My name is Ashley Carter Cottam and on June 1st, 2011 my life changed. My heart still aches when I replay the turn of events that occurred on a seemingly ordinary day last summer. When something so devastating and unexpected happens to you, every last detail is etched into your memory as if it happened yesterday. People that know me, know that I hate the phone and avoid it as much as possible but on that morning I couldn't ignore it because it was persistently ringing. I am sure that apart of me knew something was wrong. I answered my husbands call and could hear that the tone in his voice was off and I worried that he perhaps he had gotten into a wreck or needed me but it was so much worse than anything I could have possible imagined. After giving me the third degree about why I hadn't picked up the phone earlier he informed me that he was on his way home and he was headed down the canyon and that something terrible had happened. I remember he kept telling me he was on his way home and that he was so sorry and that he loved me so much over and over as if he were late for something but he wasn't and it was only 9:30 A.M. My day hadn't even started yet. He kept telling me where he was located and reaffirming that he was on his way. Again, he told me that he loved me and would be with me soon and that he was in route. When I asked what had happened, I wasn't prepared for what he told me. Even though I couldn't see my husband, I could hear the tears in his voice. Corbin is gone. My brother, my only brother, my favorite brother was gone as in died? When I asked what happened I fully expecting to hear about a terrible car crash. He told me again how sorry he was and then he said it. He killed himself. Your brother took his own life and I am so sorry. Time stopped for a minute. What was happening? What the hell was happening? I told Travis that this couldn't and didn't happen in the form of repeating the word no several times. My brother, Corbin, knew better. I didn't cry initially because I was refusing to process anything that I just heard but I did drop to my knees and began begging God to help me and my family. The most desperate fervent prayer I have ever prayed I am sure of that. I needed Gods full attention. I found myself pleading with him for everything to be alright. I couldn't breathe. My almost four year old daughter was next to me asking what was wrong. She had been watching me for the past 10 minutes and had waited patiently until I got off the phone before bothering me. She could see that I was crumbling and I couldn't explain my current state. I could see the worry in her little eyes. I wasn't sure how or what to say and so I told her that Daddy was coming home and Mommy would be okay. My husband loved and continues to love my brother so much and I could feel his hurt when he walked through our front door and held me. Like I said, I could write a chapter in a book for the hours and days that followed with every single detail.
On the Saturday before he passed away we just happened to be at the same place at the same time. We talked for a few hours about things we usually don't have time for because we are surrounded by kids and family or in a hurry but the setting was unique and on this day we had time. We had a honest conversation about his heartache and the details that surrounded and led up to his current situation. He was truthful. He was tired, as in emotionally exhausted. He was careful with his wording but didn't hold back when I inquired about how things were going. He told me how proud he was of his kids and expressed how much he loved his kids. I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me too. I got a warm hug that I will forever be grateful for. We laughed. He chased my daughter around and tickled her. The following three days, I texted him because I knew he was going through a difficult transition and he texted back. The entire weekend I couldn't quit thinking about our conversation and I knew his sadness was real and his heart was so unusually heavy. The burdens that he was carrying seemed unbearable. Three days after we talked he decided that he could no longer do it. Even though I know better I will always ask myself those terrible cursing questions that suicide survivors all do.
Why didn't I go over there?
Why didn't I vocalize that I had been sad before too and that he would never be alone?
Why didn't I do more?
If he could have just seen clearly and known that these hardships would pass and things would have gotten better. I would have done things so differently but more than that, I would have said so much more. I think about Corbin every single day and I miss and love him so much. I know now he is okay and that in that moment he was so mentally distraught that he saw no other way out. There were several things that led to this sort of sadness but the truth of the matter is, he was not well. There were obvious visible signs the last three months of his life that we should have been more worried about but I think all of us just assumed it was just the stresses of life. My brother died because he got sick.
A year has passed and everyday I make a conscious decision to focus on the blessings I have and not dwell on the things I dont have. It's not easy. I still cry all the time, mostly in private when I am week. I know that this is apart of my grieving process and I've come to accept these moments and then I pick myself up and take a few steps forward. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude and compassion towards others that I didn't have a year ago. In the eternally scheme of things, I know that my brother is alright and I will be too. He will never will be gone. Corbin is always with me. The way my brother died in no way defines the person he was or the life that he lived. His smile could warm any soul and his laugh was amazing.
There is a quote that says something like, treat everyone kindly because everyone is fighting their own battle. Its true. Don't be afraid to reach out and tell others that you care and never judge a book by its cover.
This is my second year participating in the AFSP's Salt Lake City Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
UTAH is has made huge progress this year and are currently working on a curriculum for our schools. There has been so much effort made by the Utah chapter representatives to put a program together for our teachers and students and I am really excited about it. Even if you haven't lost someone to suicide, I know that everyone has known someone that struggles with depression, addiction or one of the other many mental disorders. We can help give people the tools to make a difference.
I believe that with the money raised through this walk, we can help bring awareness to others. This is something I am passionate about and would love your support. My family would be so thankful for any donations in my brothers name. Out teams name is Chins up for Corbin.