I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions per se. Jan.1 is just an arbitrary date and most resolutions are set up to fail. But this year I kind of, sort of, had a resolution socked away in the far recesses of my mind. That resolution was (and still is) to find a way to live my life surrounded by the ‘S’ word.
The ‘S’ word in question is suicide. My blog (and my life until now) have remained largely frozen in a time warp that began on October 9, 2013, when my best friend and next door neighbour, whom I saw every day for the past seven years, who was my darling dog’s surrogate “dad” chose without warning or pomp or ceremony to pick up a gun and blow his brains out.
I thought about writing the act more eloquently, more delicately, but he didn’t simply “take his own life,” he did so violently, brutally, and not only knowing that I would find him, but just to make sure I got the message, left me a hand written note. Only me. Not his mother or his brother or his two sisters or his boss or his bank manager. Me. A note addressed to me. A note seared into my brain for the rest of my life. A note that was alarmingly devoid of emotion. Short, sharp, direct with a one sentence explanation that later proved to be unfounded. Even in his final farewell he lied about the true reason behind this senseless, horrific act. Meaning, despite bits and pieces filtering through about possible motives, I’ll never REALLY know what drove him to this. Maybe he didn’t either? But I can speculate till the cows come home. Mostly, these past three months I’ve had to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other; how to get through an hour – let alone an entire day; how to live a life that was turned upside down in an instant.
I couldn’t even post on this blog that my novel had placed second in another writing contest – The Catherine. I received the news just days after my neighbour’s death. But it really was impossible to rejoice in the news at the time.
Thank goodness for all who surrounded me with love and support; my family, friends, and synagogue community who came to visit, talk, hold my hand, bring food (naturally) and listen to me keen and wail and rant and grieve and sometimes remain catatonic.
I’m looking forward to finally starting back at work next week. But the legacy and the pain and the loss remain. They will linger. I know that. I’m not someone who has been coddled from loss. I’ve had a lot of it in my life – including losing my dad as a teenager. But suicide – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. It’s hard to come to terms with a person who chose to take their own life – especially when you know others who have fought tooth and nail to stay alive while battling cancer. Grief, anger, and a million questions that can never be answered have gone to the grave with my neighbour and best friend. For everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I know you know what I’m saying and what I’m feeling and justice cannot be done to those feelings in a brief blog post. But we go on. Like baby foals, we stand on wobbly legs; we fall down, we think we can’t take on the world on our spindly legs, but somehow we find a way. Because we lean on others – we do the one thing the person who decided he or she could no longer live in this world didn’t do – we reach out: to friends, to family, to loved ones, to therapists and our communities. They hold us up until we can walk again and we know they will be there to catch us when we fall – as we inevitably will. Which leads me to the “F” word.
The “F” word reminds me why I don’t believe in Jan 1. resolutions. I had wished with a fervour so strong that it shook my being, that 2013 was behind me. That we could close the door on that chapter. As if a New Year means a new start. I knew it didn’t really. I knew it was just an arbitrary date, but I wished it nonetheless. And Jan. 1 came, as promised. But on Jan. 5 we learned that a dear friend of our synagogue community was killed in a car accident on Jan. 4 and my world came crashing down again. How much grief can one person bear?
And so, today, in just a few hours I will go to a funeral. The “F” word. The funeral of a man with so much love and goodness in the world, cut down in an instant. A place where there will be so much grief and pain, but there will be support and an outpouring of love for him and his family. Unlike my neighbour – whose family chose not to have a funeral for him – I will at least be able to stand with my community and show everyone how much this dear man, killed at the beginning of this “New Year” was loved and how deeply he will be missed.
And so we come to the “W” word, which is, of course, writing. Something I was unable to do for months. But yet, here I am now writing about death and loss and grief.
Before Sunday’s tragic news of my friend’s death, I had been galvanised once more by the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association to get back to editing my novel, thanks to the Write-a-Thin (see the badge?)
that was launched Jan. 1. For the first time I could concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time and was working hard. Sunday’s news threw me off my game (naturally) and I was back in a well of grief. Everything seemed compounded.
But I do know that I am returning to my version of “normal.” I’m looking forward to returning to work, returning to writing. I’m learning to accept the obvious: that the world is not an easy or a safe place to live in; that there will always be tragedy and grief and challenges around the corner. Learning to keep going is what it is all about. And we do that by making sure we surround ourselves with people who can hold us up when we fall down. And knowing that we will do the same for them. So thank you to everyone who loves me, supports me, and is there for me no matter what. I am here for you, too.