The Word And The Day.

Weather you are young or old, you have likely heard that word by now… The word that strikes emotion deep within the hearts of some, whilst causing perplexity in the minds of others. A word often spoken as a whisper, and in some circles, viewed as a sin. A word that is understood in meaning, but abstruse in its actuality.


Suicide… the taking of one’s own life…


For a number of years, suicide and I were intertwined… colleagues, if you will? …


No matter if it was the middle of the day, or the dead of night, it was my duty to respond, and I did so willingly. Meaning that as a medic, I often found myself within homes of the recently deceased. Observing lives that had been cut short by their own hand. It does not matter the descriptors I use, nor the detail in which I use them, it is impossible to capture the essence of what it is like walking into a home, a basement, a garage or a wooded area, knowing that death awaits you. Knowing that you are about to see a dead person. Not knowing how or why (not at first), but knowing someone is dead, and you’re about to look at them. Touch them. Smell them. Not in a lab or some controlled place, but right where their life ended – where they chose to end it. Their last living act, resulting in death… The first few steps into the scene are the hardest – by design your body and mind do not want to be there or see this so, it fights you subtly. It’s different for everyone. For me? Things would slow down. Time and movement became delayed. Sounds heightened. The vividness of my surroundings ‘popped’ with unrivaled detail. Smells became more potent, and my breathing became shallow and rapid. My body fought me, but I commanded it to move forward. And so it did, time after time…


I have seen bodies suspended by ropes, leashes and wire. I have seen headless/faceless men with a gun beside them. I have seen neglected bodies, eaten away by decay. Bodies so pallor, that they resemble unblemished porcelain. In flesh, I have seen deep, jagged, and unfixable lacerations to wrists, forearms and necks. Bodies that appear to be sleeping in a bed, although looking not at all restful. Empty pill bottles scattered around them. Bodies of all shapes and sizes, ages too. The youngest of which to have taken their own life was fourteen-years-old. Fourteen… He died a subtle shade of blue, and covered in his own piss…


My job was to either reverse their decision (when able), or confirm their conviction to cause… I have confirmed that conviction too many times…


In a day’s time, there will be another confirmation. Or rather, a reaffirmation. An anniversary of sorts. A sickening reminder. A date that three years ago became infamous. It was the day Greg died. A brother of mine. A fellow medic, a death fighter. Struck down by his own hand. Slain by his demons…


This of course, on the heels of my own mother’s passing. Of her suicide. Her life ended in November. I have now begun the year of firsts. Ironic for someone with PTSD – – reliving trauma’s that feel as they did the first time is the hallmark of the broken mind. In nine days, I will turn 35, knowing that she is not going to call, write, or come visit. In nine days I will think back to that Tuesday morning in November, likely to relive every detail of it. The same as I will do come a day from now, relive something. I will undoubtedly recall that crisp Monday morning in January. 2015.


“Hey Matty, I thought I should tell you before you see it on Facebook…. Greg’s dead… He was found this morning at the station”. That was how my Monday started, some three years ago. A phone call revealing that once again, suicide and I were intertwined…


Now, and likely forever, I will not think of Greg without remembering my mum. Nor will I think of my mum, without remembering Greg. They too are intertwined by suicide. A somber manacling.


I first met Greg after being posted to Edmonton while I was still in the army. Myself along with other medics from my unit were scheduled to do ride-outs with the city ambulance service. That’s where Greg worked, and where I found myself attached to his rig under his watchful eye. In a short span of four days, I became a better medic simply by being around him. He was tough on his partners. Not unreasonably so, I think he just expected more than perhaps we expected of ourselves. He forced you to be better. In my mind Greg sort of became an older brother figure. Not at first, but in the years to follow, after I released from the army and got hired on by the same city service as Greg. I worked with him several times, and each time I did, I found myself sponging knowledge from him like a leech to skin. He oozed equal parts professionalism, and empathy. A quiet intensity. I once asked him if he liked his job, he responded almost instantly through resonating baritone, and said:


“Yes. It doesn’t feel like work. I love what I do.”


And he did. He was great at it. He was also great at reading people. Me for example: I had recently been to a bad call during my shift that day. A call that caused a vibration of emotion within me. When he arrived at the station to take over our truck for the night watch, he looked at me and seemingly knew that something had happened, despite there being no spoken words indicating any such thing. We found ourselves outside, and atop the picnic table just outside of the station before I went home. He spoke to me for a while about some of the bad calls he had been to, and the things he had felt at the time. It made me feel “normal”, that what I was feeling was okay. He was good at that. He made sure I had smiled or chuckled at least once before leaving. Something I am eternally grateful for.

If you look closely to the right of the last bay door (#3) you will see the table that Greg and I sat, and spoke.

I have always hated suicide. I will admit, I used to think of it as a selfish act. It wasn’t until I found myself standing on an overpass in the dead of night, that my way of thinking was forced into evolution. I no longer see it as selfish. Tragic? Yes. Selfish? No. To me, suicide is a killer from within. A mass-murderer, never to be held accountable.


The end of this month, January, is Bell Let’s Talk Campaign. A campaign designed at opening up dialogue surrounding mental health. An important campaign because sometimes, the invisible wounds are the deepest and most overlooked.


Allow me to be unflinchingly honest with you? There are still days where I want to die… Let me rephrase – there are still days on which I wish for death. Not because I want to die, but because I just want the pain to be gone. Reasons such as that, make it imperative we talk! That we open our mouths and speak. My mother, Greg, and all those whom I was called in to see, remained quiet until it was too late. Or maybe they were screaming, but in the wrong direction. If you scream into a mirror, all you are doing is yelling at yourself. No one can hear you. No matter how loud it feels…


Greg was a good man. He dedicated his life to combating death. Willingly entering into someone else’s hell, just to try and bring them back. Greg was a paramedic. A husband. A father. A friend, and a brother. Now, Greg is missed. Remembered, but missed.


The creative and fictitious side of me holds hope that in some small, twinkling section of this universe, Greg is with my mum. Sitting atop of a bench somewhere, listening to her speak. Doing what Greg did best – healing the wounded.

table 2

Rest easy Greg, I will remember you brother. Say hi to my mum for me, yeah?

4 thoughts on “The Word And The Day.

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  1. I have shared this everywhere. I am bawling my eyes out, I remember everything you describe and yesterday found myself in the throes of trauma from my husbands suicide. Your voice is so important…thank you


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