The first thing that I remember feeling after a family member tried to commit* suicide was betrayal.
The second was confusion.
Likewise, the first man whom I knew that I could love - he too, tried suicide. But he was successful. Whatever that means. And upon hearing the news (for I had moved provinces by this time), I again felt confusion. And loss.
And this - this is the wake that is left behind by those too in pain to live any longer.
I don’t have answers. I do have depression, sometimes, in myself. And likewise in those with whom I have lived. In both family and friends. And because of this I know: it’s never easy, this trying to live as if the Great Sadness** didn’t exist. Because it does, some days. Some years.
It’s exhausting. Comparable, I believe, to having a large chunk of concrete unwillingly strapped to your back.
And while it has been years, I still miss my friend. He, thankfully - once and awhile - shows up, in and out of my dreams.*** And then I get to say hello again.
He was a good man, delightful and quick on his feet. Oh those feet! He was one to wear pants that were too short - floods, in fact - and then those white athletic socks peeking out from underneath. Ha! Those dang white socks. Always. This man, smarter than most, he could have been an academic, having come from such a high-achieving family. But as we now know, even accomplished families have mental health issues. So instead he worked at a group home, and taking care of a handful disabled men.
He was kind.
He was so kind.
And here I must tell you that he was also gay.**** Oh I only suspect this now, years later; I was not so aware then. And so, despite my willingness to love him and even, even! entertain my first-ever desire for matrimony - well.
Well. This shows me again and again and again with all these emotions that the only things we - I - can offer to people working so hard to just live is grace. Compassion. Perhaps my own tears.
But I never went to his funeral.*****
To those dear among us who have tried and those who have succeeded, I do not have understanding. And this is for no other reason than I don’t understand it. I didn’t understand it when I was twelve and dealing with a sibling’s attempt. And I don’t understand it now.
As someone who has fought difficulty to live, with surgeries and decisions and years on dialysis. With all those dang transplants - I don’t get taking one’s life. I don’t. But hear me out: I do get the desire. It was not enough years ago that I - being unable to walk after a failed lymphocele surgery and a neph tube sticking out of me and a recent third oh-my-good-god-how-many-kidneys-can-they-stick-in-me transplant that just wouldn’t do its job that I too, did not want to continue. I was done.
And on one night in particular, after another round of heavy medical news that week, I recall it: me on the edge of our unmade bed, in underwear and a t-shirt, and a head of pillow-matted hair. Our then two year old son asleep in the room across the hall. Our two-year-old son, barely out of toddler hood. And God help me but with a neph tube dangling down to the floor, hospital bandages criss-crossing my abdomen and such an exhaustion - then, a deep grief, I believe - I thought of it. There, I cried out begging my Other Half to book us a flight to Switzerland,****** so that I could just stop trying to live.
Of myself, I was done. And that night, with him on the bed next to me, I wailed and weeped and pleaded. I am ashamed to admit now that I begged. But I did. It - trying to remain alive - had all just become too much.
Oh, yes, I get the desire.
I get the desire. But I don’t get the action.
And that’s okay. It’s okay for me not to get it. To not understand; to be confused about all of this; it is not mine to have answers. Answers rarely work, anyway. They are often, in fact, dogmatic and hard and well, unsympathetic; at best, a catechism, a well-poured chunk of cement offered onto the back of the already tired.
So may you rest in peace Ms. Kate Spade. And you too, Mr. Anthony Bourdain. Rest in peace, my friend from so many years ago. Whom I loved. May you find your bearing, up there. May you (finally) find pants that fit.
*Surely we can think of a better word to use rather than “commit” suicide, as if it were a crime. A less punitive-sounding phrase perhaps?
**in the debate regarding what depression is, many have come to state (and clarify) that it is not “just” a sadness. I would disagree. Like any sorrow, there are varying levels to be felt, carried. And some are longer in duration, more deeply felt. So no, depression is not “just” a sadness. But it can be.
***I’m not sure how or why he shows up, but he does. Upon occasion. And there, he is a man with a smile once more.
****this is not confirmed. It’s just a suspicion, now later on, of which I wonder. For while he did struggle with mental health issues, he likewise came from a family and participated in a church community where, at the time, any admittance of being outside of the traditional heterosexual box would have meant banishment. I can’t help but wonder if this too - this threat of being pushed out - was likewise a catalyst for his seeing death as a better option than life.
*****I never went to his funeral. Why? I am not sure. I haven’t figured that one out yet. I can give reasonable excuses, such as it would’ve cost too much to fly there and back, that I had not been in touch with him for years, that at the time I was on dialysis and would’ve needed to arrange and order supplies to be delivered to the destination, for which an advance of three weeks is required. All of these are good excuses. And valid. But still, I wish that I had gone.
******Switzerland: a country where the law on euthanasia is more tolerant.