This is the post that blocked me. The post that didn't want to be written but that wouldn't let me write anything else until it HAD been written. Rarely have I felt so utterly uninspired.
This post is about suicide and what it leaves behind. And about what it doesn't leave behind.
"A brave man once requested me, to answer questions that are key, is it to be or not to be, and I replied 'oh, why ask me?'"
(Suicide is Painless, Johnny Mandel)
I have no answers, only questions. Please don't ask me.
Apparently the lyrics to the song "Suicide is Painless" were written by a 14-year-old.
The story goes he was tasked to write the song for the movie M*A*S*H, and told only that it must carry the name "Suicide Is Painless" and be humorous.
It's been said it took him about 5 minutes to write the song.
His father was the original movie's director.
And that's the mystery behind one of the most melancholy songs of all time.
Rather anti-climatic isn't it?
Much like suicide itself I guess.
Years of pain, suffering, and tortuous rumination culminating at the bottom of one big, black, empty, unromantic, anti-climatic hole. Nothing left in the wake but questions.
- "Surely there had to be more to it?"
- "There was some greater meaning behind it all, right?"
- "A legacy has to be more than a self-inflicted bullet hole or a final agonized breath, doesn't it?"
Those are just some of the questions that have plagued me for the last year.
I've spent the last year experiencing sporadic moments of overwhelming and gut-wrenching pain, wondering which signs I overlooked, which moments I neglected, which opportunities I missed.
I've spent the last year feeling guilty about feeling so betrayed; I've spent the last year feeling like I have no right to these feelings.
Because he wasn't closest to me. He had many buddies who were much closer. He had life-long friends. He had a beautiful loving wife. He had the most beautiful, amazing, loving, lovable daughters. He had brothers and parents who loved him so very much.
When he died, I hadn't seen him in almost a year. We lived thousands of miles apart. I can't say I ever felt I missed him, but I can honestly say that it was impossible to think about him or mention his name without wishing he were around.
He was just a great great friend. He was just the guy who managed to light up any room he walked into. He was just the guy who always made time for everybody else. He was just the husband we'd all tell our husbands to look to for inspiration. He was just the most amazing dad. He was just a great human being.
None of those equated to owing me a damned thing. Yet I felt the treachery in his act as though it had been meant for me alone.
I'm starting to forgive myself for feeling betrayed. I'm starting to feel less guilty about the ache ... the first little while, I was ashamed to admit to it. How could I complain of the pain in the face of his wife and daughters? How could I burden his mother with my tears? How callous to think I should deserve to grieve him.
I think I'm not the only one who's felt it. I think all of us who loved him have felt guilty about missing him so much. It's almost like we shouldn't have the right.
I think we've all wanted to lash out at him, but felt that would be unfair when he'd already obviously been suffering so much.
I think we've all wondered at some point if there was ever anything we did or said that drove him to it, if there was ever one small act on our part that could have stopped him. And I think all of us have prayed that the answer to both those questions is "nothing".
These are the pains withheld ... the ones that wouldn't be laid to rest until they'd been acknowledged.
I've spent the last two days wondering if I could somehow be inspired to write something meaningful about suicide. I was hoping that by doing so I might be able to bring comfort to three women I love so dearly. Maybe I could inject meaning into those final moments for them. Maybe I could conjure up a magical lyrical balm that would ease the pain, soothe the ache, remedy the ills.
I actually thought I could write something that would make things better.
I wish I could, but I can't.
I can't convince his daughters that he loved them. I can't convince his wife that she was his life. They know this already. They don't need me to tell them what they must never doubt.
I can't make them stronger in all of this. I can't make them want to carry on. Their spirit, their courage, their bond, their love and their resilience have already far exceeded any tenacity I could ever hope to instill in them.
Ironically, all I can do is look to them for inspiration.
And maybe let them know that after a year I can finally say I'm sad, I'm mad and I'm glad. I guess I've finally abandoned the futility of wondering about the last moment. I guess I've figured out that whatever the reasons for suicide, there are no real answers. Or more precisely, no answers that really matter. And I guess I could tell them that I know that what really counts is the lifetime of loving, praying, giving, living, and learning that preceded that last moment.
That's what's left behind.
No questions asked.
P.S. To my three ladies, I love you. More than you will ever know.