"He shot his head clean off," my aunt cried about my Uncle Lyle. Bone fragments scattered red and white on the kitchen floor.
We used to call this conduct "suicide," the act of killing oneself on purpose. But no more. Now it's not Lyle, not even the gun but PTSD from World War II that's the perpetrator.
Decades later, my sister Margaret's older son, Thom Dent, plopped down on the doorstep of a girl who had snubbed him and blew his head off.
Suicide? No. Just teenage hormones.
Then my mother killed herself by refusing to eat. She had grown tired of her weak brittle bones repeatedly shattering.
Suicide? No. Death by osteoporosis.
This July, my sister Margaret Dent died. A few weeks later, her younger son, Steve Dent, donned his good business suit, drove to the edge of town and began to play "All the Way," Margaret's favorite Frank Sinatra tune. Then Steve shot himself through his heart.
Suicide? "Grief killed him," I said, but no, my therapist cried, "Rage!"
Earlier that July, my cousin, Thomas D. Coffey, put a bullet in his brain. He was 66, in physical pain and eating pain killers.
Suicide? No. A victim of the current opioid epidemic.
Remember when we stopped saying "dead" but used the euphemism, "passed," instead?
Now "suicide" is the bad word. We seem unable to bear the brute thought of self-killing so we downsize to PTSD or hormones or grief or rage or opiates as the killers, not people.
I call this Suicide Lite.