Striving To Live As Long As I Can

Striving To Live As Long As I Can

The older we get the more we see. The more we see, the more we hear, the more we feel. Sometimes I think we get old because all this thinking and hearing, seeing and feeling just uses us up. And that brings us to today's ruminations on the subject of suicide and more globally, death.
When I was young, I didn't know anything about death. I sure didn't know anything about suicide or murder. I was living the idyllic stereotypical United States life, play, eat, school, sleep, safety and fulfillment: no need, no want, no worry. That, my friends, is a rarity but I did not know it at the time. I see many folks, usually those well off and well educated, that don't know it still.
I am getting older day by day, yes we all are but after 50 the days seem to speed up. I know your awareness of them does. Each night I go to bed and think, well, there is another one down. I have become acutely aware of the fragility of life. The older you get, the more you see and if you are relatively unmedicated, you must acknowledge the complexities of life, health, death and loss.
Some of us choose to go tripping along throwing daisies and singing la la la while ignoring and even denying the loss that is sure to come our way. Some of us are so high we don't know what is going on anyway. Some of us are acutely aware of the passage of time and the complexities of loss and it is with those that I share my thoughts. 
I have recently had many, many losses to death and divorce (and I use that word in the loosest of terms to mean to divorce yourself from a relationship, not necessarily a marriage). I started having these losses a long time ago however. 
One of the first losses that I had that was difficult was the death of my aunt, Lucila, whom I had never met. Why then difficult? Because it devastated my mother. It was her younger sister and she had not seen her in years. Lucila died in childbirth with her seventh child. Yes I come from an Hispanic Latin family, babies are good. We flew to Alabama, and I met 6 devastated cousins with my devastated mother. I was in a new world. I had never been around any family. I didn't know any of them. I had a cousin, also Mary, who was within a year of me in age, who had sworn at her mother, told her she hated her, and slammed out of the house the morning her mother would bleed to death on the kitchen floor with placenta previa. How's that for a life's a bitch moment? I think that is when my wondering about how cruel the fates can be began. 
My next really significant death was the suicide of a friend of my husband and mine's, Henry. We socialized with him and his wife all the time. I loved them. In all honesty, I used to be a little jealous because he seemed like so much more of a reasonable guy than my then husband. He hung himself in the basement of the home that he shared with his then girlfriend and she had to find him. Boy was I pissed!! Yep, I think the over riding sentiment that many of us feel when someone we love suicides is real, deep, burning anger. How dare you? How could you? Don't you know what you did to ...? I would have helped!! I would have listened. I would have done anything. How could you do this to me???
Then came my mother, or maybe Henry came after my mother, so many years ago. My mother, the beautiful, the graceful, the charming, the queen of my world. Lung cancer. 56. One year. I died too.
And then my dad, laying in the bed, a vegetable for 9 months, I wanted to suffocate him. I had to stop visiting him. He would have hated it. And finally the funeral and his angry brother that I loved dearly, furious with us because it was a closed casket. But you know what? We didn't want to see anymore.
And so it went, next that same uncle, then his wife and finally their son another apparent suicide. A man that was much older than me but I cared for greatly. I had invited him a few times but he usually turned me down because frankly we did not have a lot in common and we did not live close by. I was then the oldest person alive in my family. I think I was 35. I went to his house to clean out with the eldest on his mother's side. We labored in sorrow, we felt so guilty, had we done enough? He never seemed to lack for friends, he was always busy. Didn't he turn you down? Yes me too? We felt terrible. And then, the police and coroner came to the house. Such sad news they said. They didn't know how to say it. Sit down ladies. And so we sat, on the couch, right over the spot in the basement where you could see the marks where he had hung himself and we held hands and our breath. And the officer finally said, I am so sorry to tell you this because I know how shocking it is, Bruce did not kill himself, he hung himself accidentally with an erotic asphyxiation (look it up). We both started to laugh. Somehow that made it all better and tremendously amusing. I think the poor man thought we had lost our minds but we were free from the guilt, the sorrow, the tremendous burden.
And that is the thing, I found out last night that someone I knew well years ago killed himself a few months ago. He was younger than me. I found out today that someone who is related to someone I care about killed herself and was buried today. She was 20 years younger than me.
For those of you that don't know me, I am a Registered Nurse among other careers. For those of you who don't know me I strive for excellence. I don't know why, I just want to be all I can be, do all I can do and help all that I can. It is inside me. I cannot get enough time in my life, hours in my day, days in my week to pursue all the things that I want to know about, the things I want to taste, feel try, do and see. I am a voracious liver.  I cannot change the inside me no matter what. People always tell me I need to sit down, I need to relax, I need to take time off. That doesn't make me happy, it makes me bored.
I worked with acutely ill psych patients for many a year. I have had patients suicide on my watch successfully twice and had three others make extremely serious attempts. I should have known. I should have seen. When it happened I thought, "How could I have been so stupid? How could I have not seen?" Well it is because many people who want to kill themselves are very determined and they make sure that no one sees. They have a disorder. They cannot see the beauty. Then cannot alleviate the pain. They cannot find the joy. They cannot share the misery. They cannot believe it will ever be any different.They cannot listen to any other voice. They can see no other end. 
And does that mean I approve? Oh no, not at all. I understand but I do not accept. I have seen medication work, I have seen ECT work, I have seen cognitive therapy work. All I know about life after all these years is that everything changes, even depression and suicidality. Ultimately everything changes. And for every one of you who think it is not worth going on, there are countless that would give anything to have one more week, one more day, one more chance.
And we who are not depressed cannot understand that. Can't you see how wonderful this is? Can't you see how lucky you are? Can't you believe that I love you? No. No they can't. 
Ultimately our feelings of grief and anger are related to our own emotions and the emotions of the people we care about. The dead person is gone. Their suffering is over. Their time is done. The rest of us are left behind to carry on without.
And we do. Because that is what makes us grievers, not depressed and there in lies the difference. We know there is a reason, we may not know what the reason is or will be, but there is a reason that we will continue. It may be to care for a child, to avoid the burden on a loved one, to see an important life moment or just to watch that Key West sunset one more time. There is beauty all around us. Don't do it. Wait. Make a commitment to avoid suicide even if that is the only thing you can do today. Your time will come soon enough no matter what you do. 

Mary Kingsley Headshot
Phone: 917-292-5378
Dated: September 10th 2013
Views: 7,364
About Mary: I have a long background in public service. I am a Registered Nurse with a BA and an MPS in Health C...

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