He started acting paranoid — more so than the hypochondria she said was usual for him. He was convinced he had a deadly disease.
He stopped eating well and couldn't sleep at night.
The morning of Nov. 10, 2008, Mikey walked into the Walmart in Checotah and shot himself in a deserted aisle near the back of the store.
“Honey, it's as bad as it can get,” were the first words Bucci's mother said to her after driving two hours from Checotah to Oklahoma City to deliver the terrible news.
“That told me everything,” Bucci writes in the book.
But why would her son do this? He had seemed so happy.
“Dear family, I want you to know that I was murdered,” was the first sentence of the suicide note found in Mikey's pocket.
The note went on to describe delusions of demons that lived inside Walmart. The demons directed him to kill himself, Bucci said.
“I felt horrible for Walmart because those people were nothing but nice to him,” Bucci said, referring to the fact that he'd worked at a Colorado Walmart and had friends at the Checotah store.
It's important to note, Bucci said, that this breakdown was probably not due to Mikey's autism and that delusional thinking is not a symptom of autism.
“I don't believe autistic people are any more susceptible to a sudden bipolar attack than anyone else is, but Mikey had shown some signs of manic behavior when he was young,” she said. “My advice is to be very aware of any differences in eating and sleeping patterns, as well as complaints of added stress or worry, especially if the person has had any history of behavior in their life that might be considered symptomatic of bipolar illness.”
She also doesn't attribute Mikey's death to his access to guns.
“I believe Mikey would have found a different way to kill himself. Since he was a gunsmith, that was the handiest means,” Bucci said.
The return of Mikey
After Mikey's death and funeral, strange things began happening in the Bucci household, happenings that the family attributed to Mikey communicating with them from a spiritual world. The first thing, and most scary, Bucci said, happened the day after Mikey died.
Bucci, Lynn and Mikey's father Mike, were asleep in various rooms of the Checotah farmhouse when a loud crashing woke them all. All the framed photos on a large, sturdy oak bookcase had been knocked over.
This would be the first of many “visitations” from Mikey that Bucci refers to and writes about in “The Return of Mikey.”
She said her family started finding crucifixes in strange places, such as in the mailbox or on their front porch.
On at least 10 occasions, she said the unmistakable sound of chickens clucking would come from common houseplants.
“Seven of us heard it,” Bucci said. “One of them was a Delta Force Sniper team leader. He wasn't somebody that would jump to conclusions.”
Lynn and her grandmother were the first two to witness the cluckings, Lynn said. They were sitting together in the living room of the Checotah farmhouse when they heard the sound of chickens.
“I said, ‘Grandma, I think one of your chickens is in the house,'” Lynn said. Her grandmother heard it, too. “It really did sound like you had a chicken a foot away from you clucking,” Lynn said.
Once, Bucci said Mikey seemed to be teasing his aunt by switching the TV channel she was watching to a channel featuring a show about Cuban cigars, a favorite of Mikey's.
“TVs don't just switch channels like that,” Bucci said. “That just doesn't happen — maybe once every 10 years ... and (things like this) were happening to all of us repeatedly.”
On another occasion, Bucci said she'd been feeling low, shedding a tear or two, when her computer, which had been offline, logged on to YouTube and a Michael Bolton version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” began playing. Mikey loved Michael Bolton, Bucci said.
Bucci feels her son wanted her and her family to know in no uncertain terms that he was OK wherever he was.
She also thinks Mikey wants the world to know that Heaven is real.
“That had not been my original message (for the book), but I felt that after he died, he was really trying to show us to have a deeper faith,” Bucci said.
Though many people believe that people who commit suicide end up in hell, Bucci said she doesn't think that's true.
“I don't believe God would turn His back on anyone who was in so much pain they felt the only way out was suicide,” Bucci said. “In fact, we almost put that on the cover of the book. It was going to say, ‘Can dead people play tricks on us? Do suicide victims go to heaven?'”
“I can't imagine anyone believing Mikey is not in a good place now,” Bucci said.
“The Return of Mikey” can be purchased online at www.ReturnofMikey.com (for signed copies), or at Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.
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Here is a book about autism written by a family who knows autism: the pain, the embarrassment, the laughter, and the humanity that is part and parcel of the everyday life of a family loving and raising a child with autism.”
Sally J. Rogers,
Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The MIND Institute, University of California Davis Medical Center