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Robert Kirby had the day off. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

If you are not thinking about killing yourself, you might want to read something else today. If you are, please read this first. It will only take a few minutes.

In the extremity of whatever's bothering you enough to make death attractive, there is something you may not have considered. Give it a think while you can still do something about it.

I got to know a lot of dead people as a cop. Old age, murder, crashes, falls; human beings check out in a variety of ways. I've seen most of them up close enough to get some of it on me.

Suicides bothered me the most. They still do. It's been years since I eased open the door of a darkened room and saw someone with a shotgun between their legs and their head all over the ceiling. But some things you see for the rest of your life.

That part of my police memory is a photo album of the hopelessly sad with shattered skulls, elongated necks and bile-soaked faces. Sometimes I can still smell them.

It was my job back then to visit the nightmares people made of themselves in basements, garages and bedrooms. I even got used to it in a twisted way. They were strangers. Mostly.

If you kill yourself, odds are that it won't be a stranger who finds you. It will be someone concerned enough to look for you in the first place: your mother, your child, your spouse, or some other unfortunate who shouldn't have seen you like that but did.

People kill themselves for a variety of reasons. The one I'm most familiar with is selfishness. I read enough suicide notes to know that the authors were generally no crazier than me, and perhaps no more depressed.

Just because someone does something horrible doesn't mean that they couldn't help it. It means they arrived at a point where what they wanted is more important to them than what other people deserve, including those who love them.

Sometimes it's deliberate. I sat with a corpse once and read his journal while we waited for the medical examiner. The last entry was: "I hope the insurance makes you happy."

The guy had been lucid enough to drive to his former living room and put the muzzle of a deer rifle into his mouth believing that the next person who found him would be his estranged wife. He was wrong. It was his 10-year-old daughter. And she didn't give a damn about the insurance.

Just because you'll be more careful won't make it easier for a loved one to take. Trust me, there is no clean way to kill yourself. Pills? Exhaust? Please. No one covered in her own vomit looks peaceful.

I didn't think human beings could scream as long and as loud as the woman who found her teenage son hanging in his bedroom, his face the color of an eggplant. That will always be her last memory of him.

A friend left me with a similar sight. When he didn't show up for work, I went to his house and found him. The burden of life was too much for Ron, so he added to mine. When I recall his face now, I'm invariably reminded that he didn't have one.

It's a terrible thing to do to strangers, too. Later, when I interviewed the engineer of a train after a woman deliberately stepped in front of it, I knew from the look in his eyes that he would never stop leaning on the brake.

Suicide does not make the problem better, only bigger. It spreads your pain to everyone who ever cared about you and even to people who haven't met you yet. If that isn't what you want, then suicide isn't either.

If you're still thinking about it, please give yourself a little more time to reconsider. There's no rush. It's not like eternity will leave without us. or

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