I have been wrestling with the idea of this blog post for some time now. I cannot put my thoughts into words, so I just decided it was time to sit down and write and just let everything spew out onto the page and see how I feel about it.
My thoughts about this post started when I was contemplating the people I have known, lost to the world of suicide. There is a healing process for those left behind, Thank God! For some unknown reason, this year was the year I decided to get angry about it.
Suicide has personally touched my life five times. That averages out to one every 12 years. I’m not sure that 12 years is enough time to really heal from the loss of someone in this way. If you do start to heal a little, and someone else takes this step, all the emotion and feeling comes flooding back to you. Of these five suicides, at least four of them involved alcohol to some extent. How to get your head around that?
I imagine, but I do not know for sure, that there is some lead time when a person makes such a choice. Steps leading them to a precipice from which they fall. In some ways, those friends and loved ones left behind start the healing process at a similar precipice which they must carefully back away from. Walking backwards isn’t easy. You think of the person you knew and wonder what happened. You wonder what you could have done. You wonder if you should have seen signs. You wonder why – and you will always wonder no matter how capable you are of backing away from that edge he/she could not escape.
Social media has become a tool for us to celebrate and remember and reach out in all the occasions of our lives. I wanted to remember with love what preceded that decision, but this year was my anger year. Twice, I sat with my anger and watched other people as they seemed to have come to a place of peace that I have not yet found. I’m glad they could celebrate these two lives this year and not the act. I normally can, too. But not this year. I saw the pain.
I’m not angry at the person. I’m angry at the act – at the intense emotion. I remembered a training class that taught about anxiety. If people were only taught what we learned that day. Anxiety has a ceiling. We feel most desperate when we near that ceiling. It feels as if you really cannot breathe. If we had only been taught to get through the feeling – to cope just a little longer, the feeling of anxiety and desperation just might subside.
MAJMB – I wish you could have held on. I am sorry I had to get angry this year. It was my time. Each of you have reminded me of the other and if one suicide is too much, well, what about five?
Michael was my brother-in-law in a prior marriage. He was gay. Once a long time ago, he stood by the river alone. Who knows what he was thinking? We just know he committed suicide.
I have such mixed reactions about suicide. But today it seems appropriate to honor his memory when the world is wearing purple against homophobic bullying. I’m not saying Michael was bullied. I just know he took his own life and it makes me so sad to think that he must have felt helpless in that one moment.
There were lots of rumors – some factual – some I’m not sure. I think that angers me even more to know that once he had taken his life, some people felt the need to label him. I don’t want to talk about all that here. I want to honor Michael and let him know that we think of him and miss him and wish he had held on. The world has become gentler and a bit more understanding since you made that decision standing on the bank of the river. I know he was loved by his family. I won’t say everyone understood completely – Michael’s approach to approval or his ‘in your face’ way of fighting against disapproval was sometimes difficult. That’s all I will say here for each of us have our own thoughts and memories – especially when we look retrospectively.
One of the last times I remember seeing Michael was at Christmas. He went down in the field with the family to ride the snowmobiles. I remember thinking how happy he was to be doing the thing that his family always loved together with them. It is a beautiful memory that I will never forget. Michael loved antiques. He brought gifts for my children. Beautiful porcelain faced dolls for Melissa and an antique chair for Ed. He really stayed in touch. Cards, letters, phone calls. He tried so hard.
Now, this, Michael is for you:
I remember so many phone calls with you. I sometimes got angry, but more because of the alcohol. I know now you may have used it as a crutch. Who knows really. I just know it was hard sometimes to talk to you. I know you felt like you could not talk about your life much because you often met with disapproval. I know that sometimes people ‘used’ you because you would do ‘outrageous’ things to make them laugh or just to fit in. Oh, I hope you see the world today. It’s not perfect. It’s a long way from perfect, but it is so much better. I hope you can see that being HIV positive is not an ultimate death sentence now. The research and drugs are helping. I wish I had the opportunity as an adult woman who has cast off her own burdens to sit and talk to you about things of substance. If I had any part in making you feel out-of-place, I hope that you will forgive me. Your death affected us all in so many ways. It’s hard to lose someone you love – especially knowing it was at their own hand. Most of all, Michael, I hope today you are at peace. I hope you look down and laugh at the struggles we all have and take comfort that your worldly problems are behind you. Most of all, I want you to know you are not forgotten. God bless you, Michael. We love and miss you still.
What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator 1830 – 1890
Our lives were again touched by suicide this past week. A family friend living the aftermath of a painful divorce and no job made a choice to end his life. So very sad. Disbelief, anger, overwhelming sadness and loss all intermingle inside us. Friends and family struggle with the reasons and hate themselves for not knowing and not being there when they were needed most. Everyone feels so sad knowing the pain that must have led to such a decision. And so the vicious cycle begins.
Suicide is not something you ever imagine touching your life. As I look back and remember, this is the fourth time in my 56 years. Four is way too many. Too many lives lost, too many lives impacted, too many people left behind to wrestle with the beast that gives no answers.
Sadly, we mourn the loss of a friend who was overwhelmed by life. I am so thankful for every little trite moment of my life. Thankful for all the love I’ve experienced during the hard times in my life. Thankful for the love of so many family members and friends that held me up when times got tough.
I honor those who could not see a future and chose to end their life. We loved you so much. We miss you and cry for you still. You were crippled by so much pain you could not see a way out. All of us wish we could have been there. We wish we had said something that would have made a difference. We wish we could have held you as you wept. We wish you could have found a different answer, a different way. But we weren’t there and you felt this was the only choice. It makes us so devastatingly sad.
I pray for the friends and family left to forever search for answers and never find them. The search is one of the ugly legacies of suicide.
Our world is now and forever different without you in it. We miss you and we will always wonder why. A little piece of us died with you because you had a spark that lit a part of us up in a very big way.
If only you could have seen it.