girl crying on a rainy day

A Suicide and a Shattered Family

If you’re like me, a multitude of news updates flash across your computer, television screen, or even the radio daily – possibly even hourly. Living in the digital age, it’s impossible to process fully the sheer volume of information that comes our way on a consistent basis.

Such was the case when I was spending a generally quiet Friday evening at home with my family. (I say generally quiet because we have an active young son who keeps us on our toes.) In any event, one of the news updates of the type I just mentioned flashed across the television screen:

Man found dead inside home after report of shooting.

I saw it. I read it. I didn’t particularly digest it. What I didn’t guess at the moment was that in a matter of hours, I would be in that house assisting in cleaning up the aftermath of the tragedy. Biohazard cleanup is what we do through our family business.

Our Family Business: Eco Bear

My wife and I launched and operate a family business called Eco Bear. At Eco Bear, we’re committed to providing comprehensive and safe biohazard remediation services in a wholly compassionate way. We “cleanup” in the aftermath of truly traumatic events like suicides, homicides, and unattended deaths.

I put cleanup in quotes here because that word – although used in the industry and accurate – really falls short in conveying in the complexities associated with what technically is known as biohazard remediation. The reality is that we address horrific situations on behalf of people that are at perhaps the most emotionally challenging moment they will ever face in their lifetimes.

A Middle of the Night Phone Call

After midnight, a call came into our business hotline number. Because of the nature of our business, we have a 24-hour hotline that people can call if they need our services (818) 795-3614. 

The caller explained to me that a neighbor had committed suicide earlier in the evening and needed our assistance. The man’s family was not at home when the tragedy unfolded earlier in the day.

The caller knew the family not only because they were neighbors but because his child was friends with the deceased man’s child. As part of assisting the deceased man’s wife and child after his suicide, he reached out to my company, through me, to cleanup the suicide scene and restore the home to its prior condition so the wife and child could return home as soon as possible.

At the Scene

I was able to leave the house without waking up my wife or little son. The house where the man took his life was about 10 minutes away from my family’s home. I drove to the scene.

Although I arrived in the neighborhood in middle of the night, I could see that it was a pleasant area, with well-kept homes. I could easily tell that it was a neighborhood filled with growing families, families with children who played together during the day. It was a neighborhood where folks came together for barbecues and parties. The neighborhood was an ill-suited backdrop for tragedy of the kind that occurred that day.

Had I not known what occurred at the home, I would never have imagined such a horrific event could have happened at this residence.  

 The neighbor who had called me, met me at the house. I personally undertook the actual biohazard remediation and suicide cleanup at the home. He helped me with certain aspects of the cleanup. This neighbor is one of those people we encounter in life that affirms the basic goodness of so many people. As I made mention, he wanted to ease that already overwhelming grief and associated challenges that the deceased man’s family was to face. In addition, he sincerely wanted to make my own task of cleaning up the home easier on me. We were able to finish the suicide cleanup work within a few hours and I returned home to my family.

Personal Reflections on Loss, Life, and Love

My little family was sound asleep when I got home and I thankfully avoided waking them up once again. I was exhausted, but my mind was racing. It was impossible for me to go back to bed and sleep.

I couldn’t shake the fact that when the dawn came, the wife of the man who took his life had a horrendous task ahead of her. She would have to explain to her child that his father was gone. I lost my own father in a traumatic fashion when I was about the same age as this little boy. My father didn’t take his own life. However, he struggled with alcohol addiction, a battle that took a real toll on his body. He died of an esophageal rupture, which results in a bloody death scene that remains vividly etched in my mind these many years later.

Eventually, after returning home, my thoughts melted from those of my own childhood experience with my father’s death to my life today with my wife and little boy. After the sun rose, I heard my wife up and about. She eventually made her way to our son’s room. I’m normally up very early in the morning, so my wife not finding me in bed was not unusual.

After she was in my son’s room for a bit, he woke up. My son called out to me. We have something of a routine where we meet in my son’s room when he wakes up and spend some time together as a family.

I snuggled with my son, counting the very real blessings that I have in my own life – but still feeling powerfully sad for what I knew the widow of the deceased man and the child were to face that day and into the future.

I had a job scheduled for 9:00 a.m. But, my wife and I had some time for me to share what happened during the night as we sat around the kitchen table over a couple cups of coffee. She literally had no idea that I’d been gone. We both saw a follow-up news story on what had happened at the house the day before, the house I was called to in the middle of the night.

Shortly, we heard the patter of our boy’s feet coming towards the kitchen. He  burst into the room and into a gale of happy laughter. I mourn for the grief the family will face. I hope that the day comes when simple joys return to their lives, like those I experience every day with my beloved family.