This precedes my 1st Blog post. It's how I started the discussion. But to capture it in the Blog too - here's my initial post to Legacy Connect:
Hello. My name is Jesse. I'm 40 - almost 41 years old next week. My late husband (it's still so strange to say "late"), Michael, committed suicide on Saturday, June 27, 2015.
It was a typical Friday night. We were at home relaxing after a long work week. Michael had a few cocktails (I gave up drinking in 2009), and was surfing online out on the patio (he smoked cigarettes; but only outside). I was inside our living room checking out the new Daredevil series on Netflix.
I must've fallen asleep just before midnight. The autopsy suggests that Michael chose to take his life an hour or so later - around 12:40pm. I woke Saturday morning around 5:15am. We often would leave each other asleep vs. wake & drag to bed. Michael preferred to remain undisturbed if already asleep.
We live in a one bedroom, one bath condo. You can't go very far. I walked into the bedroom entry but found it empty. Odd, so I checked the bathroom - also empty. I'd turned the lights out and knew Michael wasn't on the patio. Then I realized I hadn't walked into the bedroom enough to see the closest.
I rushed into the bedroom and found Michael hung in the closest. He had rigged a belt to our pull-up bar. I later read in the autopsy that there was an indication of minor struggle, but mildly so. It's likely Michael passed out from lack of oxygen; plus he'd been drinking.
I somehow managed to get him down - it happened so fast - as I grabbed his waist and felt his cheek touch against mine as I pivoted & lay him on the bed. I knew from that cold touch. It was plain; Michael had passed.
I called 911, the paramedics came. I called local friends and they came to my aid, to hold me up through the experience. Paramedics were followed by fireman and police and eventually the coroner. Badge after badge, hour after hour. But they were very kind; I'm so very grateful for that sensitivity.
The coroner especially, was very kind. We were asked to wait on the patio as they prepared to take Michael's body to the morgue. She said they were ready to go, and that I could see the body at the morgue. I told her I wanted to say good bye to my husband, my Michael. They unzipped enough to see his face, and despite the early markings of death, I was at least able to kiss Michael's forehead and tell him I love him. I didn't want to go to the morgue or to a crematorium.
Michael's drinking had steadily - but very slowly - increased over the last few years. We went through some very hard life experiences. Michael lost his father without any reconciliation (his father more or less shunned him for being gay; to the extreme). He and his older sister were at the airport boarding a flight to Denver; but his father passed before they could even board.
The same older sister later developed breast cancer, which metastasized through her lymph system aggressively to her brain. She'd denied her cancer so it was caught quite late. She lived nearby with their mother.
Michael's mother tried to assist as much as possible; but the stress & hardship & worry eventually took its toll. And brain cancer is not a friendly disease to live with sometimes. Yet Michael's sister was determined to fight it as best she could; though the prognosis was only months long.
After a near heart attack, we ended up moving Michael's mother into the unit upstairs from our condo. By chance it had become open and we rented it out. Add a lot of Ikea and the basics -- it slowly became a livable home. It was wonderful to have her near, and so nice to be able to spend so much time with my mother-in-law. We were in the trenches, so we were all very tight.
Michael held up remarkably well; I was so proud of his strength & determination. I knew it was tough and exhausting; he had to head up to see his sister regularly and make sure she was eating, taking medications, seeing the home nurse a few times a week. Add an ill mother upstairs ... it must've been exhausting. But we plowed through as families do together.
Michael's sister died in hospice from cancer, after an unnecessarily prolonged hospice experience. (I kinda believe the medical community sees hospice as a profit center.) Michael's mother remained upstairs for a few months, an then we moved her to Denver to be with Michael's remaining sister, her husband, and their son. She wanted to be close to her grandson.
It was less intense; but there were many more hard moments head: a few heart attacks; a pacemaker/defibrillator implant; diabetes; a partial leg amputation due to diabetes; etc. Much of our vacation & holiday time was spent traveling. It was remarkable - Michael's mother tackled the challenge of learning how to use a prosthetic with vigor. She was determined not to let these things pin her down. I admire her courage still.
All of this was very hard for Michael. He was losing his family at lightning pace - a father, his sister, now his mother in a series of health challenges. She passed in March 2013. We rushed so fortunate to reach her before she passed. I think she held on so she could say goodbye to Michael.
Everyone on this blog understands grief - children lose parents naturally as they age. But 2, and then a siblings to cancer -- all within a 3-4 year period. Michael was hammered with loss. I don't think he ever really recovered from those shocks; and I think he turned to alcohol to self-medicate much of that inner pain.
After talking with friends and family after the fact we realized there was a kind of breadcrumb trail. We hadn't noticed it until we all put it together. Michael had slowly been pulling back from friendships and relationships. He'd deleted his facebook profile. I later discovered that he'd been researching suicide methods online. The event had been a plan long in coming.
I was surprised to find a suicide kit in his car's trunk - a box with razors blades & a bottle of pills (various sleeping pills, xanax, klonopin, flexeril, etc.). Apparently it's not uncommon for people to have a Plan B.
Michael & I were together for 13 years. I was smitten upon our first meeting; and we shared a wonderful romance & courtship. We became domestic partners in 2005 and did a lot of the legal paperwork we needed to care for each other - we had legal & healthcare powers of attorney and advanced healthcare directives. We later married in 2008 (during it's brief 1st legal period in CA -- Prop 8 was on the ballot; we both felt it was important to be part of the impacted class if it passed).
There was much joy & happiness. Sure, we bumped heads every-once in awhile -- it's hard to take two different people, toss them into a marriage and small home, and not have them bump heads from time to time. But we always worked through our problems together, with very little fighting, aggression or anger.
Michael was a very gentle soul; brimming with love and a very kind spirit. He saw beauty in every direction; and he had impeccable taste. He opened my eyes to it - there's so much of everyday life I would never have though to pay much attention to. Michael strove to live in the present, and he lovingly pulled me into with him.
A friend told me about her own experience losing a brother to suicide in her youth, and she said "I can't help but think that some people are too delicate, too fragile for this world." Michael was such a person.
I'll close with this:
I'm doing OK; I've been seeing a gay grief/relationship counselor twice a week; I'm slowly adjusting to my "new normal," and I'm slowly learning how to take this experience, understand it, and learn how to carry it with me as I slowly move forward in my own life. Work's been very understanding; though I'm happy to have it's routine & structure.
A lot of people awkwardly say things like "you'll get over it in time" - but no, you don't. I think you simply learn to live with the reality that a person you greatly loved is simply no longer present.
I have a long road ahead but I'm going to take it one moment at a time. I'm taking advantage of resources like counseling, I've been purposefully connecting with friends & family and I've been trying to stay active.
I miss Michael every day. It's just impossible not to; and I'm not sure I want to not miss him. Michael was the love of my life, a best friend, a confident, a partner & husband. Being classified a "widower" at 40 is rough; but I know that people survive these horrible experiences.
I'm open to any of your advice; especially if you're GLBT & experienced something similar. Thank you for listening!