Usually, on this day, I remember everything that happened leading up to your suicide and my notification. I remember coming home, going through all the motions that one has to go through to bury a loved one. I remember not crying until that first night, after I had a shower, when it just hit me, and I sank to my knees in my mom's living room and sobbed uncontrollably over what you had done. I also remember my grandparents, YOUR parents, changing that day, and a light extinguishing inside them that has never reappeared.
Today, however, on the 11th anniversary of your suicide, I want to try something different. It's an open letter, if you will, to let you know some of the things you have missed by choosing to take your life on February 13, 2001.
- My graduation from the dual degree program, which meant two different graduations on the same weekend. Your parents showed, and Aunt Janie came with Bad Grandma. You not being there was a wet blanket on the festivities.
- I accepted a job at CDC in genomics. I ended up transferring to Global Immunizations right before the two year Presidential management fellowship was up, but I've now been at CDC for over 10 years. I currently work in the policy office of the Center for Global Health.
- You missed my political activism take off. I've held several statewide offices in the Young Democrats, and a couple of national ones at the Southeast region level. I was the first openly gay state president of young democrats in Georgia history.
- I started playing rugby last fall in a bid to take better care of myself. I enjoy it, and I'm trying to learn to trust my physicality. It would have been nice to have you see one of my games.
- Your life insurance policies allowed me to immediately pay off my student loans, although for months afterward, I would have nightmares that you had faked your death, and the insurance company wanted its money back.
- Your life insurance also allowed me to purchase a condo in Atlanta. I still live in it. I also have your bedroom furniture as my own. Some think it's creepy to sleep in the bed that you died in, but I now look at it as MY bed, and it's not like I kept the mattress. I also have your dining room table, where you left all the notes.
- We followed your instructions fairly closely. However, I felt you owed it to your parents to have a place where they could go and "visit" your remains. After cremation, I had half of your ashes scattered as you asked, and half were buried in a plot next to where Grandma Ann and Papa will be buried someday. It has been a great source of comfort to them.
- You aged your parents overnight with your suicide. They became OLD after you died. The light in their eyes dimmed significantly. I am convinced you shaved off at least 10 years of a life they would have lived. The only positive thing to come out of your suicide is the family has become closer; we look out for each other better.
- Mom still feels tremendous anger and guilt over your suicide. She thinks if she just hadn't divorced you in 1998 you might have lived. This, despite even your admission that the divorce was a good thing. She dreams of you when she's sick, and often it involves her yelling at you about how you could do this to all of us.
- Pretty much every year between Christmas and this day, a pall is cast over all of our lives as we become more moody, sometimes depressed, about the coming anniversary of your suicide. You foolishly thought we'd just get over your death after a brief period of mourning. It has not worked out that way. Movies that have suicide as a plot point, especially ones that approach your method, are almost unwatchable. You've made us all members of a horrible fraternity of suicide survivors. I'm luckier than most because there was nothing left unsaid between us. I just wish you'd had more faith in yourself to make it through the dark period.
- Even your friends aren't immune. They miss you terribly too, and your absence is something they notice. I know that might surprise you. No one who knew you and loved you has been left unscathed by your suicide. We have all moved on with our lives, yes, but the memory of your death is never too far away.
Enormous tsunami devastates Asia; 200,000 killed (Dec. 26).
- Jan. 3: The presidential primary season begins with Iowa wins by Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee.
- Feb. 5: Arizona senator John McCain emerges as the clear front runner among Republicans in the Super Tuesday primary races. On the Democratic side, New York senator Hillary Clinton wins big states such as California and Massachusetts, but Illinois senator Barack Obama takes more states.
- March 8: President George W. Bush, saying intelligence officials must have "all the tools they need to stop the terrorists," vetoes legislation that would have outlawed all methods of interrogation that are banned in the Army Field Manual, which prohibits waterboarding and other harsh techniques that have been used by the CIA.
- March 18: Sen. Barack Obama delivers a pivotal speech on race, denouncing the provocative remarks on race made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., but explains that the complexities of race in America have fueled anger and resentment among many African Americans.
- March 11: The government begins to intervene in the U.S. financial system to avoid a crisis. The Federal Reserve outlines a $200 billion loan program that lets the country's biggest banks borrow Treasury securities at discounted rates and post mortgage-backed securities as collateral.
- March 16: The Federal Reserve approves a $30 billion loan to JPMorgan Chase so it can take over Bear Stearns, which is on the verge of collapse.
- May 15: California's Supreme Court rules, 4 to 3, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
- May 20: Senator Edward Kennedy is diagnosed with malignant glioma, a brain tumor.
- June 3: On the final day of the 2008 primary season, Sen. Barack Obama secures 2,154 delegates and becomes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He's the first black candidate to head a major party ticket in a presidential election.
- June 12: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 5 to 4, that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have a right to challenge their detention in federal court.
- June 26: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 5 to 4, that the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess a gun, but insists that the ruling "is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
- Oct. 10: Connecticut's Supreme Court rules that a state law that limits marriage to heterosexual couples and a civil union law that protects gay couples violate equal protection rights guaranteed by the constitution.
- Oct. 27: A jury finds Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) guilty of seven felony charges for lying on financial disclosure forms and failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts from the VECO Corporation, one of Alaska's biggest oil-field contractors.
- Nov. 4: Democratic senator Barack Obama wins the presidential election against Sen. John McCain, taking 338 electoral votes to McCain's 161. Obama becomes the first African American to be elected president of the United States. Also in the election, Democrats increase their majority in the House and pick up five seats in the Senate.
- Nov. 4: Voters in California narrowly pass a ballot measure, Proposition 8, that overturns the May 15, 2008, California Supreme Court decision that said same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
- Dec. 19: President George W. Bush announces plans to lend General Motors and Chrysler $17.4 billion to survive the next three months.
Last year saw the Republicans drive the country to brink of bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The hard right of the part is in control, and a "grand bargain" with Speaker John Boehner was derailed. A super committee meant to find $1.5T in budget cuts failed miserably. It's a weird time.
Well, that's what you've missed. The world is a very different place than when you were last in it. I could have used your guidance and advice many times. But what is done cannot be undone. I just hope you are resting in peace.