseparable.
On St. Patrick’s Day, as I was about to leave school, I saw James heading for the bus. I had intentionally avoided the house the previous weekend because I realized I couldn’t recall a single weekend I hadn’t been up there for months. They called my house at least twenty times, but I was determined to stay away for one entire weekend. Now that it was Monday, I figured I’d better get Kenny off my back and a visit would be just the ticket. Silly as it may sound, I missed them already!
James accepted the ride without a second thought, a two-hour bus ride couldn’t be fun. When we arrived, Kenny beckoned me inside. I saw the classic green mustang parked out front and knew Joy, his girlfriend, must be in the house. When I got in, Joy looked as if she’d been crying and Kenny informed me that it was to be his “last night on Earth” because, among other things, Joy had dumped him. He melodramatically insisted that I stay so that he and I could hang out a final time. I did not take him seriously, but finally, I relented. Joy and I talked for a few minutes about why she had broken up with him and what to do about him talking about suicide. After a few minutes, she had to leave.
I found Kenny in his room and he proceeded to tell me all of the reasons for killing himself. His girlfriend dumped him, he couldn’t find his paycheck, he lost $80.00 of his father’s money, he was on the verge of losing his job, he thought he would lose the house because he couldn’t find his paycheck, etc. I tried to tell him everything wasn’t so bad. I rattled off seemingly simple solutions to all of his problems. He just laughed at me. All he needed to do was pull himself together.
Drugs had consumed Kenny when he was younger. He had cleaned up his act and had been doing very well until a few weeks previous. All of his problems stemmed from his recent fall back into drugs. He started missing work and his boss saw through his charades and excuses. Joy was leaving him because she didn’t want to see him ruin himself, nor could she let him drag her down with him. He was very at ease and comfortable and made it clear that he didn’t want us to see him or be involved, he just wanted us to be there for him until he was ready. I honestly thought he was just being overly dramatic and probably felt like committing suicide, but would never really do it. I couldn’t comprehend him, Kenny, doing anything but picking himself up, dusting off, and moving on.
We went to town to drop off my truck, and now, I kick myself for doing it, but to buy some beer as well. We also picked up Tammy, my best friend, who had never met Kenny, but knew James and had heard all of our stories and had been dying to meet him for quite some time. Even though this was not Kenny at his best, I figured a beautiful girl around, who was definitely interested couldn’t hurt. Another friend, Caleb, followed Kenny and me down to town, because Kenny begged me to please stay when I told him that I needed to go drop off the truck. He called everyone he could think of to follow me down there, so I would be able to stay and Caleb agreed.
At the time, I thought he just needed to calm down, relax a little, and quit stressing so hard. Hindsight is 20/20 and now, of course, I realize that alcohol is a depressant, the last thing to give someone in his condition. Not to mention that Kenny had not slept since the Thursday night before and had partied all weekend long.
We got back to the house and started drinking beer. Kenny told us it was his last night on Earth many times, but he appeared to be having a good time, just the same. He wanted to make a list of who got what, a will of sorts, but being the bachelor pad it was, he couldn’t find a sheet of paper to write it on.
Later in the evening, Kenny pulled out a small vial containing eighteen Valium Tens. I had no idea that he even had them and when he began taking the Valium, I really started to understand how serious he was. He was really beginning to frighten me; I was scared to death. I took them away from him and hid them in a small box I had in my purse. When he realized that they were missing from the table, he got very agitated and demanded that I give them back. I looked to James for help and he nodded for me to return them. Kenny took about five of them at once and offered some to us. James said he wanted some and Kenny went for another round of beers. As I sat trying to remember what oil induced vomiting, James quickly whispered to us to take the pills, three apiece or so, whether we ate them or not, so that Kenny would not have enough to harm himself. He returned and we each took three or four of the pills, taking the last of them. When Kenny finally got drowsy, we put him to bed.
The next morning, we had our normal routine of laughs and coffee. James and Tammy argued over something trivial. Caleb was gone and the night before seemed far away. Around 10:00 a.m., Kenny’s boss called because he had failed to show up for work yet again. She told Kenny that she wanted to help him and that she couldn’t allow him to just throw his life away. She gave him an ultimatum, either he agree to enter a rehab. program, with as much time off as he needed, and the company would pay for it, or he would be let go. He told her off in typical Kenny fashion and she fired him. He was extremely angry and very upset. A little later, the woman who had sold him the Valiums called demanding 40 dollars. Kenny didn’t have the money, had just been fired and immediately resumed his talk of suicide. I began to cry. Kenny played a Cypress Hill tape (not exactly the most calming music) and brought out a 410 rifle, loading his only bullet. I pointed out a million reasons not to kill himself, but he would not listen. I told him to take a look at my life, how I had just as many problems, if not more. He asked me to die with him.
I made fun of the day (the day after St. Patrick’s Day) telling him it was a pathetic date for a gravestone. He said, “It’s as good of day as any.”
I poked fun at the jeans he was wearing, faded black stonewash, and asked who could want to die in something so ugly? Yet, nothing I said seemed to deter him.
He wanted us to be there for him. He wanted to say good-bye. He did not want us to see him or to be upset. He asked the three of us to leave the living room. James and Tammy went into his bedroom, but I refused. I sat with him on the couch, pleading and begging him not to do it. He got tears in his eyes and begged me to leave. Again, I refused. He took a blanket and covered himself with it, putting the gun between his legs, barrel in his mouth. Hysterical by that time, I saw as he reached for the trigger. I yanked the blanket off of him and he set the gun down and looked at me, tears welling in his eyes. I will never forget what he said to me, “Death is hard and it’s going to be hard. But you’re going to get through this. You’re all going to get through this. You’re going to be okay.”
He gave me a hug and walked down to his room. Tammy and James came out and I tried desperately to figure out what to do. I thought of grabbing a frying pan and hitting him as hard as I could with it. I figured that when he came to, he would be really furious, but alive and furious. I could not stop crying and James tried to comfort me. I shouted at him to do something, anything. He turned off the music. Kenny emerged from his room and pointed the gun at James, telling him to turn on the music again. James obliged and Kenny retreated back into the room.
Finally, I remembered the list. I know it seems morbid, but I just wanted time, time to think of what to do, time for him to realize how ridiculous this was. I screamed, “The list! Tell him he has to make his list first!”
Finally, after ten minutes of shouting and pleading, screaming and crying, James agreed to tell him to make the list. I was just desperate to take action, any action. Tammy waited in the living room and I followed James down the hall to Kenny’s room. James reached out and put his hand on the doorknob and we heard a loud pop. He turned the knob and opened the door. Kenny had just shot himself. He looked up, saw us and held up his hand for just a moment, before he fell to the ground. A plume of blood had formed on a large book in front of him. I remember wondering if it was my literature book and thinking it looked nothing like blood at all, but bright red nail polish. Kenneth James McFeeters died at 11:57 a.m. James shoved me out of the room and closed the door behind him, crying and choking. I fell to the ground in complete hysterics. James yelled at me not to go in the room and ran for help. I had to know Kenny was really dead and so I opened the door and crawled in. What I noticed more than anything, were Kenny’s beautiful eyes looking up at me, but not seeing me. I can still see him on the floor, blood and bits of brain splattered everywhere. I retreated, crawled out the door, feeling unable to breathe. I ran to Tammy and lost any control I had had.
I went into mild shock during the next few hours. I was unable to stop crying, even momentarily. James tried to call 911, but no one answered fast enough. He dropped the phone and ran for his parents’ house, just up the street. I remember their father riding down on a 4-wheeler at full speed. I was shaking and could do nothing but cry. His father asked over and over again if we were sure that he was dead. Their father is a big guy, looks like a biker, though he is actually a businessman. Seeing him breakdown and cry only made me cry harder.
Finally, the paramedics arrived and James lashed out at them for taking so long screaming and trying to pick a fight. Upon the arrival of the police, we all were separated. I remember fumbling my way back over to Tammy and crying on her shoulder. The cops yelled at me and told me to get away from her. James got in their faces and told them to leave me alone to no avail. Eventually, they determined we were not murderers and allowed us to be together again. I could barely utter a sentence through my tears, let alone answer questions. I do remember James asking someone if they were going to clean up the blood and the cold reply, “No, you’ll have to do that.”
They told James he would have to clean up fragments of his own brother’s skull and blood. Someone walked me up the road to Kenny’s parents’ house. Kenny’s mother and I sat together and cried together. The Gideons sent two old pastors to the house to deal with our tragedy. They handed out bibles and told us to focus on the positives of the situation. Kenny’s father yelled at them and threw them out of his house; “You want me to find the good in this?”
Everything was a mess. Kenny and James had a younger brother, Mike, and sister, Tonya, both still in high school. Their parents decided to wait for them to get home rather than go to town and get them (they lived way out and didn’t want to leave anyhow). When Tonya and Mike got home, I watched as their father told them what had happened. Tonya began shouting that it was not true, that we were all liars. She ran into her bedroom and slammed the door. Mike sat in disbelief with us.
Bad things happen in three’s, that’s the old saying. It is true. I had taken my truck home the night before, so we had to find a ride home. The only person we could get a hold of was Riley, whose father had shot himself two years previous on Christmas. On the way back down, I sobbed quietly. We passed another ambulance and Riley slowed down and said he had seen that truck pull over in front of him on his way up. We saw the paramedics pull a blanket over the old man’s body. He had had a heart attack while he was driving. As we went by, I saw a woman crying uncontrollably. I suppose it was his wife.
I can’t remember much else about that night except for a good friend coming to stay with me, Joey, who lived down the road from Kenny and had known him since grade school. I rode with him back up that damned mountain rode to get some clothes and such so he could stay with me. We hit a cat. One, two, three – just like that and I cried until I had no tears left. Then, I cried on without them.
My life changed completely that day. I had never lost someone so very close to me. I had never seen anyone die. I grew up more in one day than I had in all my years on Earth. Nothing seemed to carry any importance any longer and I fell into a deep depression. I did crazy things without justification. I wanted to live every minute as if it were my very last.
I was haunted by Kenny’s face when I slept. I relived seeing him fall to the ground over and over again. I prayed he was just trying to stop us from seeing him, but could not help but wonder if he realized too late that he had made a mistake and was reaching out for help. I obsessed over the “what ifs”. What if I had just hit him on the head with a frying pan? Would he still be alive today? What if I took the
gun from him and fired his only bullet? What if we had called the police? Why didn’t we call their parents even though Kenny had told us not to? Why was he so set on dying? I couldn’t stop trying to figure out what we had done wrong, where we had failed to reach him. I was unable to think without thoughts of him popping into my mind.
I felt as if everything were my fault. I thought that if anyone could have helped him, it should have been me. I hadn’t been able to help him though and I felt I was a failure as a friend. I tried to numb myself with anything I could find. I turned to a party life where friendships didn’t seem as serious so that if I ever lost anyone again, it wouldn’t hurt so much. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. The repercussions of his suicide stayed with me for a long time. I still feel them.
One of the hardest aspects of his death was simply the fact that he was no longer there. I would hear a funny joke that he would have loved and I’d make a mental note to tell him then realize I couldn’t. I’d hear a great new band and want to ask him about it. The little things like that were the worst. The simple fact that he was not here.
People always talk about suicide in a distasteful manner, as if the very word leaves their tongue bitter. They talk about the selfishness and the stupidity of suicide. All of this is true. Yet, I no longer am angry with Kenny. When he first died, all I wanted in the world was five minutes with him. Four minutes to beat the living daylights out of him and one minute to hug him and tell him how very much he means to me and that I love him no matter what. I would give anything to be able to go back and change that day, but I can’t. As far as selfishness and stupidity, they were commodities Kenny lived without. He was a beautiful person inside and out. He truly believed that killing himself was the best thing he could do for any of us.
I still feel the effects of Kenny’s suicide even today. I will never be so ignorant again. I won’t tolerate suicidal talk from my friends. I let them know that there are a million alternatives, each and every single one a better choice. Friends are a strange thing. I don’t think I could have made it without my friends, but at the same time, I couldn’t stand them. That sounds terrible and ungrateful, and it probably is. I don’t ever want to face that kind of loss again and thought maybe if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have to. You cannot help caring though, it isn’t something you choose to do. It just is.
As soon as everyone found out what happened, I became a morbid type of celebrity. I couldn’t walk ten feet without someone asking me if I was okay. How was I supposed to answer that? No one wants to hear if you’re not okay. I wanted to say, “Well, I’m here, aren’t I? Kenny isn’t here. Who do you think is the one who isn’t okay?”
I am no longer so na?ve. I try not to take things for granted. I will never commit suicide. I could never put anyone through that. It was a life changing experience. I don’t know if Kenny were to suddenly come back from beyond if we would even be friends. I have changed so profoundly since that day that I am a new person.
I hope wherever Kenny is, he is happy.