My youngest brother was spunky, boisterous and fearless as a child. He had charisma and his smile lit up his whole face. Paul never shied away from anything. He learned to ride a bike at an early age and I remember him joyously launching himself and his bike off a jump that older kids wouldn't attempt.
Paul was smart, athletic, out going and popular with other kids. He sounds like every parents dream but he wasn't the easiest child to raise. From a young age he displayed an explosive temper. When he was four he lifted one end of our heavy dining room table and slammed it down breaking off one of its feet, in a rage of temper.
At sixteen almost everything changed, he became withdrawn and troubled. Paul started hearing voices and had uncontrollable racing thoughts. The world that had been spread before him suddenly closed in on him. He wasn't able to go to school, he lost friends. My mother and I sat up with him at night, he was afraid to go to sleep because of nightmares. He and I played countless games of cribbage and concentration. His room became his prison but it was worse than that, he was stuck inside a shifting erratic and uncertain world where anything could happen, it was a living nightmare. He couldn't get away because his monsters traveled with him everywhere. At sixteen he was admitted for the first time to a psychiatric ward, it was an unnerving experience for him. For the next ten years my brother was admitted time after time to psychiatric wards and hospitals. The doctors tried to find the right combination of drugs to help him but they never did.
When Paul was sixteen we were introduced to the mental illness called schizophrenia. It was a terrifying word to us we didn't understand what it meant. We slowly became educated. We learned that schizophrenics are not "crazy people" or "lunatics." Schizophrenics suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain. The following quote was taken from a web site called camh.ca: Some people recover fully, return to their jobs or finish school; others find they cannot cope with their jobs or studies after an active phase of schizophrenia. Unfortunately my brother was one of the "others" he tried to hold down jobs and attend school but found that he could not cope.
At twenty-five, after years of being admitted, released and admitted to hospitals, after being prescribed one drug after another my brother gave up. He said that he'd been searching for years for the diamond in an endless pile of manure and had come to the conclusion that the diamond just didn't exist.
The phone call came while we were at church. In those days we went to a church out in the middle of a corn field and the church phone was located at the pastorate next door. At some point after church, I realized that my husband was missing. Someone informed me that he was next door answering a phone call. I don't why, but my heart sank and I decided to go to him. I walked toward him as he came across the field from the pastorate. As I got closer his head went down and I said "its Paul isn't it?" He answered "yes, your brother called, Paul is gone, he's committed suicide." The air was sucked out of me and I collapsed in a heap on the grass. Pete picked me up and carried me to the house. Everything happened quickly. People offered to look after our kids for us and then we were at home packing. I tried to pack to go to my parent's place but my mind was frozen, stuck in park. The day after getting to Owen Sound we had to make a trip to the mall because I'd packed so little. That time was like living through a long lasting total eclipse of the sun. Everything I thought I knew was wiped away and all I had left was one small point of light deep within myself. That light was God saying "I'm still here Ruth." The funeral was bleak, our minds filled with "what ifs?" My brother John sobbed all the way through it and I held onto myself tightly because I knew that if I let go I wouldn't be able to stop the torrent.
Suicide is different from other deaths. My brother David died at forty-three and my mom died four years ago and I was sad, I cried and grieved but I wasn't completely overwhelmed. When Paul died the sun was blotted out and I walked around in a haze for months. To this day I can't talk about his death without tears. I've gotten over most of the guilt, the "what if I'd" questions but there is still that niggling feeling, that maybe?
I really don't have any answers about why things turned out the way they did. I always thought that if something like this happened to me I'd lose my faith but I didn't. God by his grace sustained me through it all.