My grandfather committed suicide when he was just forty years old. Of course, many are affected by suicide every day, yet, there was more to the story than that. Before he fatally shot himself, he turned a gun on my grandmother, in front of his two children--my uncle, and my father. By the grace of god, his shot was off the mark, and she survived a minor injury to her leg. Part of me wants to believe this was by design, but alas, no one but the man himself will ever know.
Still, my father's family was ripped apart by anguish, speechless at what could have driven a man they loved to do such a thing. Back then, bipolar disease was misunderstood and largely untreatable. My grandmother and her two sons always knew something was wrong with him... he would spend a month in bed, refusing food, and then just like that, he was happy. This, of course, is a telltale sign of bipolar disorder.
Again, it was different time, and even today, treatment of bipolar is often extremely experimental. More and more we have learned that it can be passed down genetically, and often skips a generation. So, when I was diagnosed with bipolar, I was angry and shocked. I was thirteen, and five years later, my father had the courage to tell me what happened that day.
I was furious, scared, and worried. I didn't want this to happen to me. He reassured me that my bipolar was nowhere near as severe as his own father's, and I would never experience something like World War II, which made his illness even worse.
When he told me the horror of my grandfather's deed, a memory he had repressed for many years, I sensed forgiveness. Fifty years after my grandfather shot my grandmother and himself, he was not angry. I'm sure he was at the time, and for many years after that. He told me, "Don't blame him, he was sick."
But I knew that my father was not always this rational, this level-headed. I'm sure he resented my grandfather for leaving him without a father of his own, forcing my mother to work at a time where jobs for women were scarce and low-paying. He was mad that his dad wasn't able to see him graduate as valedictorian, attend CalTech, and go on to be a scientist. He was mad that when he got married, his father was not there to share the joy. He was mad that his children never got to sit in their grandfather's lap. He was mad about all these things, but mostly, he was mad because he didn't understand what compelled his father to leave his family behind.
So what does this have to do with the tragic fate of Jovan Belcher? Well, I don't want to suggest that he was suffering from mental illness, although I do have my own assumptions about that. But I am telling you that you have the right to be angry. You have the right to not understand. You have the right to wonder and grieve over an orphaned child. Keep in mind that it took decades for my father to let go of his resentment. And it might take you decades, too. Maybe if we know more, maybe if he was depressed, maybe if he was suffering from head trauma, decades later, we might be able to forgive Belcher's act.
You have the obligation to feel. You have the obligation to know more. You have the obligation to demand answers. You also have the obligation to one day understand that perhaps this wasn't the act of a cold-blooded murderer, but rather a man tortured by his own damaged mind. We just don't know. And it may take decades before we accept whatever reality emerges about this tragedy. If it does, I don't blame you for harboring resentment. After all, it took my father that long to let go of his anger.
Good luck from a Redskins fan.