When the world makes no sense and life is way too big and out of control, people turn to activities that bring comfort, actions that bring peace to the chaos. It helps to cope with wrapping up the crazy. Some people cook, other people paint, the fit folks run. Me, I process my world by wrapping it up with words, letters like so many building blocks to support me, defining a space with syllables and sound. Picking up my pen(cil) is a way to pray on the page, pouring out my thoughts to the King, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 45.
The demonic scourge of suicide was recently unleashed in our fair land, claiming the lives of two high profile creatives. I realize that depression and mental imbalances played a large part in those actions, and yes, ‘demonic’ is a strong word. However, it also wraps up well the way the father of lies convinced gifted, desperate, despondent souls to take their own lives. One week prior to that, before Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain each died at their own hands, my friend D. also took her life.
Her actions did not make the news, no one tweeted about it, there will be no public funeral. She was just my friend from high school, someone I’d known for 50 years. We double dated to the prom, I escaped my siblings by cooking in her mother’s kitchen when we slumber partied on the weekends. We were in each others’ weddings; those kinds of friends. Since we had each gone our married and geographically separated ways, my sister L. had become one of her dearest confidants and neighbors with their lives deeply entwined. Each year the three of us would reconvene for a birthday lunch when I came to visit. I looked forward to this every summer.
This summer is different.
When my sister called about D’s death at her own hands, I collapsed in a puddle on the floor and cried off and on for about two days, the tears barely held at bay behind my heavy eyelids. I hurriedly pieced together plans to fly South from Seattle to be with my sister, offering my support as she walked through the aftermath of sorting out D’s sordid state of affairs. She was sadly estranged from her two remaining family members and had no spouse or children, no family but her close friends. My sister was part executor of her estate, part administrator, 100% devastated; it has been brutally difficult.
During our week together, in between the heights of laughter and depths of our sobs, I was reminded more than once of the truth in John Chapter 12. “Unless a kernel of wheat dies, it stands alone, but i f it dies, it bears much fruit.”
There has been a glimmer of growth in my own awareness, a sort of ‘snap-out-of-it!’ revelation. That is, when someone says they’re “just hanging on”, as D did two years ago when we departed from our birthday lunch, that I/we would not turn a deaf ear, but pursue those comments and search for the root of the pain. That we would listen between the lines and ask, “What do you mean, you’re just hanging on? What’s up?”
That we would push our way into the dark and contend for the light when friends are in a pit, perhaps rendering a reply in the middle of their desperation. There is no guarantee of a response, but we need to ask.
Hours after her death, messages were discovered, D’s typed out wishes and last words. What to do with her bird, who should have her jewelry and how very, very sorry she was for leaving the world in this way. She had been in a pit for a long time and no one knew how deep it was or how despondent she felt.
My prayer these days is that my dear friend’s death will be a seed that takes root, grows well and bears fruit–the fruit of life and renewal in my sister, myself and our small circle of friends. That suicide will not have the last say; in fact, it might be a kind of salvation for others as we #getwoke. That D’s death will lead to new life in other ways in those who remain.
For now and in the days and weeks to come, words are all I have. But I remember it is God’s word that m a d e the world, and His power to bring life out of death gives me hope.
I’m clinging to that.
I posted an edited version of these thoughts over on my Poetry page earlier last week, under #notapoem.