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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Aaron Hernandez, The Dark Effects Of Suicide

Nate Pilate | Published Author | Contributor To The Musicians Island | Public Speaker

Anyone who knows me knows that Latina women make me weak in the knees. 

One, in particular, makes my knees knock together like a newborn antelope on his first outing in the blazing hot and harrowingly hostile plains of the Serengeti.

A few days ago and at an ungodly hour, I had the (dis)pleasure of being deprived of the few precious hours of rest my humble salesman eyelids so desperately beg for by a phone call from this woman.

 I wouldn’t have answered it, but I’m extra nice to good-looking people, so I took the call.

During this conversation with this exceedingly dashing young lady (I know she’s going to read this because I sent her a link, so I’m making sure to throw in as many compliments as my vocabulary and your patience can handle), we somehow arrived at the story of my father’s death.

I generally never talk about this to anyone, but you see, she has this sultry and subtle accent that somehow gets me to talk about otherwise forbidden subjects. 

She said I should write about it, I agreed - and here we are folks!

The timing of this article, the nature of the conversation with this (stunning) Latina woman, and the news and nature of Aaron Hernandez’ suicide all kind of fit together, along with my need to shake off the dust and WRITE SOMETHING!

So, in all of its darkness, moving forward with most jokes aside, I thought I’d share a bit of personal history in relation to the recent and tragic news of Aaron Hernandez’ suicide.

The Aaron Hernandez Suicide - The Residual Effect

On April 19 and the days that followed, you would either have to be living under a rock or in the barren wasteland that is Detroit to miss the headlines filled with news of the suicide of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

I’m not a fan of Aaron Hernandez, not because I don’t like him, but because I don’t watch TV or sports at all (I prefer to pirate and stream movies from my laptop), so I am unfamiliar with Aaron Hernandez as an NFL player.

 I know him simply as the guy who got the biggest signing bonus in NFL history for a tight end ($12.5 Million) and second-largest extension ($40 Million) and threw it all away because he couldn’t let go of his past.

Any time I’ve heard anything about Aaron Hernandez, it’s 
always been tragic - recent news being no exception. Here’s a quick summary of his legal “mishaps” according to the most credible source of information on the internet, Wikipedia:

·  2007 Bar Fight

·  2013 Miami Shooting

I may not have known much about Aaron Hernandez, but every time I saw him in the news I thought: “Geez, kid… you’ve got the looks, the money, the family, the career - can’t you just stop killing people?”

And with the recent news of his suicide after his acquittal of double-homicide charges, one is simply left with questioning: “Why?”

Reasons For Suicide

The most memorable and relevant quote I’ve come across in speculating the cause for a suicide comes from 2008 Oscar Runner-up Michael Clayton (should have won) from the late Sydney Pollack’s character and Kenner Bach & Ledeen patriarch, Marty Bach as friends, colleagues and family gathered in the wake of Arthur Eden’s apparent suicide via prescription drug overdose.

 George Clooney’s title character Michael Clayton asked: “Why’d he do it?” To which Marty tearfully replied: “People are incomprehensible.”

People are incomprehensible… that should be inscribed somewhere in stone! In short, who the hell knows?

Unfortunately, the “best” thing we can do is piece together what might have been the person’s reasoning based on the events leading up to their death.

According to recent reports from Newsweek, Aaron Hernandez gave his prison buddy a heads-up on his plans to commit suicide by telling him: “I think I’m going to hang it up.”  

Three weeks later, Aaron Hernandez was found hanging from his bedsheet in his prison cell in Massachusetts.

This reminds me of my father in a very macabre sense - he was found hanging from his bedsheet in Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, CA.

What drives a man to suicide? What is it like to feel like there is no other recourse to your woes that to “cash it all in?” I hope that none of you find out first hand.

I think I can gather the reasons why my father killed himself. 

Shame, fear, guilt; these feelings in relation to his high ambitions left unmet: what he wanted to do for his family, his business: he felt that he had ultimately failed at everything he had taken on that meant anything to him, and he was doing us all the favor of removing himself from the equation. 

This is, at least, what I’ve gathered.

By all accounts, my father was an exuberant high-energy ball of ambition, intelligence, and passion. He applied these traits to all of his undertakings.  

More than that, those that knew my father don’t shut up about him and about how many ways I am like him, which is haunting, to say the least.

My mother once told me that he was a man that could create a working business out of thin air.

I once had a conversation with my mother in which she desperately tried to talk me into quitting the business I was building and get a “normal job.”

 I was offended that she would even suggest it! I told her, almost verbatim:

“If I am unfit to work under my own direction, I am unfit to live.”

To which she replied after a long and thoughtful pause: “That’s the same thing your father told me once.”

My Last Memory Of My Father

Though I was very young it was very brief, I remember the last time I saw him in living color 

- I remember the way he smelled, his leather jacket that seemed to creak with each movement, his jeans with a yellow walkman sticking out of the side (this was the 90’s, folks 

- he was a cool kid at the time!) with Michael Jackson blaring out of the thin-wired black headphones.

I was the youngest (and cutest) of my siblings - still tiny enough to pick up and swing around, which he would never miss a chance to do when he would greet me. 

He would give me a hug as he laughed, then squeeze all the air out of me as he purposefully gave me rug burn on my cheeks with the coarse stubble of his five o'clock shadow.

He brought McDonald’s breakfast for us - McMuffins, hash browns, pancakes and by far my favorite: the sausage and egg burritos.

Any time I have one now I think of the last time I saw him… I also think of the many tasty pieces of pig hoof, snout and powdered scrambled egg that go into making a McDonald’s “breakfast burrito.”

The Bearer of Bad News

It was summer of the year 2000. My sister and I lounged in the living room; I can’t remember exactly what we were doing but I’d bet money that she sat glued in front of the computer patiently awaiting the download of a pirated song on Napster.

I loafed on the couch watching TV (likely Jerry Springer as he stood side-stage sadly watching a midget fight a triple-amputee as he pondered the demise of his once-respected daytime talk show).

I wasn’t supposed to be home that day, however, I had given up on summer school because, let’s face it: summer school is lame and no one who really cares about their kids sends them to summer school (love you, Mom - thanks for reading!).

Anyway, my sister and I were jolted out of our respective entertainment by a loud knock at the door - this was very odd, as no one was expected home for quite a few hours. My sister shot me a look in our bro-sis telepathy: 

“Stay upstairs, I’ll get the door.”

She made her way downstairs to investigate our visitor as curiosity drove me to observe from the top of the stairs.

 She cautiously opened the door and was visibly jarred by the shadowy figure towering over her.

A man stood clad in full military garb (which I later discovered was an Air Force officer’s uniform) - his face was obscured by the glare of the sun through the doorway behind him. He said in a booming and monotonous voice: 

“Are you related to Mr. ***** Pilate?”

My sister stammered - it was very unusual for anyone, especially a stranger to utter my father’s full name.

“He’s my father.” She said.

“He is deceased,” Said the figure.

I’m unsure of what was said after that, I just remember his abrupt and unceremonious departure.

My sister stood with the door ajar for a moment as she looked on after him, then she slammed it and ran into the garage.

 I called after her from the top of the stairs, then descended the flight into the garage. 

I found my sister in the garage in the dark - her back was turned to me.

I frantically grabbed her arm and shook her wildly, as I could sense that the news was terrible.

“What did he say about dad? What does deceased mean?”

She turned to face me, tears streaming profusely down her face…

“He’s dead,” She said evenly.

When I returned to school in the fall, my teacher asked me how my summer went

 - I told her my dad had committed suicide.

The Residual Effect

Suicide reverberates through the family tree like a chainsaw that makes every branch and leaf shake restlessly, long after the engine dies.

 The damage is irreparable - everything left exposed, everyone vulnerable. I’m sure this will not be different from the story of Aaron Hernandez’ family.

From my experience and observation of my family’s attempt to cope with my father’s suicide in the many years since I can say that one of the most painful things about suicide comes from everyone trying to figure out what they did wrong; what they should have said, or could have done.

 Even I, at the age of ten when my father died, thought “I could have written him more letters.”

How torturous a thought to be left within someone’s departure than a misplaced sense of responsibility as if your grief and shock were not already enough?

It truly saddens me to think of the day when Aaron Hernandez’ daughter reaches an age which she can comprehend the death of her father, as I have yet to even fully comprehend the effect my own father’s suicide has had on our family.

Aaron Hernandez leaves behind his 4-year old daughter, Avielle and his fiancee Shayanna. 

I hope that his daughter is spared a great deal of searching for answers to the unanswerable her father undoubtedly left in his wake.

As far as my own father’s suicide, there are still many questions surrounding his death that I have stopped looking to answer.

 Whatever terrors plagued him are not mine, and comprehending what he may have gone through is beyond both my understanding and my willpower.

In many ways, I am driven by the fear of repeating some of his many missteps. 

However, I am left with some pleasant memories from people that knew him well, and apparently, I have taken on some of his better traits.

In conclusion, don’t mistake my strange and misplaced style of humor in this article to be a lack of empathy for anyone who has suffered a loss of this nature in their family.

Should thoughts of suicide descend on you, know that you are certainly not doing your loved ones any favors by indulging these thoughts - quite the opposite. 

If your fear, pain or guilt drive you to this point, know that there is nothing - not even death, that can take the place of both acknowledging and amending your wrongs.

We are all fighting with each breath and beat to survive in a world that seems to work against us. 

In this most visceral of pursuits, do not do us all the dishonor of throwing away the only treasure we can ever own, thereby abandoning the people who love you.

May the family of Aaron Hernandez find peace and closure in the years ahead. 

May Aaron Hernandez himself be at peace wherever he may now be.

Thank you for reading this article - I have no advice to offer anyone considering suicide as a viable solution to any problem.

The best I can offer: take an introspective inventory of your values and consider what would pay a higher tribute to yourself and others - living in accordance with said values, rather than dying in direct conflict with them.

Thanks for reading - Nate Pilate