A Talk In The Garden – grab a beverage and tissues

When I started this blog a few years ago, I chose not to use my name due wanting to keep some privacy.  It has allowed me to share some things that I may otherwise not have.  However, there are a few things that I have held back. I feel like it is time to share with you, my readers, even if it does give away more personal details than I normally would.  Why?  Because they are a part of who I am.  They are things that others may also be dealing with or one day may face.  I have learned a lot from other bloggers, from their sharing different aspects of their lives.  Both pretty and not so pretty aspects.

I have convinced myself to keep putting off this post, though I almost shared it last year.  Something happened last week that reminded me of the importance of talking about things like this, learning and finding comfort from others who may have dealt with similar situation.  Only afterward my experience did I find out that several people close to me had experienced something very similar in their lives.  It was comforting to be able to look at them and see that they came the other side.  Not forgetting, but remembering and living life.

blue sky fluffy clouds

It was the perfect fall day.  Sunshine, not too hot, and no rain in sight.  The morning had gone well as we spent time together as a family.   Lunch had been eaten and we were spending time watching a movie.

When the phone rang and I saw that it was Mom, my husband asked for it as he was going to tease her a bit.  Answering cheerfully, his look quickly changed.  It became a very confused look, followed by a serious, “I think you should talk to your daughter.”  Taking the phone from him I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I got as the furthest thing from my mind.  She was crying.

The reason it was the furthest thing from my mind, and the reason my husband was going to tease her, was because my parents were on a trip.  They had taken the week to drive to a destination they had always wanted to see.  So who would be calling their daughter in the middle of a long awaited vacation just to chat?

“What’s wrong?”  I asked worried.  “Is Dad okay?”

My father had some heart trouble less than a year before, so I thought it was a very logical response.

She responded, trying to sound calm through her crying,  “I don’t know where we are, somewhere in the middle of (state they were driving through).”  At which point my first thought was that she needed me to search for a nearby emergency room.  The computer was close so I started towards it.  “I just got a call from your Uncle.  Your brother committed suicide.”  I stopped right where I was.

“No,” my head was saying.  “It is supposed to be Dad and his heart.  My brother is fine.  I can deal with heart stuff. What … why…?”

My next, to me logical, question was, “Was he successful in the attempt?”

He was.

(Later when I asked my husband why he handed me the phone he said that he thought for sure she was talking about someone else, a relative he didn’t know, that he had to have misunderstood.)

As my mother and I talked, I realized that not a lot of information was known.  Just the basics.  She also said that she had called me first, because she knew my husband would be there, but my other sibling had not been called.  I told her to focus on getting things together and heading home.  I would call my sibling.

How do you make a call like this?  What do you say?  How do you tell someone that their sibling, whom we both love and adore, is longer around?  That they chose to take their own life?  That this person would never again:

  • Tell the corny jokes
  • Brag that they are (way) taller than you even though they’re your “little” brother
  • Pick up the nephews/nieces and throw them in the air
  • Help fix your computer, again
  • Direct music
  • Read that new book Dad was commenting on
  • Help fix the car
  • Watch Star Trek marathons into the wee hours of the night
  • Do hard jobs around the house (dig out septic lines, for example) without being asked
  • Argue politics, or anything really, just to argue and show that little brother can outwit older siblings any day

After hanging up with Mom, I told my  husband what she had said and that I was going to a quiet place to call my other sibling.  He said he would try to keep the kids in the living room and quiet.

“Hello.  Um, what are you up to?” I started.  Turns out sitting in the backyard playing was the activity of choice at that moment.  “And having no idea that your life, and that of your little one, is about to change forever,” I thought.

Feeling practical at that moment, because I wasn’t sure what else to do, I said, “I need to tell you something and need all your attention.  Is {little one} doing something that will keep him/her occupied and safe?”

“Yes,” was the unsure answer.  I can only imagine what was going through the mind on the other end of the phone.

I proceeded to then share everything my Mom had just told me.  Silence was the response at the other end of the phone.  Yeah, I understood.

DSCN8061

It took us about an hour to pack up the car for an unknown number of days, make the calls needed, fill up with gas and get the house ready to be left.  When Mom first called, my initial reaction was to put on my shoes.  My husband thought I was ready to leave right then and there.  It was only later that I clarified with him that was  not the reason.  FlyLady is always saying to wear your shoes, that you get more done and faster that way.  This was a time when I needed to focus, get things done quickly and not worry about getting hurt.  The shoes went on.

It was a long ride.  We told the kids we were going to Grandpa and Grandma’s house, that their Uncle had gotten a bad boo-boo.  Sometimes things have to be age appropriate when presented.  Little did I know that this would turn into them thinking they can die from boo-boos.  Later we had to clarify that this was “a REALLY BAD boo-boo, one that doctors couldn’t fix.”

DSCN7719

That evening brought some answers but a lot more questions.  (The answers in parentheses came only after a long time thinking about these things and finally accepting that these are the reasons, even if they don’t’ make sense to us.  I don’t have answers to the rest.  We never will.)

  • What did we miss?
  • Could I have done something to stop this?
  • Why didn’t he call someone?  Ask for help?  (the answer: he didn’t want to)
  • Where things really that bad?
  • Why didn’t we realize how long he had been depressed?  (the answer: he hid it very well by withdrawing from everyone slowly)
  • All the reasons he gave in his note could have been fixed.  He was smart.  Why did he think this was the way out?

I just didn’t get it.

The days that followed found us picking out a casket, flowers, music, obituary information for the paper, prayer cards, who would speak at the funeral, which day we wanted for the funeral, visitation times and day, calling friends who may not have heard and who wouldn’t see the obituary before the funeral, emailing friends overseas, and trying to help others work through their why’s.

The day of visitation found a line starting before the time was supposed to and lasting until afterwards.  I couldn’t believe all the people that came.  Did he not know that all these people cared?  College friends, high school friends, relatives, our bus driver from our school days, his Kindergarten teacher, family friends, co-workers for my parents, and so many other people that I can’t even remember.  What I know is that it took them all several hours to make it through the line and some even came the next day before their work shift started.

This left me with even more questions.  This time ones that made me look within.

  • If all these people cared enough to show up for the funeral, why did he not feel the love from them when he was alive?  Why did he feel so alone?
  • Are there other friends who I have lost contact with and just assumed everything was alright?
  • Are there things that I need to talk about?  Areas I need help?
  • Are there people around me that could use a pick-up, yet I ignore them and keep going?
  • Are there people who would love for someone to stop by and talk a while?
  • Does someone need a smile?
  • Am I too wrapped up in my own little world, that I don’t even see the needs of others around me?
  • When was the last time I gave someone a compliment?  Said “Good morning”, with eye contact, to the person at the store with a frown on their face?
  • If I had known that the last time I saw my brother was going to be the last, what would I have done differently?  Would I have left him alone or lovingly pestered him more to “come join us for a game”?

Spring_Sparrow

For the first year, I cried every Sunday at church.  It was during this time that we switched churches … I’m not sure what the new minister thought of his sermon moving me so every week, though he had enough tact not to ask.  Probably thought I was a very convicted sinner who was repenting of my wayward actions from the night before.

I never did clarify with him as I knew that if I started talking, I would just break down completely on him.  It isn’t that this is some huge family secret, the whole area where I grew up knows.  It is a small community.  However, this isn’t something that just comes up in passing.  It actually took this event for a few people from our old church to say, “I went through the same thing.  My brother/uncle/relative also committed suicide.”  It was actually reassuring, because I got to see that you can make it through the grief and love life again.

I still can’t sing my favorite hymn.  It used to bring me to tears anyway at the greatness of God.   Now, it is just too much as it was used in the funeral service.  So not only am I left in awe of God’s awesome powers, but also reminded of a great loss in my life.  I can’t even start the beginning phrase at church.  For now, it has to be a sunny day, at home, picturing God’s creation.  And then I can only make it through one verse.

Oh, I wish you had just said something.  Why didn’t you say something?  …

blue bonnet flowers in sun

Personally, it has taken we a few years before I could even look at signs or information talking about suicide.  It is all still too fresh in my heart.  Even writing this post, editing it, writing some more and editing it further has resulted in lots of tears and about half a box of tissues being used.

For others, I know they too are still trying to deal with it, each in their own ways.  The scars may look a bit different, but they are there.

Last week was National Suicide Prevention Week.  (This post was written then, but I had to work through it some more before I felt comfortable sharing it.)  There are so many resources out there to help you if you need it.  Please, take time to call and talk to someone.  No judging, just understanding.

Here is some information from Save.org to help you understand just a bit more about this issue in our country:

  • “Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.”
  • “Many who attempt suicide never seek professional care.”
  • More people die from suicide than from HIV/AIDS.
  • Adult men, ages 25-65 are the most likely to die from suicide.
  • “For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death.”
  • And in case you think asking for help is pointless- “80% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.”
  • “There are an estimated 8 to 25 attempted suicides to 1 completion.”
  • It isn’t only adults who are affected – “1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.”
  • “Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. (homicide is 15th). (CDC)”
  • “It is estimated that there are at least 4.5 million survivors in this country. (AAS)”
  • “An average of one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes. (CDC, AAS)”

There is more information on Save’s website.  There are also links and information about grieving, explaining suicide to children, support groups, as well as links to other organization that may be of help.

To be honest, this is something I haven’t done, but which may have been helpful.  I am very thankful to a great support system, my husband, family and friends, who have helped along the way.  Without them, this path would be much longer.

snow on trees

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