Kevin's accomplishments included all his music and the two bands he formed with friends. He was a gifted, talented guitarist, and in SAIL 8th grade, for gifted, talented students. He was also in his 1st year of college at the age of 17, and kept a perfect grade point average at Trident Tech College, and then at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. He left SCAD because there was no more money for him to continue, and his Pell Grant didn't cover enough. Even after he came back to SC, the college wrote letters encouraging him to return. Kevin's illness became worse in the years 1995-1997, and most of it I didn't know because he lived away from me, and I was the primary care giver to my aged mother, and working, so my time was never my own, but I always worried about Kevin.
Kevin also had a certificate in Auto Cad from Trident Tech college, as well as write-ups in local music papers of his talent on the guitar. 96 Wave radio station did a 30 minute tribute to him upon learning of his death. They played the CD's recently done, and some of his other music. Kevin had numerous friends from all walks of life, and he was genuinely loved by many young people.
Kevin smoked POT about 14-15, maybe before. I found pipes under his bed. Kevin told me when he was 12 that he did LSD with his friend Mikey when he spent the night at Mikey's house. I was alarmed but not overly worried since he did it just once (he said) and I thought (he's only trying to find a relief his anger, anxiety about himself, etc.). Being a single parent, I know I was not the best mother I could have been with a husband's help and support. In fact, I was trying to be super mom, as most single mothers do I think. So I tended to not over-react at first. Kevin was so calm when he told me. He was matter-of -fact this and that.
I learned after he died (as I seemed to learn so much "after") that Kevin had run into a friend (girl) at Manifest Music store about a month before he ended his life - and she asked Kevin "what have you been doing lately?" He told her "I went to 96 Wave to promote our CD, and I paid some bills, went to see some friends, and I tried to kill myself but the rope broke." She of course thought he was kidding, but as we learned, he wasn't kidding. He had told her the truth.
How was she to know? How can anyone know with someone so dry wit as Kevin, but he was giving hints, here and there to his friends who were crushed to realize they didn't help him, but, Kevin was his own person; very independent, free-thinking, alone, detached, and his own worst enemy, (as my mom used to tell me I was).
Cleaning out his house I found a notebook with scores of the card games Kevin played with his roommates - Jay-27, Keith-10, Ed--8- etc., and then on the next page was "Jay-my golf clubs, Chris-my car, Connie-anything she wants, Keith -Scooter (his dog), cabinets to Chris Smith, etc. - all written in pencil, hard to read.
Was he playing with their minds, or hoping one of them would see his intent? In his room, a long belt hung in a corner - very significant to me after he died. Was this another sign - and how long had the belt been there? In his notes, he wrote "To the Unlucky Bastard who finds me" - (and he knew it would be Jay- the ex-boyfriend of his new "love") and he wrote "my twisted, evil mind" and "I want my body burnt to a crisp" -to me, Kevin was angry, hostile, sad, mad, almost mean, cruel to himself, and all of us, when he completed his suicide - no doubt thought of for years.
Kevin's last day, he went to visit a friend (Richie) about 4:00 P.M. Richie later said Kevin didn't act unusual; he talked about his brother Chris a lot -"I think it's so rad Chris has his own band" but he kept checking his answer machine for messages, and it's just my thought that he was looking for a call from that girl - who may have said she couldn't go on with Kevin because she still cared for Jay - of course I'm just guessing, but in his frame of mind it may have been the catalyst that pushed him over the edge into eternity-plus the loss of his gramma (my mother) who died only weeks earlier. My mother had made Kevin the Representative of her estate, and Kevin felt bad for me because as her daughter, I was the reasonable person to be the Rep. of her estate, and he even told me "Mom, I'm not in competition with you."
My mom - she was a puzzle to me all my life, and I felt she took Kevin from me years earlier, giving him everything I couldn't, and being the mother I never saw in my childhood -causing me to resent my son at first before realizing my own mother was a sick person-and I told Kevin it didn't matter - but this was more stress on him, having to deal with atty., probate court, etc. her estate. - and I feel she contributed unintentionally to his death.
Chris (younger son) told me while on tour with Kevin's band he saw Kevin sniffing something up his nose we later found out was Ritalin, but one of Kevin's roommates told me Kevin was taking someone else's Prozac for awhile - and then stopped. Yet, the hospital said no drugs or alcohol were found in his system. Kevin was in a desperate state, trying anything to feel better. He had no medical insurance for a long time until I finally paid for it myself -Blue Cross, and that paid his hospital bill at St. Frances Hospital, Charleston.
Jay, his roommate who found Kevin, got his fishing knife to cut him down - was traumatized for two days, and later Jay told me "I saw Kevin every day & night for almost seven years, and never knew" Kevin kept it all inside-the only "feelings" he showed were outbursts, just like he did at home years earlier -Kevin never learned to communicate, talk, express feelings, thoughts, and to me this is almost autistic or even schizophrenic.
In his notebook I also found written "there are 10 people I want to kill." In his doodle drawings he always drew heads - three heads on one neck- one head - it's mouth open -screaming, another head- hair all on end, face blank, another head, a grotesque, wild-eyed face - was this how he felt he was? Three people in one body? Maybe all those accidents in his life were an attempt by fate or God to end his life before he did it himself. Maybe a lot of things. All I know is that my son never had a moments peace in his life, and as he said in his note, "When you see these pictures next to my ashes, please smile, knowing I am finally at peace."
I think Kevin hated himself, this world, this life(his) and so much hate left nothing or anything to love, yet he wrote a note to "the girl" expressing his love, - which I believe was just a dependency, not love. My son Chris will never believe Kevin took his life over her --- but in a tormented, sick mind any "reason" will do, and possibly this was his reason.
I think of the shootings at schools, etc. and Kevin had no means to kill anyone, but his intense "feeling" he claimed he didn't have, were written, meaning he felt a whole lot - and maybe took his life before he did kill anyone. Being so sick and all alone in his misery, he put it down on paper so someone would know, and it was I, his mother, to find his words. Kevin was an intense, bright, almost brilliant, young person but he could not put it all together. He told me years ago that he figured out he was "about 3 years behind his age emotionally, and maturity" - which made him exactly his brother's age.
To be totally fair to my son, I have to say he went through terrible times at home with his father, my mother, and me. There was continually fighting between the three of us, - and these were the three people he loved, and must have been confused, hurt, lonely, sad, why we all fought so much. He never saw any love, except briefly his father showed to me, but my mother was a very controlling, demanding, unforgiving person, who never let me forget my mistake with the man I married - their father, and Kevin heard her harsh words to me, while giving him more than I ever could.
Then Kevin witnessed the fights between me and his father - when heíd return from who knows where- - and I'd try to keep us as a family I never had, - and it was all so sad--I know Kevin could never kill anyone. Once he had me against a wall, hands around my neck, and let go of me seeing me choking, sputtering, and he cried.
I had a parakeet he let loose out the cage and grabbed it , choking it, - just to hurt me. Kevin - I think he hated me because by then I was drinking alcohol to numb the awfulness of my life - and in his frustration in stopping me from myself his anxiety grew to be bigger than the problem. I went to CHAPS and got better. They wanted family members to come to meetings - Chris did, but Kevin never would go with me.
Kevin said nothing was wrong with him- it was his family-Chris, me, his gramma, his father. Maybe he was a perfectionist - and could not stand his dysfunctional family.
Kevin did not like this world or anyone in it, so he left the only way he knew how, but he did try to soften the blow to all of us by words he wrote that weren't hostile,
"I don't want anyone overwhelmed with grief, this is the best thing for me to do."
There are seven people who've had a place in my heart - and he named them all, and at the end was "and my mother." So, even if he hated me, he was kind - knowing how hurt I'd be to be left out, so he gave me that. Kevin was honest his love, hate, anger, hostility, etc. but he never deliberately hurt anyone in his life, and could never consider it in his death.
When he died he left a lot of grieving young people who admired his music, and just himself. Kevin didn't kill himself because he felt lonely, unloved, - he died because he couldn't cope anymore with anything. His ex-girlfriend, Connie, told me he had "deteriorated" the last two years his life, and she didn't like his new "friends." All of these people were using Kevin ---his musical talent, his house they'd use, abuse, his kindness he couldn't turn anyone away, and the tour of Europe-Chris said he wasn't even talking about it anymore.
Kevin thought he'd find success his music, and he sent me postcards from every state his first tour - excited, hopeful, optimistic, - "Hey Mom, Hey Ma, or Moms"- and I gave him my Discover card if he ran out of money -- but it gradually wore thin, and I think Kevin saw no future-----
On April 15, 1997 Kevin nailed a square board to the ceiling of the utility shed, and jumped from the dryer to hang. Kevin was kept on life support until April 18, 1997. On the dryer, he left an envelope addressed to his boss, and in the envelope was $176.00 in cash that he owed his boss, - who later told me "Kevin was the most honest person I ever knew."
Kevin, I believe, was angry because he was never happy, like other kids he saw. He was angry because I was angry, and he saw my tears, anger, frustrations, and picked up on it. He was my faithful, loyal friend the early years after we moved to SC, and after my mom convinced me to leave Virginia (Arlington) and his father.
Before I go further, I must confess I have been diagnosed not only bipolar, but borderline personality disorder - probably stemming from my early years of rejection, feelings of abandonment, learning early in life to not trust - I get close to people , make friends easily, then back away, leaving people to wonder what is wrong with me. I don't know why, but I don't really like anyone up close, as I find all of us to be users of time, space, wasted talk, wasted energy, wasted trust, and this came to me later years, not at first.
As a child, Kevin was very sensitive, quiet, observing, and mostly just said what had to be said, in a matter-of-fact manner. In my attempts to give my two sons a chance to do the same as other boys who had fathers, I took them fishing in a lake far back in the woods, and quite honestly, I had never fished in my life. We had the bucket, the poles, and the worms and Kevin caught a fish. His brother was all excited, but I saw Kevin so quiet as the fish struggled on the line to get free, and then I saw Kevin's sad face with tears in his eyes. I told him, "Never mind Kevin, we'll get it off the hook, and put it back in the water," - which we did - but it stayed with me. The reactions so different of each son, and that is just one incident.
I am writing of Kevin's deep feelings for anything hurt-not that Chris was wrong, but they were just different. Chris has always cared for the wronged or abused - whether people or animals, but he didn't see fishing in the same light as Kevin did.
Kevin did seem to be "accident-prone" nearly all his life, beginning with a hard fall on his head onto concrete at age three. Then at five years, a baseball bat flew backwards on his nose, knocking him to the ground; falling out a desk backstage in first grade waiting with his classmates to go on stage - and ending up in emergency room for stitches. Then about 10 years old, Kevin looked up to his friend in a tree who had called to him, and a t.v. antenna spiraled down hitting Kevin right between the eyes - again the emergency room. (I should mention the friend was crying that he had unintentionally hurt his friend.)
At age 18 or so he had gout in Kevin's big toe - which unknown to many, is extremely painful, and is caused by too much uric acid in the system. At 21, a near appendix rupture requiring immediate surgery, - and then after his death, I learned of the kidney stones - and again emergency room treatment in Florida while the band was on tour. Kevin's band mate told me "We took Kevin to E.R. because he was turning "greenish" - but he" ever complained of being in pain,"- and I have often thought since, that Kevin just never really knew what it was to feel good, so he accepted pain as life.
Kevin told me years ago "I want to break up with Connie, but I don't want to hurt her." When I asked why, he told me "I need someone more on the edge" -
The first thought in my mind was "it's my fault" when Kevin suicided. Even Chris blamed me. He lashed out at me in words so terrible I jumped in my car to drive to a previous counselor in a world of pain crying, mumbling, and she let me cry in her office and I asked her "why am I so hated?"
I was never a traditional mother, by that I mean, I was different. I gave to my sons the best and worst of me as a person. I let them see me as a person, my good, bad, wrong, right. I never taught them to hate any race of people or judge anyone without knowing their story. I felt I was a good mother when I could tuck my sons in bed with a kiss, -something I never knew. I felt I was a good mother when I fixed them meals, washed their clothes, took them to doctor appts., cared their hurts, but Kevin was his own person long before I knew it was too late.
He saw everything as negative. It seemed to me he thought backwards. It was "fun" before work. I told him work came first then the fun. His thinking was totally negative, despite his achievements in SAIL (for gifted, talented students) and a teacher recommended he take MENSA test, Kevin refused. "I'm not that smart."
Everything was wrong in Kevin's eyes. "Why did I have to have you as my mother?" Or "why did you marry a man like him?" (his father) I could not tell him the truth of his birth, or why I finally "married" his father. In order to get things right, I must tell you that Kevin and Chris' father has been diagnosed a sociopath, - a person with no conscience. The father of my sons is a person who lived his life on lies, and when we met, a disaster began, with our two illnesses, and we produced two sons who have had severe problems.
As for me, I stuck by my sons, and the father ran away. I went to work, came home, cared for my sons. I didnít have enough money to pay all the bills, and I had no child support despite a court order.
My sons had no father's guidance or love, so I tried to be everything to them, knowing only that if I didnít try they would always feel no one cared.
My mother helped us financially, but it was a price none the less, I had to pay, and I dreaded going to her for help, so I opened up loans. At one point, I had seven open loan account I paid every payday, running from one office to another on payday.
Chris and friends shot bb guns into vacant trailers, and I couldnít pay,-was subpoenaed to civil court, and a judgment put against me. Chris worked community hours after school, cleaning police cars., and I was hounded to pay these two women who had already been paid by other parents, and insurance companies.
Chris felt terrible for me. Every two weeks this woman showed up at my door, and knew I'd just been paid, and I'd give her what I had as she joked "well, now I can go play bingo." The other woman put a judgment against me because I did not pay her in full- and she refused monthly payment. Hurricane Hugo came and knocked her unused trailer to oblivion, and I never heard from her again.
Kevin saw the woman at the door who came every two weeks, and he called her "Country Bumpkin." Kevin had a way with words. Our poor stray dog "Lady" my sons brought home was seen by a vet who said she had heartworms, but he treated her , and I gave her a home she loved. Kevin said she had a "dried up apricot" her female area, and when she was put to sleep, I wrote a poem to Lady, with the dried up apricot.
I never knew I was "different" my early years. I just thought about something long enough , and then did it, -possibly the same Kevin did. I ran away from school, but trying to get home, to my mother, the only person on earth I thought loved me. My mother was deaf; she had a small amount of hearing in one ear.
As a child, I saw terrible things at school , and the other places my mother put me in over the summer. I was totally alone, to think, judge, see, know, form an opinion, and live as best I could, and I survived on my own to be what I am, good or bad.
Thank you for bearing with me. I thought I was getting tough, able to go on as okay, but I'm not. The more time goes by, the more I want to know why, and I'm trying to ease my own guilt, find answers, - not just let it go as some tragic mistake.
05/02/69 - 04/18/97