I didn’t know it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. Didn’t even know it existed. Seems like something I’d know, doesn’t it?
So sue me.
I’m aware of the Out of Darkness overnight walk. My son and I occasionally say, Next year we’ll do it, but we don’t. I don’t know why.
Yes, I do. It’s still too painful. Nearly 20 years later.
Here’s my down and dirty. Every day is suicide prevention day for me. Every single day. I have a suicide magnifying glass and when I gaze through it I search for the possibility, the signs. Use my personal suicide potential grading scale. I don’t even know the moment when I pull it out of my handbag. Then I become aware and struggle to set it down. To be sensitive where I need to be, and let others do the work they’re trained to do. The professionals. I go back to healing when I thought I was already.
Suicide has touched my life multiple times starting as a young adult with the death of a childhood friend, creeping closer to claim my grandmother, and finally my husband. Each time I was caught unaware. I had overlooked someone on the edge who blended in with the crowd; one step backward and over the edge they went.
Ironic how it happens. They take the leap and leave us in the abyss.
I was left to examine the clues they may have left that went unnoticed. Now I inadvertently seek answers in the faces of strangers even when I know there are none.
I have become a very meticulous observer. Because every day is a suicide prevention day for me. Whether I like it or not. Like a reflex. I search.
I have a once upon a time I was reminded of recently when writing to a friend. I told her about a boss of long ago. I called him Opus Grumpus. Brilliant man. Cranky. Shoot, cantankerous, more like it.
But not unlike a toasted campfire marshmallow. The too toasted kind, black and crunchy on the outside. Some people take a look and say, that’s burned, I don’t want that one and some of us know that inside a marshmallow like that is nothing but sweet, sweet goodness daring someone to take a bite. He had a way of scaring people off when he wanted and I always thought it was some kind of litmus test. Those who refused to be intimidated and took a bite earned his respect, kindness and loyalty.
I shared an office with Opus Grumpus. He hated returning calls and sorting through mail and messages. In order to transport himself elsewhere when dealing with the mundane, he’d whistle. And he could whistle. On the inhale and exhale without missing a note or changing strength or pitch. He did a fine Mozart’s 40th G Minor symphony. I told you. He could whistle.
When he would notice a sigh from me, a deep exhalation signaling that I was off in the wilderness massaging my regrets, guilt and grief, he would say, “Were you the worst wife ever? Well, for argument sake, let’s say you were. That’s why they invented divorce.”
What a gift. In his curmudgeonly manner, straight to the heart of the matter.
So today I write this note to me and all those like me who have lived the tragedy of suicide and live it still in ways small and large that have become part of our rituals.
We didn’t have control, we’re not that powerful. It’s a diseased choice. We walk on this side of Sanity Street. It may border the other neighborhood but we don’t live there. It’s not where our house is. Our road maps don’t work over there.
We can’t make order of their chaos or sense of their non-sense because though the streets may be close in geography, they’re completely different sections of town. We can’t understand unless we cross the border. And there’s no sense in that, is there? We know where it leads.
If you find yourself in an endless loop on a path to nowhere looking again for the answer you’re sure this time you’ll find hidden in the hedgerow, make a sharp turn to the healthiest people and places you know. Find a professional, or friend that knows one. Stake a claim for your life. Honor those lost by using every available tool to grow strong again.
We celebrate their lives by living ours extraordinarily. We add meaning to their lives by walking forward in grace and getting healthy.