“How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?”
I recently returned to the Terry Pratchet novel Night Watch, the first novel I read in the Discworld series. There is a song in the book referencing an instance of bravery and sorrow at who won’t be around to sing it later. That, and it being September, gave me pause to recall Sir Terry’s decision of assisted suicide after being diagnosed with dementia. He didn’t make it lightly or consenting without a struggle, however. If he lived long enough that he was losing his mind, he would travel to a country that legalized the act. The thought of what could be years of pain and emotional trauma to his lived ones was unbearable. I can’t accept suicide, but I respect his decision, as it was made with a clear mind. Respect is not the same as comprehension of making such a decision. I do not consider myself a suicide survivor, although I had passed the planning stage and was ready to end my life. Sir Terry passed this year, apparently peaceful and naturally. I never knew him, but the news was heartbreaking.
The preceding was a long way around to saying that death upsets me, no matter how tenuous the connection. A suicide will particularly rattle me. Robin William’s death was devastating to me for both of these reasons. That was only a sampling of what was to come. A few weeks after Robin’s death was reported, I noticed increasingly alarming posts on Facebook. I didn’t feel a particular sense of dread, but people I love were obviously in pain. I asked about it and was informed that we lost one of our brothers. We weren’t related, but adopted each other as family. Misfits, Goths, punks, and…me, I suppose. Odd man out. That’s how we met, my brother and I. We were the black sheep at a family gathering. I was there because of his cousin, and he was there under duress, I think. Neither of us were comfortable, so the oddballs talked. It was several years before we routinely hung out together, but it was the right kind of camaraderie in the crew we ran with. Good people.
Brother had gone through several phases: grunge, goth, and bike fanatic, among others. He was difficult for everyone to understand or love, but the majority did and continue to do so. We think of him often and still occasionally remind one another to be like him rather than normal. Goddamn, if I could only hear him laugh.
Going further back, another friend also took his life, but slowly. From one day to the next was hard. He told me that sometimes it took a fifth of bourbon for him to sleep. I was told there was more than alcohol in his system when the collision occurred. I don’t know for certain. What I do know is there were so many signs he wasn’t well and I caught none of them. The sad eyes, or the note in his voice when saying he can’t go on like this. Years later I heard the same note in mine. Plaintiff words, spoken from the heart, and all but a surrender. Maybe that was part of why he was such an important person to me: we understood. I was told in the back room of the store that he was gone. That was the most inwardly and emotionally violent breakdown I have ever experienced.
Several weeks ago I had to radio in a reported suicide. People around here don’t talk about it much, or very loudly, but jumpers happen. I have a vivid imagination, regrettably. My position leaves little doubt that I would ever be called on to work such an incident thankfully.
I have heard the reference that suicide is selfish because of the harm one does to their loved ones and the responders who are dispatched. Typically this is said by someone who has never been so desperate as that. Being absent of feeling or a connection to others, although the pain and misery never leave. Feeling so empty and unable to accept hope is possible, leading to need to escape what is a living hell and the ceaseless torment that accompanies it. Or, more importantly, the desire to stop being a burden to your loved ones. The fact that you exist is painful to than, certainly, so the best thing is you remove yourself from their lives and they will be better for it. Shit you not. That’s a fairly typical thought as I understand.
Suicide is not selfish. It is pain. Pain for the intended, but also for those connected to them. It isn’t a hurt that goes away. I’ve lied to loved ones by saying the pain of losing a loved one will lessen with time. I regret saying it, but it seems to help in the short term. Should I hear that you have left like that, it will affect me as well. If you are reading this and are in danger, please reach out to people who can help. A medical professional, a loved one, or even an anonymous contact on the internet, somewhere that you can hear compassionate voices. Compassion costs nothing and is the best gift a body can give. If you’re still reading this, even if we never meet, I don’t want you to leave like that. You’ll be missed. Love to you.
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