Out of respect for my cousins, his siblings, son, and his ex-wife, who are struggling with their grief, they asked that I not share this on social media. So I ask that you not share it there either. I’m just sharing it with you, my tribe.
Meet my first cousin Pat. Whenever he arrived, the fun followed. He was interesting, thoughtful, and something of a hippie farmer.
While he lived in Richmond as an adult as we did, as children we were five hours away from this set of cousins. My mom’s sister had four children, and Pat was one of them–the youngest. Once a year, we’d go up to visit our family in Chesapeake, VA. My brother Gene would be Pat’s playmate while I partnered with Lee Anne, his older sister by two years.
I remember cranking an old fashioned ice cream maker to create peach ice cream, the best ever. Pat would shovel in the salt and ice as I cranked and visa versa. We ate corn and tomatoes that my uncle, W.E., had grown in the back yard. Pat loved to grow his own garden next to his pond in Chesterfield, Virginia.
The highlight of his life after his wedding was the birth of his son who is now 12. He loved that boy with everything he had.
Mental health is like a garden that has to be tended every day. But for the last year before his death, his self-care lapsed and his disease of depression worsened. When he missed a family gathering, I was suspicious because it was unlike him. We talked and he admitted to depression. I asked him, “Are you thinking of suicide?” He said, “No.” There was a pause before that “no” that I now know was an “invitation” to dig more. I’ve asked this question hundreds of times now since my own son’s death by suicide.
But on Thursday, January 30, 2020, his spiral into darkness overcame him and he took his own life. I know he wanted to end invasive and unrelenting brain pain. My first cousin, Pat, died from depression just hours after my giving testimony at the general assembly on abolishing suicide as a crime. Ironically, the cameras which recorded the testimony in the Virginia House of Delegates were installed by his company. Even more ironic is that I’m a suicide prevention trainer. I’m not even going to go into all those feelings right now.
I have struggled with this loss. Pat, like Charles, was fun and had a big personality. And his death by suicide has dug up my own grief after my Charles’ death. What hurts the most is that his son will grow up without his Dad. He loved that boy, was the primary caregiver, and they were very close. After my own son’s suicide, I was relentless about taking photos. I snapped this one in 2018 at my house.
Cody is 12 years old and Pat had no life insurance. So I set up this fund for the sake of his boy’s future. It’s a fund to bridge the gap for his family until all his assets can be sold. No pressure. I’m not expecting you guys to contribute given that you didn’t know him.