Joyce Penebaker

Age 27 , Ohio

I am 38-years-old, and I don’t remember my mom. In fact, I know very little about her. I don’t know her birthday. I don’t know what made her laugh. I don’t know what made her cry. What I do know is that on Sept. 8, 1979, she committed suicide with a gun that her father — my grandfather — had given her despite the fact that she suffered from depression and had previously attempted suicide with pills as a teenager.

She died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, alone in her car on the side of a road. She left behind an infant who would never feel his mom’s embrace, never know her voice, her smell. An infant who would grow into a man searching for answers to why his mother would choose to end her own life with a gun.

For most of my life, I have struggled with two questions: Why didn’t I mean enough for my mom to push through her depression, and why did she do this to me? Neither question has an answer — nor would any answer bring her back or make this never-ending pain and heartache go away.

Khary PenebakerJoyce Penebaker

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