What’s in your garage?

free-stuff-sign

What’s in your garage? Maybe your car, but we cram so much other stuff in there sometimes that doesn’t even fit. The garage holds all of our crap – the trash cans, some tools, clothes you cleaned out of your closet but haven’t made it to the donation box with yet, a badminton net, some just-in-case wood scraps, the lawnmower, the snowblower, and sometimes, maybe, the car. The beauty of the garage is when you close that enormous door you’ll look as neat and organized as everyone else on the block even though it’s a mess inside. Maybe that’s why Bob and Scott chose the garage as the place to end their lives. These two people are as different as people can be yet they both picked the place where we put things when we don’t know what else to do with them as the spot for their suicide. I wish they both had had Mr. Brackeen for high school biology like I did. He was someone we all took very seriously because he was the only black guy in a white on white suburban school. He had been in the service; he had been in the South and he knew stuff – not just about biology, but about life. He scared us and we listened when he spoke. He asked us one day what we hoped to accomplish if we committed suicide. He knew we all had thought about at least once because we were all full of teen angst. It’s what we did. Do you want to punish your parents? Your girlfriend? Yourself? He said we would succeed in varying degrees. Did you think killing yourself would save them all the trouble your very existence seems to cause? Maybe, but he didn’t know our stories so he didn’t know for sure. There was one thing he said he did know for sure – if you did kill yourself someone was going to come and have to clean your sorry dead ass up. Someone you didn’t know. Some firefighter, some cop, some EMT, some stranger that did nothing to you now will never be able to erase from their memory the image of your lifeless body and all those fluids and other gross things that will leak out of you. Mr. Brackeen knew because he had been a medic in the army and saw stuff. I listened. In the crush of depression I thought the only way to stop the pain was to end it all. Then I would recall what I learned in that Bio class: suicide was really a moment of arrogance – that moment when ending my personal pain was more important than the devastating memory I was about to inflict on some innocent strangers called to clean me up. I couldn’t be that guy. That idea was stored in my head by Mr. Brackeen and I thank him. In time, I learned to tidy up my garage just enough and every so often I let go of some of the odd bits and pieces when it gets too full. The easiest way to clean it is to open the garage door and use the leaf-blower, but “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” so maybe a yard sale would be in order. But really great things – like what Mr. Brackeen taught – should be on the curb with a “free” sign on it. Because then maybe Bob and Scott would have picked it up and saved a lot of people a lot of hurt.


Need more reasons to not do it? 1-800-273-8255  – No matter what problems you are dealing with, they want to help you find a reason to keep living. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

For my friend Bob Collins: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Worcester Animal Rescue League, 139 Holden St., Worcester, MA 01606.

For my student Scott Elms: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Scott’s name to the Wachusett Greenways, 21 Miles Rd., Rutland, MA 01543 (www.wachusettgreenways.org)

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2 Responses to “What’s in your garage?”

  1. Susan Smith Says:

    this is so sad! what ,when? i’m listening to old folk songs on pbs & i’m full of teary memories anyway.

  2. cyndi Says:

    Brilliantly written. May I share?

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