It was January 16, 2004. I remember like it was yesterday. I was woken from a sound sleep just after 11 pm. We didn’t answer the phone. Instead we screened the call wondering who would be calling at that late hour? The screaming pain and agony in the voice on the recorder I knew instantly, it was my mom’s husband. I had long known this day would come, and now it was here. A sort of numbness ensued, perhaps a little bit of shock. I took a few moments to collect myself before returning his call. He was in near hysterics and there was little I could do but be the calm soft voice on the other end of the phone. And so I was.. shelving whatever I did or didn’t feel because right then his pain was more important than mine. There would be subsequent conversations, albeit not many, we were never close. In fact it would be inaccurate to say that we even liked each other. We got along.. because of my mom.
This was how I learned of my mother’s successful suicide. She shot herself in the head in the shower and her husband found her. She and I spoke about it many times over the years. I always knew that one day she would actually do it. She talked to him too, but he couldn’t allow himself to believe her even though he knew better than anyone how much she suffered. She carried that gun with her everywhere. It made me so nervous when we would go to lunch because I knew the gun was in her backpack. She said it made her feel safe. I knew that she needed it close for the moment she decided to go through with it. I always asked her if she could just call or send me something to say good-bye? She would tell me softly what I already knew to be true, that there wouldn’t be time once she got up the courage. So I accepted long ago that one day this call would come.
Now you are all probably wondering why I just accepted this and didn’t try to do anything about it? Well I did try to do something about it, but the truth of the matter is there are some things that cannot be fixed. My mother did not just give up on life. She suffered most of her life before making up her mind, and even then she struggled with it. Not the act of doing it, but the pain that doing it would cause others. She had been in therapy for as long as I can remember. She had been to a multitude of doctors and had too many tests to count, some of them quite invasive; even exploratory surgery at one point. She had some sort of stomach issue that would cause her to vomit violently nightly from the high amounts of accumulated acid. Her doctors never could figure out what was wrong with her or cure it. It was so violent on one occasion that she gave herself whiplash while vomiting. She suffered horribly with allergies and a lot of the time was unable to leave the house because they were so severe. She had deep inner demons that she could not face despite all the therapy and soul searching. Sometimes.. there are things in life that we just can’t get past.
Was she mentally ill? She suffered from depression, and she was definitely OCD. She tried many anti-depressants but could not deal with the side effects of any of them. For many of us, myself included, the side effects of the medicines that take away whatever issues we are dealing with can leave us in such a state that one has to ask, what’s the point? For those of you who take such medications, I know you know exactly what I mean. I have hyper sensitivities and a myriad of other things I deal with. There are medicines that would make that part of my life so much easier, but sadly, for me, they also take away all the parts that make life worth living, my passion, my creativity, all the good stuff. So I choose to find other ways to deal with said issues; but it is my choice; just as it was my mother’s choice not to. I support that choice, and I am glad she is finally at peace. I do wish she could have found that peace here in life, but for her that did not seem possible. How selfish would it be of me to expect her to continue to suffer just so I can have her around??? If you ask me.. that’s pretty damn selfish. That said, it does hurt. I think I am still grieving in part even today. There are special times and moments that we will not get to share. She did not get to attend my wedding. I like to believe that she was there in spirit and that she was very happy. I also believe that her essence lives on, and so leaving this place was merely a transition. I feel she is still with me when she wants to be, but mostly I know she no longer suffers, and that means everything to me.
I do think we should exhaust every avenue before giving up. Generally speaking when people attempt suicide it is a cry for help, and help should be there for those crying out. I did everything I could to help my mom but in the end I had to respect her decision. I believe we should all have the option of assisted suicide, especially if we are terminal, but even if our chances just aren’t good and that’s the choice we make. Have a party and say goodbye to our loved ones, wouldn’t that be so much nicer? Lastly, we cannot know anyone else’s pain, and it is not ours to decide whether or not they can deal with it, whether it is emotional or physical, or like in my mother’s case both. Compassion and understanding are always in order.