In 1994, two days after returning from a happy family vacation, my 57-year-old mother put the muzzle of a handgun to her left breast and fired, drilling a neat and lethal hole through her heart--and, metaphorically, through our family's as well.
It was around midnight on a Saturday night in July, the time of year, I was later surprised to learn, that has the highest incidence of suicide in the Northern Hemisphere. My stepfather was at home but didn't hear the single shot because he was taking a shower in a bathroom at the other end of the house. When he returned to their bedroom, she was crumpled on the carpet in her pajamas, almost gone. She tried to say something to him before she died, but he couldn't make out what it was. The emergency medical technicians arrived to find a patient, but not the one they expected: my stepfather nearly died himself that night after hyperventilating from the shock, which all but overwhelmed lungs already compromised by emphysema.