My mom was clinically depressed and was taking pills to deal with it. I didn’t know it at the time but she was suicidal. Life was a deep black hole and she expressed it to my aunt living in Los Angeles in one desperate phone call in 1996.
“I don’t know what else to do with them! I’ve tried everything. We’ve moved how many times?! How many states?! The police, the drugs, the gangs, we can’t get away. I came to this country to escape the war but there’s still a war here.
And their dad is no help. All he cares about is his damn drinking, sometimes they drink together. I can’t take it anymore! I’m going to lose both my sons. It would be better if I was dead. I should just kill myself.”
My aunt tells me that the exasperation in Mom’s voice was real. The hopelessness she felt was real. The threat to take her own life was real. Over the phone my aunt could hear the tears streaming down Mom’s face.
Mom had already escaped a communist country to give her kids an opportunity at life in the USA. She was more than willing to take her own life to get the attention of her only two sons. She was willing to do anything to save my brother and I from death.
It was in that moment that my aunt offered to take one of us to live with her in L.A. Despite the fact that she had 5 other teenagers she wanted to relieve my mom of stress. My aunt also mentioned that there were some white church folks working with teenage gang bangers that could possibly help.
The next day my mom sat me down in our living room in our run down apartment building in Southwest Michigan.
“Tobias, do you love me?” My mom asked.
I was caught off guard, “What, Mom?”
She asked again, “Do you love me? Would you do anything for me?”
The answer was easy, “Of course mom, yea I love you.”
“Then I want you to go live with your aunt back in L.A. You need to be away from all this, I don’t want to see you die on these streets. I’m sending you there because I love you.” She explained with sincerity.
I responded with sincerity, “Yea Mom. I’ll do it, cause I love you too.”
I was 14 and that was the last time I would live with my immediate family ever again. That was the last time we would all be together under one roof. Being together didn’t mean we were whole. We were broken long before. Contemplating suicide was just a symptom of how deeply broken our family was.
In order for me to get away from gangs my mom wanted me to go back to L.A., the gang capital of the nation. If that isn’t suicidal I don’t know what is. Yet for my mom that black hole wasn’t so deep anymore. She saw for the first time a glimmer of hope and it had to do with desperate faith in this new thing called “church”.