Ken, my son who lived with me, killed himself the day after Christmas. I’m still in shock and disbelief. I’ll write more later..
Yesterday was your birthday, Scott. You would have been 50. Thinking today was the 10th, I’ve thought of you all day, trying to picture what you would have looked like and what you would be doing.
I can’t believe you’ve been gone 14 years! It doesn’t seem nearly that long.
You once told me that if you killed yourself, I’d get over it and go on and live a happy life. You were wrong, Scott. I haven’t been happy since you did that unthinkable act. Yes, I’ve gone on with my life. What else could I do? And there have been some moments of joy, not in living, but in nature.
I have not felt happiness in a long time.
Last Thursday, Beulah, one of my closest friends died unexpectedly. I’m still in shock. Then Connie, another close friend, was admitted to the hospital with clots in her lungs. Wednesday, your brother, Ken, found out he has a hole in his heart. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong with him.
I’m not so well myself.
All this makes me wonder about life, it’s purpose, and what happiness really means. And what difference any of it makes since it all ends and is repeated and ends again.
I resent it that we have to die, that we go through life with ambitions, dreams, desires, failures, accomplishments and then have to go and leave it all behind. We take it with us, as if we had not walked on this earth, breathed in the air, watched the grackle with the broken wing, read Mary Oliver or Thomas Merton, seen “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” three times or eaten that piece of cherry pie. Two hundred years from now, none of it will have mattered. Sometimes I think of those who lived hundreds of years ago and I honor them in my heart.
This day is almost over. I’m relieved. Next month, we have to get through the anniversary of John’s death. And so on. It seems that every month, there’s a hurdle to get over.
I’m trying very hard to find pleasure in something. To experience faith, and hope, and love. To enjoy giving while losing so much. To find a reason for it all.
I’ve been a giver all my life. What happened? The well has run dry.
Beulah, one of my closest friends, died unexpectedly Thursday. I’m still in shock. Skip, her husband, has been ill for several years and everyone thought he would go before Beulah. As a matter of fact, he’s been in ICU for over a week.
I don’t have details. Don’t know if she had a stroke or died of a heart attack or what. She was home alone. Her daughter found her.
Beulah was such a lovely, caring, upbeat person. When she walked into a room, the sun came with her. She worried about her husband so much and I think she must have neglected herself. She seemed well and always said she felt fine when I asked how she was. She was taking meds for hypertension, but all my friends do that, as do I. We talked about two weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about calling her. Procrastinating, as usual. I’ve done that so much, you’d think I’d learn. I feel such a void in my life.
I talked to Connie, another friend, today. She’s just been discharged from the hospital where she was being treated for a cluster of clots in her left lung. She’s on coumadin now.
And Ken, my son, is going tomorrow for a test to determine if he has an aortic anuerysm.
Beulah, bless her heart; I can just imagine, with Skip in the hospital, how she went back and forth to be with him, probably not eating right, getting too much salt, being stressed out because of his illness. I feel so bad for her. The world is not the same without her in it.
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I wish I had a strong faith to get me through. I’ll work it out. I always do, but I do have issues with death and loss and being alone. At my age, loss is inescapable. Always knocking at my door.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is on the TV tonight. Scott loved that movie. He watched it every year. I’m surprised at how just knowing its on fills me with dread. It’s been 13 years since Scott killed himself and I still can’t watch his favorite programs, look at his photos, his handwriting, anything that reminds me of him. He loved sizzlers, Seinfeld, Star Wars, roast, rice and gravy.
I often wonder what he would look like now, if he’d be married, if he’d have children. I loved him so much. I still can’t believe he’s gone. And I miss him.
I’ll be glad when Christmas is over. Next, I have to get through his birthday, January 9th. He’d be 49. The hurt never goes away.
The woman looking out the window is not me, but she could be me. I spend a lot of time looking out the window.
I cry every day. TV, poems, telephone conversations, everything makes me cry. Sad things, happy moments, but mostly beauty. There is so much beauty in the world. And it fills me with tears. The innocence of children, little acts of kindness between strangers, a loving heart, nature, the long suffering and loyalty of dogs and other animals, and the awful beauty of loss. Yes, loss, and what it does to us. Or, what we do with it. Loss changes people, makes us more patient, compassionate, understanding, loving.
But I cry so much! It bothers me sometimes. I remember when Henry, the man Mother married after Dad died, cried at a birthday party we gave him. Forrest, my husband, said, “Don’t be a baby.” It made me sad that he said such an unfeeling thing; And I hope Henry didn’t hear him. Having worked with the elderly, I knew, from experience, that older people tear up more easily than the young. There are exceptions, of course. One obvious reason for this, I think, is that by the time you reach those elder years, you’ve had countless losses and gone through many changes. And, I believe, we are also grieving our own coming deaths. Every time someone I care about dies, I feel a little closer to that day.
Tonight, watching Christmas in Rockefeller Center on TV, I had to change the channel. So many memories attached to the songs. Happier times, when we were all here enjoying the season together. I haven’t put up a tree since Scott died thirteen years ago. My only two grandchildren, both adopted, live in Connecticut; I live in Missouri. We don’t have much contact since John, my son (their dad} died. Sadly, Christmas and many other holidays, are just times for me to get through. Giving to others, especially the needy, helps, but, still, the heart of Christmas is missing for me. And many others.
This may seem like a contradiction to what I said about the elderly being compassionate, understanding and loving because of their losses. And I guess it is. Much of my life, and feelings, are contradictory. I’m trying to put it all together so I can feel whole again.
I had a cousin just a few months younger than me. Her name was Terry. We met 27 years ago when we both were 58. It’s a long story, but briefly, she lived in Kansas and had been looking for her mother for years; finally found us in Missouri, but her mother had passed away. I was thrilled to have her in my life.
She and her husband visited us a couple of times, and my husband and I drove to Kansas to see her. We talked on the phone and exchanged letters.
She was such a gift; we both lamented the fact that we lived so far from each other. I felt we had been cheated (she much more than I) for not knowing each other when we were younger. My dad’s family all lived close, within walking distance of one another. If we had known each other then, we would have been playmates, probably best friends. And then, after finally meeting, we still couldn’t see each other that often because of the distance, and, later, due to the fact that we both had physical problems that made traveling difficult.
Our contact has been less frequent the past few years, and I’ve been the one to call. Terry had been quite ill and on medication that left her drowsy, with slurred speech; I did most of the talking. Not a very rewarding exchange.
I was thinking about her today and realized it had been quite awhile since we talked. I decided to call her and was looking forward to hearing her voice. Her husband answered, told me she died last April. And now I regret that I didn’t call her sooner.
I’ve had that experience before. I called my best friend after my husband died and learned she had died months before. You’d think I would have learned by now to live as if today is the only day. To not let time grow between us.
But time seems to go so fast. And I think….tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes, and I let it slide by too And before I know it, weeks, months have passed. Nothing in life is so certain that we can take anything for granted.
I’m glad, and grateful, that my cousin and I were able to enjoy each other, if only briefly. If she hadn’t found us, I would never have known I had a cousin in Kansas. She enriched my life and she’s a part of me now.
I love you Terry. Thank you for the gift of you.
When I worked at Newington Veteran’s Hospital as a psychiatric nurse, one of my duties was to teach classes on suicide to medical personnel—nurses, interns, aides, and students. I informed them that those who were serious about ending their lives were often secretive about their intent. And that the male’s method of suicide was usually more lethal than the female’s. Guns or hanging vs. drugs or self-mutilation. I advised them of warning signs: withdrawal, change in personality, loss of interest in most activities, looking depressed, poor work or school performance, change in sleep patterns, alcohol/drug abuse, talking about death or suicide, careless in appearance.
Then my husband and I retired and moved from Connecticut to Missouri. Chris had separated from the navy, was married, living in Texas; Scott, divorced, was in the Air Force in California; Ken was working at a television station in Connecticut and John, married, a recent survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, was working as a computer analyst in Connecticut. Separated and scattered, we were all involved in our own interests. We communicated by phone, internet and regular mail.I took my retirement as an opportunity to seriously follow my life’s dream—writing. I took a few creative writing classes at a local university and then some online.After Scott separated from the Air Force, he lived with Forrest and me while pursuing a degree in computer science. Forrest became a master gardener and his interest turned to our yard. I spent my time writing poems. After graduation, Scott took a job at Hallmark in Kansas City.
About that time, a few physical problems I had worsened and I began thinking about the uncertainty of life. I started a memoir about me and our family for my sons to read after my death. I always regretted that I hadn’t asked my parents for more information about themselves. I know very little about my ancestors. A bonus, for me, in the writing was that going back and looking at my life in retrospect changed my perspective about me, the family and life in general.
I was involved in my writing project and welcoming John and his family who’d just arrived from Connecticut for a visit when a call came from Scott. He’d driven himself to a hospital in K C because he was suicidal. I knew he’d been depressed and had even overdosed (that’s another story for another time). A few months before his call, we’d brought him to Springfield and admitted him to a hospital here. He was discharged after a few days. Forrest, Scott and I then looked for a house for him here. I wanted him close so I could keep an eye on him. I gave earnest money on a house he liked, but he went back to KC and as far as I knew, he was doing fine. I was keeping in contact with him closely by email and by phone and had no idea he was suicidal.
After the call came, Forrest and I drove to KC to see Scott in the hospital. We boarded his cats and took care of some other business for him, stayed overnight and saw him again next morning before returning to Springfield to be with John and his family. I’d planned on returning to KC after John left, but a few days later, Scott was discharged from the hospital and went back to work. I thought he was doing fine. Two days before he shot himself, he talked to me about plans he had for buying a house and the new vet he’d found for his cats.
Thirteen years later, I still can’t watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Scott’s favorite Christmas holiday movie, look at his photos, or think about him for too long. I haven’t come to grips with the fact that I, who should have known, did not recognize the warning signs that my son was in trouble. I should have been more alert, not so distracted by my writing and other things that were going on. I’ve learned, too late, to treat each moment as if it was the only moment, and to give it all I have.
After Scott’s death, my heart couldn’t finish my memoir. Sadly, instead, I published a memoir in memory of Scott, and, later, one for John who died of colon cancer.
How beautiful and sacred life is! And how fragile! We can’t afford to be careless. I must live with my inattention for the rest of my life and suffer the resulting heartache.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (tamu.uloop.com)