A little over a month ago, one of my nephews chose to end his life.  He was twenty-seven.  According to a telephone call I had with his mother shortly after she found him, he shot himself in the chest.  To the best of my knowledge, the only gun he owned was a Mosin Nagant.  I have to admit that I wondered how he managed to fire that long of a weapon into his chest, but I guess a toe would work.  Yes, I know.  Terrible.  Sick.  Morbid, even.  I never claimed normalcy.

He’d had psychological problems for much of his life.  Less than a year ago, he came off of all the meds that he took for said psychological problems.  He still exhibited massive mood swings, symptoms of being bi-polar – one of the many diagnoses that he collected along the way.  However, after he’d been off the meds for a while, from my vantage point (a distance) at least, he seemed to be as normal as he ever was while on meds. Which wasn’t exactly what I would call normal, but you get my point.  Our family’s DNA is wired differently than that of most folks.

He’d also had physical problems, digestive in nature for a while.  The week before his death, he’d gotten the results of a medical test that came back normal.  Supposedly, this was the last test they could run, and since it came back normal, he obviously must be faking his symptoms and/or exaggerating his level of pain for the purpose of obtaining drugs.  Oh, did I mention that he had a history of drug abuse?  Well, he did.

He rated his physical pain as 10/10 a vast majority of the time, with eight vicodin over a 24-hour period dropping it in his estimation to a six or seven, while turning him into a drooling mess in the process.  He claimed to have never been below a 5/10 pain level for months.  Dealing with this amount of physical pain, undergoing test after test, with no diagnosis, and being berated and called a drug seeker at every step pushed him over the edge.

I have no idea how much pain he was really in.  I know that he e-mailed me regularly, and we spoke via Skype from time to time.  We’d had our issues over the years, but I pushed him in what I felt was the right direction (get your GED, find something productive that you can do that you don’t hate, become a contributing member of society, or at least get off the dope) every chance I got.  I knew he was frustrated, and likely had many problems that I never knew about.  I still held out hope, though.

One thing I know for sure.  I could have delayed his departure from this world, at least briefly.  A week or two before, he tried to sell me the Mosin and several hundred rounds of ammo for it.  I didn’t want it, having owned one before and sold it to an individual who appreciates it more than I ever did.  Even so, I offered $75 for it, certain that I could either recover my money later, or give it to the feds when they come knocking, claiming it is my only one.  Either the gun itself or the ammo were probably worth that much, so together, it was a steal.  He agreed.

Before we had a chance to complete the transfer, he asked if I’d be willing to sell it back to him at some later date, and if so, how much I’d want for it.  In the same e-mail, before hearing my answer, he referred back to our previous dealings with buying and selling guns, and said something about me “wanting to get paid double”.  He was referring to a deal that we made that included a small interest charge (9%, I think), that he had agreed to at the time.  Nine percent is hardly “paying double” and he still owed me about $1500, from past dealings, that I had essentially forgiven, so this rubbed me all in the wrong direction.  I withdrew my offer to buy the gun.

Had I not done so, he wouldn’t have had that particular gun available to use for the final purpose for which he used it.  He could still pass the NICS check, so he could have simply gone and bought another one, hence my statement of “briefly” delaying his actions.

Don’t misunderstand.  I have no guilt over what happened.  It is not my fault.  This wasn’t his first ride on the suicide wagon.  It’s just the first time he was serious about it.  I knew this, based on e-mails that he sent the week preceding his death.  I knew he seemed more serious than other times when he had discussed the subject.  I did my best to steer him in other directions.

Could I have perhaps used some of the e-mails to force an involuntary commitment, or at least a hold and evaluation?  Probably.  Would it have done any good?  No.  He’s been dealing with shrinks for twenty years, and he knows how to play the game.  It would have done nothing but delayed things, and cost me the opportunity to try to encourage him onto a more positive path.

I chose not to, and I do not regret that decision.  It was his life, and his to do with as he chose.  I firmly believe that he made the wrong choice – a selfish choice that caused great pain to the people who loved him – but ultimately, it was his choice to make.  I support his right to make it, even though I disagreed.

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