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Mark studied suicide while a sociology student at California State University Long Beach. He studied suicide with me during our senior year. For me, the study of suicide centered around Emile Durkheim's book, Suicide, an academic book. I learned that personal tragedy motivated Mark's interest in suicide. He had little interest in theory. He wanted answers.

We studied "macro-sociology" to learn about the big theories. Mark's answers were to be found elsewhere, probably in a psychology class on suicide. I would not understand for years that he lived with a sense of shame and guilt because of a suicide in his family.

Mark asked me to visit his father's home one day. On the following day, we drove a short distance from class to a typical, three-bedroom California home built on a concrete foundation. Real estate developers call this type of home a "GI track home," like a generally issued pair of socks following World War II.

I met Mark's older brother as Mark, and I entered the well-lit living room. Dave stood and introduced himself, and he did not look much like Mark, I thought.

The two shared the same ironic and sarcastic attitudes, I shortly discovered. Dave turned from me to catch a final touchdown in an important professional football game. An LA Ram's end made a spectacular touchdown against all the odds. In doing so, he paid the consequences for risking his neck. His right shoulder blade broke, and the sound of his right fibula could be heard breaking as far off as the twelfth role of seats, I learned later.

"What drives a man to do a thing like that!" Dave shouted. "This guy I like," I thought to myself. From then on, I learned that unlike Mark, Dave's outspoken, critical thinker attitude would guide the three of us whenever we went out together.

Within an hour of visiting with Dave, Mark asked me to follow him.

We walked through the kitchen and passed through a small patio into an unattached, two-car garage. I had no idea where we were going or why. I followed as any friend follows a comrade.

We entered through a side door. The empty garage was cool and poorly lit. Mark led me to the farthest corner from the side entrance and main garage door. He pointed to the concrete floor layered by years of dust and said, "This is where Dave and I found my mother when we came home from high school ten years ago. Her brains were splattered against the wall. The twelve-gauge shotgun blast took off half of her head, and only her chin and left side of her head remained.

Suicide was not a new idea to me. After all, I read about suicide in Durkheim's Suicide, Hume's controversial ideas on suicide, and through existential stories. Plus, my high school friend Bill Foreman's father, Frank Foreman, committed suicide our senior year on New Year's eve, just about ten years before, oddly enough. A damaged knee-cap ended Frank's law enforcement carrier one night while breaking up a bar fight. In those days, pain medication left a lot to be desired. Whiskey shortly became his drug of choice.

Here I stood next to Mark, not knowing what to say. What could I say? "I'm sorry" seemed natural enough, but too standard, too shallow.

Mark then explained that he and Dave heard the shotgun blast half-way down the street as they walked toward home after school. Neither expected that unexpected noise to have anything to do with them. Neither had ever heard a shotgun being fired. Little did they expect to find their mother dead on their garage floor with her head mangled beyond recognition.

Mark also explained that their mother's suicide came unexpectedly. No one had any idea that "mom" was suicidal. She left no note, either. Mark said that finding his mother as he had stayed with him all these years, and every day he thought about "this garage, this floor, and these walls."

He said, "Dave and I had to clean up the blood and brains because my father could not come into the garage." Dave and Mark worked late into the night, finding ways to approach their mother's remains. They used pliers, shovels, brooms, towels, and anything else they could find so that they need not touch the gore.

This suicide cleanup talk took me back to Vietnam and removing blood from ponchos soiled by dead and wounded soldiers and Vietnamese. It never occurred to me that suicide would leave a big mess like a fire-fight with high powered rifles, grenades, and machine-guns. Little did I know.

Although I had cleaned after traumatic gunshot wounds in Vietnam, I had never had an idea about "suicide cleaning" until this experience. Two more decades would pass before the phrase "suicide cleanup" entered my mind. I would remember Mark's story in his garage when it did. I felt that crime scene cleanup had brought me full circle in some way.

Regressing, the remains from Mark's mother's suicide went into the trash can for the "trash man to take." Mark and the rest of his family went on with life and nursed a big wound deep down inside.

"There was no funeral" because "dad could not afford a funeral," and everybody that knew "mom" refused to attend a funeral for her.

Mark and Dave both believed their mother's suicide somehow had something to do with them. Both felt shame and guilt over their loss, and they will never know why "mom" committed suicide.

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