This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time and had no idea how to start. It’s about a subject that is sensitive and personal. It’s about Suicide. I personally know a lot of people who have chosen to end their lives.
Everyone had different circumstances and methods – some had Aids related dementia, some were chronically ill, others were clinically depressed (despairing in a darkness that no light could reach), some were a complete shock and some were unfortunately hinted at and worried about before the actual deed was carried out.
When my mother’s partner Fred was experiencing a soul crushing depression three years ago, I wrote to him and asked him to live for his son and grandchildren – telling him that suicide was not a legacy he would want to leave his grandsons. Advice I gave from personal experience.
I was 25 when my maternal grandfather hung himself. In his goodbye note he misspelled my mother’s name. He took his life on his wedding anniversary and his body was the first thing that my grandmother saw when she came downstairs to make breakfast. Every night after that, for months, I would wake up at 4am with heart palpitations – hyperventilating, unable to breathe. Only a trip to the emergency room assured me that yes, my heart was strong and I wasn’t dying of a heart attack. Just suffering from an overly sensitive nervous system. I wish I had known then about grief and how it can manifest in the body and how we can experience the phantom symptoms of our loved one’s illness or death.
I have no wise insight into why people commit suicide or how I could have prevented anyone I knew from taking their own lives. I do know that the people I knew were in a personal hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I also know that I can’t force anyone to want to live. It doesn’t work that way although I wish it did.
Fred hung himself from the garage rafters and my mother found him as she pressed the garage door opener, returning from church. In his note he asked for her forgiveness. He ended his story.
It’s been a tough year for me and I haven’t felt able to talk about it much. Mostly because it didn’t feel like my story to tell. My daughter has been struggling with anxiety and depression. At times she’s struggled with wondering what the point of it all is. This has rocked me to my core. She is my heart. My moon. My love. My life. I’ve been stretched to my parenting limits and stretched some more. The gifts that have come from these several months are still unfolding but already I am grateful to experience first-hand the tenderness of strangers, the circle of tribe, the ties of blood, the howling fierceness of mother love, the tempering of my will, and the sweet grace of surreneder.
The semi-colon movement was brought to my attention by my husband. The movement is for anyone who has ever self-harmed or has tried to commit suicide. On April 16 they are asking people to draw a semi-colon on their body in solidarity with them. A writer uses a semicolon to continue a sentence and uses a period to finish one. The semicolon is a sign of hope. The sentence doesn’t end here.
PS – the picture above is my new tattoo I got today. Whenever it started to hurt, I thought of my girl and all the pain she’s been through and put all my love for her back into the ink. The story doesn’t end here…
For Bill, Joe, Ives, John, Sarah, Frank, Stephen, Tim, Mary, Fred, and everyone everywhere who just couldn’t bear one more day and all those who loved them.