I never knew my uncle Christopher. I only saw his face in pictures that my mother kept in an album. Family members rarely talked about him, but when they did, they described him as a very bright individual who loved science. He also apparently didn’t like to put dressing on his salads.
My mother and her brother had been very close. Christopher was the youngest of six children, and my mother was just one year older. They each had dealt with a number of hardships through the years and relied on each other for support. Sadly, my uncle Christopher died at the age of eighteen, right around the time that my mother discovered she was pregnant with me.
I can’t remember the exact moment when my family told me that my uncle Christopher had committed suicide. However, I do remember that I was shocked. I had never heard of anyone doing something like that before and was unable to understand how an individual could be moved to take his own life. I tried to figure out why he might have done it and wondered if there had been any warning signs. I also wondered what it was like for my grandmother to lose her son, and for my mother to lose her younger brother and best friend.
Although I never knew my uncle Christopher, his suicide has haunted my life. I have witnessed the pain of his death in the faces of my mother, grandmother, and other relatives, and have often wondered how things might have been different if he were still alive. I watched my own mother deteriorate over the years as she struggled with depression and alcoholism, and I listened to her as she spoke about Christopher’s death shortly before she passed away. Although my mother’s troubles, and ultimately her death, were certainly related to a number of tragic events, I believe that Christopher’s suicide may have impacted her the most. I don’t know if my mother would still be alive today if Christopher had not decided to kill himself; however, I can’t help but imagine that she would have felt less alone.
My mother used to say that I have my uncle Christopher’s eyes. In fact, my younger sister once even mistook a picture of Christopher for a picture of me. I find comfort in the notion that because my birth and his death occurred so close in time, a part of Christopher has lived on in me. Still, I would gladly give him back his eyes for a chance to know him and to speak with my mother again.