It’s 5 days from the 6thanniversary and it feels like the world is throwing reminders at me that my story isn’t “that” different from millions around the world who have lost someone to suicide. Like the families of Anthony Bordain and Kate Spade, and the millions of others out who have lost someone to suicide, there still isn’t a day I don’t miss her, and there isn’t a month where she does not grace or torment my dreams. There isn’t a Budweiser, country music song, rodeo, dog, poutine, candle, piece of chocolate, race car, or a million other things that don’t remind me of her. She will never leave me, even though I’ll never hug her again on this earth, unless you count those comforting embraces of her headstone on Grey Mountain. I don’t think I will ever be able to shake the guilt in my subconscious with the understanding in my rational brain; I don’t think the word suicide will ever not make my heart sink lower than most.
My biggest fear has always been that mama is going to be forgotten. Even three days ago, as I learned that Petro, her beautiful black lab went to join her in heaven, my heart sank. Not because it was pre-mature or that I felt guilty about not seeing Petro more, but because her dogs were such a part of her, that their presence on earth makes it feel like she’s still here. In some ways her dogs knew her better than any of us ever could. I think that’s the crazy thing about dogs, they get to know you better than any human ever could; there is no hiding your feelings because they feel them, they don’t need to see them or hear them, but they can feel them.
I often think about the last moments of her life. I picture it when I feel safe enough to endure the pain, and the one thing that always brings me hope is that she wasn’t alone. She had the three of them: Petro, Diesel, and Ethyl. They were with her when she decided she could not take any more pain. They truly were her best friends. She could open the door for them to enter into her agony and they did a much better job than me at just being, at not giving advice, at not telling her everything will be okay and just being with her, at letting her know she was not alone. No matter how many times she would lock them out, they would stand there on the other side of the door waiting for another crack of the door so they could show up for her again and again. No matter how much she laid in bed, too surrounded in darkness to give them affection, they never rejected her when she reached out her hand. They never saw her burden as selfish or weak, they just saw her, the woman who chose them, the woman who loved them, the goodness of her soul, and the warmth in her affection; they could feel her goodness, even when she couldn’t. She didn’t have to explain anything to them, no excuses were needed for missed walks or late meals; they knew she was doing the best she could. They were relentless in their pursuit of her affection and steadfast in their unconditional love for her. They understood her more than I could even have wished for.
I think one of the reasons our society is struggling with mental health is because we need to be a little more like dogs, and less like scared humans. We need to show up for one another. We need to stand on the other side of the door and wait for the door to crack. We need to put in the hard work because our world depends on it. It depends on us being fierce in our loyalty, and relentless in our love. It requires us to push past the rejections and just keep showing up. It requires us to see past the masks, that may even hurt us, and never lose sight of the goodness we know is inside of the ones around us. When people withdraw, we must chase them. And when people stop smiling, we must sit with them and share our light.
This week has just made me so mad. I’m so mad that we are losing people to mental health every day. This is not due to a lack of medication, this is due to a lack of community. What are we all chasing after, if at the end of the day, your friends, mentors, mothers, are losing their life without us noticing it? What good is that high paying job, latest gadget, million facebook friends, when you are plagued by the thoughts of the ones you loved who took their own life? Because that’s the truth, you wear that suicide like a layer of clothing; it never leaves you, you never stop wondering “what if I would have done this or that”, you never stop being sucker punched when you hear the word suicide, or a reminder of the way they did it, be it a pill, a rope, a gun, you are never the same; no amount of money, or fame, or thing can ever wash away that layer of pain because you don’t just miss them, you feel like you failed.
So this is my plea, please notice one another. When you see them struggle, be late for that appointment, and ask them how they are doing. Skip that weekend away and stay next to them instead. Find others to help you hold them up, so you don’t lose yourself. Build a community, be honest, and show up for it. Pack your good, your bad, your fear, your joys; put them all in a bag and pour them on the carpet of your community. Do the hard work because to be truly known is our souls desire, even if you don’t know it. Put down the phone and lean in. Be present. Go deep instead of wide. Reach out to those of us left behind, because you being scared of our pain doesn’t help us write a different story. Love everybody always.