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..
I walked forty steps with my walker today. Breathless afterwards and had to rest, but it’s a beginning.
The past few weeks have been brutal, physically. Today was more of the same but I decided I can’t go on like this. I have to do something! So I pushed through discomfort and fear, clenched my teeth and just DID it! Jenny walking beside me. The sun is shining, the weather is mild. I’m alive again!
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.
About the only thing that motivates me these days is my girl, JennyPenny. I’m lucky to have her. Otherwise I’d probably just sit here and rot. But she has to be fed twice a day, watered, let out about every hour or two and get her medicine twice a day. Which means I have to get off my duff, if only to transfer from bed to wheelchair, and move myself around. Yes, that’s right. Bed! Embarrassing as it is, I spend most of my day on my bed. Reclining, with legs stretched out, back supported by pillows.
And that has got to change. The longer I stay here in my bedroom, the more strength I lose and the weaker I get. I notice my legs aren’t as sturdy as they used to be. I’m losing muscle. Just a small amount of exercise leaves me weak and breathless. If I stand longer than a few minutes, my blood pressure goes up too high. Then I feel light headed and faint. It’s a viscous circle. The longer I stay on my bed, the worse I feel and the worse I feel, the more I want to operate from my bedhome.
What’s operating most in this viscous circle is fear. The physical problems, along with the consequences of not pushing myself, are real. And scary.
I know I could do better. I’ve got to just DO it! Start slow and build up. I don’t know what I can regain of what I’ve lost, but something, I’m sure. Yesterday I walked back and forth in the sun room about four or five times holding onto a walker and felt no ill effects. I’ve got to do this every day. And I’ve got to move out of my bedroom into the sunroom.
It’s bright and pleasant there, with a view of the yard, my neighbors, and vehicles going down Luster. There’s a world out there I don’t want to lose contact with.
My love for the bedroom started when I was a small child and sick. I spent much time in bed reading, writing, dreaming. Even when I wasn’t sick, I could hide out in my room from my brothers, who loved to tease me. I was the only girl in the family until after I graduated from high school. After I had Rheumatic Fever and a mitral valve prolapse, Mother became very protective of me. She wouldn’t let me do heavy chores or go for long walks. Once, in high school, when my classmates went on a hike, I sat in the back of a pickup which was transporting the picnic supplies to our destination. The message was: I was different from everyone else, weaker, not quite up to snuff. It’s a concept I’ve had to fight all my life and am still having problems with in my old age.
But now, I have to find the strength and courage to change my concept of myself and to be more active, to live a normal life.
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)
She had her first grooming since her move to Missouri. I hired a woman who drives a mobile unit and does the transformation in the driveway. This week, she had to park in front of the house as there were other vehicles in the drive.
Jenny was at the door in a hour, looking like a little skinned rat! My sweet girl has been hiding under a huge fur ball and now she’s clipped almost bare. The top knot too short and her ear hair cut in half! Her beautiful, long, lovely ears! I wish I knew how to transfer photos from my iphone to wordpress, but, sigh, I haven’t learned that yet. I hope the top knot and ears will grow out again.
She’s still sweet and lovable and my best friend. She follows me everywhere I go. This minute, as I type these words, she’s snuggled up against me, sleeping.
It’s 7:00 P.M. Ken’s been gone since 3:00. I keep the TV on to drown out the silence. I have such a hard time being alone. I loved it when I worked three jobs and had family coming and going. Then, time alone was rare and precious. Now, I have entirely too much of it. The warmth of my loyal companion is relaxing and soothing. I’m so grateful she’s in my life.