Do you know anyone who has committed suicide? I do. I wish that I could say no to that question because it is a terrible, terrible thing to have to admit. I remember the phone call. I remember what I was doing, wearing and thinking right before I answered. I was surprised, but happy when the name came across my phone screen. I thought that I was going to have a conversation about what had been going on and hopefully they were calling to share some good news. That was not the case. When I answered, and there was a pause followed by, “I have some bad news,” I knew that my life was about to change forever, and I was right.
I slid down the wall and sat on the floor listening. I wasn’t told that day that the death was due to suicide, but a part of me knew. Not that I suspected it or that there had been signs, but something allowed me to understand. I say something, but I should just call it what it is and say spirit. I know that if a person wants to do something, there is usually very little that can be done to prevent it, but the ones left behind will always wonder, “what if,” and I am no different. It would be months before I was told what happened. I made a promise to never tell another soul and I have not, I will not.
Before that incident, a friend of mine lost a child. Initially she said that the child died in a car accident. Every year on the anniversary of her daughter’s death, I would try to make sure to reach out to her and see if she wanted to do something or go somewhere. I hoped that it would ease her pain. Each year she would say no, but one year she said yes. I was excited and nervous. I asked what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to go sit at the beach. Cool. I can do that. I packed up some food and wine and blankets and cards and we went to the beach. We sat there for hours and didn’t say a word. We snacked on cheese and sipped on wine and watched the water and the people. Then she said it. “I never thought that I would tell anyone, but I’m going to tell you. Every year you call me, and you check on me and you invite me out. In the beginning others checked on me, but they fell off. You never fell off. Thank you.” I held her hand and told her she was welcome. I had not lost a child, but I knew women who had, and I saw how it changed them. I saw how the light behind their eyes got a little darker. I didn’t know how to fix them, but I could offer time. I had time, I could give it. “She didn’t die in a car accident.” My mouth fell open and my heart fell to my stomach. I knew that I was about to hear something that I didn’t want to hear. I got chills. It was mid-July and I had chills. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle whatever I was about to be told. I held both of her hands now and I looked in her face. I saw the truth in her eyes, “she did it to herself. She took some pills and drunk some beer and she never woke up” no words. Just tears. I am supposed to be comforting her, but she is comforting me. I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t want to know. I was ok with what I thought was the truth. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. We said nothing. We sat on that blanket until we had to leave. In the car there were few words. When we got back to my house, where her car was parked we sat and we talked. She told me that the only other people who knew the truth was her ex-husband, her mother and the paramedics that came to get her daughter. There was a car accident, but not a deadly one. She told me that she didn’t know how to tell people that her child would rather die than to be her child. She said she knew now that it really had nothing to do with her, but as a mother, we always think that failures are our fault. People point fingers at us and think that we should have done something, said something, been there every waking minute. I’m sure that if she thought that was necessary she would have done all of those things. Her child had never said anything about committing suicide and up to that moment everything was going seemingly well. The car accident, a fender bender that was going to be taken care of by the other driver’s insurance was a result of a bad break-up and her leaving a place in a hurry to get as far away as fast as she could. The break up was the reason for the suicide. Love is a funny thing we say, but often it is not laughable. No one was laughing about the break-up. A woman betrayed by a man and a person she called a friend. Those are no laughing matters. We wish that these feelings could be cried away, screamed away, loved away. Sometimes they can be, but sometimes it is too much, and the edge is slippery, and we fall.
Suicide is a real and final thing. It is devastating in all of its aspects. Some believe that it is a selfish act and others believe that you can never get into heaven if you do it. I don’t believe either. It doesn’t matter what I believe. What matters is what the person thinking about this believes. I don’t want to know the turmoil a mind or heart has to be in, to just want to let go and die. Not sleep it off and start over tomorrow. Not change their cell phone number and never talk to you again, not move to another state and skip saying good-bye, but die. Dying is final. It is a final thing that cannot be changed.
With Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams before them deciding just to end it all while we look on thinking, “what could have been so hard about their lives?” might push an average person closer to the edge. Don’t do it. Everyone has their shit. Everyone has their pain, disappointment, failures, successes, depression, or whatever vice is holding on and not seeming to let you go. We all have something. Please, please, please, if you are now or have ever thought about suicide talk to someone. No matter what it is that you are going through you are not the only one. You will never know that if you never say anything. It is always hard to ask for help, but once you do the relief is always worth it. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24-hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
I pray your strength and I ask that you pray mine.