Here I am. But she is not.
When 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.
In a single month–June, 2018, to be exact–The demonic scourge of suicide was unleashed, claiming the lives of two high profile creatives. Gifted, desperate, despondent souls. 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; their lives were deeply entwined.
When L. called about D’s death at her own hands, I collapsed in a puddle on the floor then cried off and on for about two days. A week later I flew South from Seattle to be with my sister, walking with her through the aftermath of sorting out D’s sordid state of affairs, as she was estranged from her siblings and had no surviving husband or children.
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 met for a birthday lunch) that I/we would not turn a deaf ear, but pursue the conversation and linger over “tell me more” and “oh, why is that?”
When we hear someone is “just hanging on,” we need to push our way into the dark and contend for the light when friends are in a pit.
In the days after her death, my sister and a friend found D’s last words and typed out wishes to remember her by. She had kept up her charade well; deep in a pit for a very long time, no one truly knew how deep it was or how despondent she felt. Her greatest concern was for her beloved macaw, Turbo, that he’d be re homed safely. (A task we attended to with great success, discovering that he was actually a she.)
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.
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.