The Letter: When Suicide Takes Someone You Know


The Letter

By Julie Boyd ·  2 min read · From 500 Words: The Kindness of Strangers

It was a Monday. I don’t usually bother collecting my mail until Thursday or Friday as the only snail mail that arrives these days are bills. I don’t know what compelled me that day. One letter fell out of the pile. A small, innocuous, white envelope with a handwritten address, for me.

I crossed the road to the beach, sat down and tore it open.

“I don’t know anyone else I can ask to do this, but I know you’re a psychologist, so you will handle this better than anyone else.” The beautiful cursive script was that of someone who had grown up as part of my parent’s generation. I read on, vice-like trepidation gripping my gut.

“I need you to call the police and ask them to go to my house please. I’ve left everything in order. There is another letter on the kitchen table that the police might need. The key is under the front door mat.  Thank you.” Regards,  Bruce.

I knew the bloke, but he wasn’t a close friend. We’d worked together on some community projects, and he was a passionate campaigner for resident’s rights. He’d resigned last week from a local association, saying that he had family business to take care of. He’d talked several times about how important a particular date was to him: the date he had written so beautifully on the letter. It had seemed a little odd to those around him at the time, but they assumed he was taking off to see one of his two daughters.

Waves started to wash over my feet.

The tide was coming in fast.

Suddenly I sprang into action, hurried home to call the police, then drove to Bruce’s house to meet them.

The key was under the doormat, and I started to laugh – a stress reaction, which shocked the young constable who was standing beside me.

“Why are you laughing?” She asked.

“Why would a dead person be worried about locking the door?” I responded to her highly disturbed face. She looked as if she hadn’t had much experience with death.

It made no sense. Why would a person who had a lovely home, heaps of friends and was highly respected in his community, suddenly choose to end his own life? Why tell me?

As we walked inside it became clear that this was not a sudden decision. The police were amazed at his thoroughness. He had carefully washed, folded and packed all his bedding and clothes.

All bagged and carefully labelled. Some for friends, the Salvos, for other charities and community groups, and some for specific needy families. He had cleaned out all his cupboards and even the fridge. All his paperwork was laid out with similar instructions on the kitchen table. All his bills were paid up to the day of his death and the receipts piled neatly together.

He lay on the floor, on a tarpaulin beside the table. He looked peaceful but unsmiling.

I called his closest friend who had just opened his letter. It was just saying goodbye, and asking that no funeral or memorial be held. His daughters were not mentioned.

Bruce exited quietly from the community but not from our memories.

Published 30 Oct 2013.  Tweed Heads NSW 2485