The Day She Died

March 18th

Today would have been her birthday if she would have made it this long.  She tried.  I spoke with her 10 days ago and offered to take her to dinner to celebrate.  She was upset that she was turning 60 and her life had nothing to show for it.  Or so she thought.  I assured her it did.  I guess I didn’t assure her enough.  Or so I thought.

When someone takes their life, the people left behind are the ones that feel the pain.  I am grateful she is out of pain.  I am grateful she is with her mother’s spirit now that she was missing so deeply.  And I am so very, very sad that she felt this was her only path in life.  A path leading to death.

I am feeling so powerless, so inadequate.  I think back to what I said and how I could have done more.  Was I there for her really?  Did I get caught up in my life and missed what was going on in hers?  Did I miss the sign where I could have been a lifeline?  Was I just too busy or too impatient or too ….., what? To notice that I could have been a lifeline.

In my head I know I did not have the power to change the outcome.  In my heart I feel as if I could.  In my soul I am experiencing the loss of a life.  What does that do to one’s soul?  I will be forever marked by the loss of her spirit, this sometimes misguided, effervescent light of a soul.  Did she take her meds, would that have made a difference?  Too many questions go through my brain, questions without answers.   There can be no answers.

She was my friend.  She took care of my cats and stayed at my home when I went out of town.  She gave the doctor my name to call when she was admitted and he asked me what to do when she was found wandering on the street in her bedclothes.  There was a bond that was invisible and silent between us that I didn’t know how strong until the very end when she seemed to cry out in silence and I did not hear.

Is this how it is when one takes a life?

I wrote those words a week ago.  I didn’t finish my post, I’m not sure why, but I still have the urgency to post in honor of her.  She was Linda; she was a person.  And in a silent way, if I don’t acknowledge the personhood subconsciously do I feel I too won’t be acknowledged when I die?  That’s a question.

I have many these days.  In church service the other day, it was Palm Sunday and our minister talked about impending death.  We listened to the theories that explained Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  The reasons why people were in the streets, people were cheering him, discussed the fact that it even happened.  But one fact remains each day we live and that is that we all will one day die.

I shouldn’t be too shocked about my friend.  She lived a precarious life, wrought with drama, pain and dysfunction that stood side by side with imagination, brilliance and artistic ability.  Questions remain in my mind of how I could have made a difference.  She attempted suicide before.  Countless friends have told me nothing I could have done or would have done would have made a difference.  Intellectually I know this.  Emotionally I don’t.  Those times I became exasperated with her and left her voice lingering on voicemail, could that have changed something?  Those times I could have reached out and called, could that have changed something?  Probably not others claim.  Yet the gnawing doubt sticks in my memory that if my impatience had not gotten the best of me then maybe there would be a different outcome.  The idea of guilt does not seem to fit.  I don’t’ feel guilt.  It’s more a life lesson that I can take away.  I know that I am only human, but as a human I want to be here for other humans.  And especially as a minister human, I need to keep this in mind.   This must mean that even on the days I feel lazy, or impatient or annoyed, there is still a human in the mix, and I need to take that into account.  There is a life lesson to be learned here and the act of awareness feels the most paramount.  I want to commit to being more aware, more gentle, more compassionate for those in pain.  I won’t ignore my own self care, that’s not the issue.  I’ve grown to know that I need that part of me and I’ll take care of that.  There still remains a part that can be there for others even when I don’t want to be.   That’s what I think we need more humans to do for one another.

I tried to visit the spot where she died today, but I found I couldn’t go alone.  So I did a brave thing and I reached out to those I know to see if someone could come with me.  I have a friend who will.  We just have to figure out the details and coordinate our schedules.  But I’ll be able to leave flowers, a card, some kind of marker, to show there once was a life that was there.  And her name was Linda.