Andrew Cecil Thompson
Weakness, selfishness, and cowardice are the complete opposite of how my baby brother can be described. Strong as an ox, kind hearted, compassionate, hard headed, charming, polite, likeable, considerate, sincere, brave, nonjudgmental, hilarious, funny… The list goes on, but you get my point. The fact is that there has always been such stigma surrounding the people who fall victim to suicide that it is hard to break away from that school of thought unless it happens to someone you know. Many people automatically think of the stereotype that has been fabricated over the years: mean-spirited, sad, despondent, Godless, drug addicts, etc. Yes, there are some of those too. But then you have people like Ace, who was always smiling and laughing, even just 2 hours before he left this world. Who built people up and helped everyone he could. Who was always kind and sweet and knew without a doubt that our Heavenly Father loves him. And yet here we are, with so many questions left unanswered:
Did you plan it?
Was it a mistake?
Did something happen in those 2 hours that we don’t know about?
Did it hurt?
Were you scared?
Why didn’t you leave us SOMETHING to let us know you’re okay, that you meant to do it, that you love us?
Where are you now?
Are you happy?
Do you miss us?
Have you been visiting us?
Do you regret leaving us?
Do you wish you could take it back?
The hard and fast truth is that mental illness does not discriminate. No matter how good a life these people may or may not have, there is something in their brain that blocks them from feeling anything but dejected, unworthy, and unloved. They do not ask for the pain they feel, nor do they want it. Believe me, that boy’s mission in life was to make sure that no one else felt the way he did, because he despised the fact that he couldn’t get better no matter how hard he tried. And he tried SO hard. We had just had an open and honest conversation about it 2 weeks 5 days before he left us. 2 weeks 3 days before he left us, he and I went to the doctor so that he could be put on depression medicine. He didn’t WANT to feel the way he did. He didn’t WANT to leave us. During that conversation he specifically said that he had never gone through with suicide BECAUSE HE DIDN’T WANT TO HURT US. He just felt so much pain all the time, no matter what he did. He thought he was worthless and unlovable. That no one wanted or needed him. But he couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I can remember that last heart-to-heart so vividly. I told him, “I’m glad you haven’t done it, because I need you, we all need you. And none of us will ever be the same if you leave us.”
I wasn’t lying. I STILL NEED HIM. We all still need him! And not a single one of us are, or ever will be the same.
I am on autopilot 90% of the time these days. Just checking off boxes as I go through my day:
Get up ☑️
Get the kids up ☑️
Go to work ☑️
Make sure the kids eat ☑️
And our poor Mama and Daddy. They were all so close. They’ve lost their BABY. It’s not like they’ve lost me; I haven’t been home in years. While I know that would hurt them immensely it wouldn’t be the same. Ace was still at home. He helped out so much around the house and was a constant day-to-day figure in their lives. I can’t imagine the brokenness and emptiness that they feel every day.
I’m trying to move forward with my life but most days that prospect feels nearly impossible. I don’t WANT to move forward with my life without him. We were supposed to grow old together. The bond that we shared was so different from our bonds with any other people. We were each other’s protector. Everyone knew that you couldn’t mess with either of us because the other would make you sorry for it. He and I could fight with each other, and we did more than our fair share of that throughout the years, but no one else could even pretend to argue with that boy without me stepping in, and he was the same for me. We helped each other to pick each up our broken pieces, cheered each other up, bounced ideas off each other, and planned our future lives together. Lives which included the both of us. We knew things about one another that no one else in the world knew about us. I was the person he opened up to the most about the turmoil inside. And I WAS SUPPOSED TO SAVE HIM. That was my job throughout his entire life. I remember jumping my little 5′ 2″ butt in my car one afternoon when he was in about 3rd grade and hunting down this one great big high school boy because he had picked on Ace on the bus. He sure didn’t mess with my baby brother again.
In the end, though, I couldn’t save him. The guilt over not being able to protect my baby brother eats at me every moment of every day. I just keep telling him I’m sorry. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, Buddy. I would’ve fought to the death for you. But the only thing I couldn’t save you from was the monster inside you. I’m so sorry, Acie.” And my goodness did I try. I just wish now that I had done more. I know in my head that you can’t control another person’s actions, but that’s rationality speaking. Grief does not work that way; there is no rationalizing your way through the grief process. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Some days I can go all day without crying, while some days my mood changes from minute to minute. It still doesn’t feel real that he’s gone. It’s like he’s just… Somewhere. And that he will call me or send a funny meme or walk in the door at Mama and Daddy’s at any moment that I’m there. But then I suddenly realize he’s not coming back, that I can’t call him, that I can’t send him a funny meme or tag him in a stupid post on Facebook, and it all comes crashing back down on me just like the moment Chase told me that we wouldn’t be meeting my parents at the hospital; we weren’t going to the hospital at all. “He’s gone, Malina.” To the moment of looking at my phone on the way to my parents’ house at 12:30 that night and reading “I need you NOW!” That feeling is just so crushing, like your heart is being literally ripped from your chest.
I had gotten better but it seems I’ve slipped back down where I was in the weeks just after we lost him. During the first few days I was able to be strong – right up until I had to pick up his phone and the gun from the detective the Tuesday after. I never would have thought that I could behave the way I did when I pulled back into my parents’ driveway that afternoon. I sat alone in my car and screamed. I cried. I prayed. I wailed. I swore. I told him how mad I was at him for leaving me. I punched my car, tore up whatever I could get my hands on. And I screamed some more, telling him how badly I need him here with me to get through this, that I couldn’t do it without him. And I kept on until I was sweating and nearing unconsciousness. When I came back to myself I was a different person. Broken. No longer whole. Ace took a huge chunk of my soul with him when he left us that I won’t get back until Heavenly Father calls me home. I was despondent for a long time; I was either crying or sitting on my phone playing games or reading, anything to keep my mind off what was going on in my life. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who literally held me up and told me what to think and do for several weeks after. He still does have to sometimes, if I’m being honest. I’ve gotten help for my son, who was so, so close to Ace, and I’ve gotten back on depression medicine myself. Prayer has sometimes been the only thing that has kept me sane during this time even when I’ve shut myself off from the rest of the world, which happens more often than not some days. I beg and plead for strength and comfort for myself and my family. I’ve recently started a page on Facebook called ACTs Of Kindness – Ace’s Legacy, which is part of my attempt at helping myself heal. I want to use the page as a way to help others in Ace’s name, both urging people to be kind, as he was, and promoting suicide awareness and prevention. I don’t know that it will go anywhere, but I feel led to at least TRY. And if it doesn’t, it isn’t the end of the world; there are a million ways to spread kindness.
I know that in time it will get easier for us to cope with our loss, but I also know that we will always grieve the loss of the man that kept us laughing and whom we all love so very much. Please, I urge you all: if you feel that a loved one is depressed and may possibly hurt themselves, act on that feeling quickly. I know now that it is better to overreact than to be complacent because they say something like, “I have never done it because I don’t want to hurt y’all.” They may get angry at you, but at least they will still be here to be angry. No matter what they say, there may come a moment in which the darkness becomes so powerful that it overrides any other thoughts they may have. Believe me, you don’t want to take the chance of being where my family and I are.