Tale Of A Suicide

My Sister’s Entire Life Changed In 3 Days

Elizabeth Collins

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Today is my sister’s birthday. We’re going to dinner with some of her friends. We haven’t gotten together on her birthday since we were in our twenties, normally she either ignores it or does something with her husband. But one week ago, he shot himself in the head. Two days before that their house burned to the ground. In 2 days, my sister lost her home, all of her belongings, her car, and her husband of 34 years.

If these things happened to someone else, it may not be surprising. Some people’s lives are such a train wreck that it doesn’t surprise you when more tragedy happens. That wasn’t my sister or her husband. Since she got married at 21, she has had a very stable life. She likes familiarity, and her interests haven’t changed since we were kids. For this to happen to her, at age 57, is almost unbelievable. Every day when I wake up and slowly remember what happened, I still can’t believe it.

The remains of a home. photo by author

My brother-in-law was the most laid back, happy-go-lucky person I knew. He didn’t get stressed out about much of anything. He liked to joke, watch TV with my sister (mostly comedy), race cars, go to swap meets, and hang out with friends. He didn’t care about designer labels, having the newest thing, or what kind of car he drove. He grew up in a large family where money was tight. Even getting enough food wasn’t always easy.

His parents were a bit of hoarders, and their home was the most run-down in the neighborhood. But the kids grew up to be out-going, humorous, hard-working adults, and the family was close. They had family reunions every year (a foreign concept to my sister and me), and for the last few years of their mother’s life, Chris & his brother had dinner with her every Sunday. He owned a business with his brother — they were together almost every day.

When he and my sister got married, they moved 5–10 minutes from our parent’s home. For their entire lives, they lived near the same small town. Due to that and Chris’s outgoing, upbeat personality, he knew A LOT of people. Mandy often said he knew everyone because he liked to talk. He was good with cars and made a living repairing them and racing them. In the local car-racing community, he was a bit of a star.

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Elizabeth Collins

Health, psychology, current events, politics, cats, tech… Suicide prevention & mental health are extra important to me. Stereotypes fall when we talk openly.