26 December 2006

Thanks for the Christmas Gift

"...the crime of suicide lies rather in its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind." ~ E. M. Forster

Anxious. Anxious. Anxious.

At the very last minute, I decided to add festivity to Christmas dinner. I got out a set of my Christmas china (I have two. I'm very into Christmas, usually.) and created a centerpiece out of a candy dish and some red cinnamon-scented tea candles. Mid-way into the meal, I remembered that I should have used more festive flatware, but you can't have everything, I guess. Maybe next year. I'm hoping to be all well and feeling great next year, so maybe I'll have more energy to decorate.

My husband and I didn't do the gift thing. I like that a lot. No shopping! I gave my mom a gift and she gave me a gift certificate for Borders. Excellent choice!

On Saturday, Hubby got a call from a woman from one of the magazines for which he does freelance writing. The editor of the magazine died over the weekend. Hubby had known this guy for over a decade. His house caught on fire and, though his wife escaped, he did not.

There was daily newspaper coverage and, over time, we found out that the man (I'll call him Editor) committed suicide. It's the strangest method I've every heard. Maybe he overdosed on some prescription drugs...that's just speculation, though. What we do know is that he set some newspapers on fire in the closet in the "back bedroom."

Women attempt suicide more than men, but more men die from suicide than women. That's because men choose methods that are highly lethal. They choose guns a lot. My dad chose a gun. Setting your house on fire doesn't guarantee the anticipated outcome. You could be rescued. You'd definitely want to increase the odds, because burn treatment can be excruciatingly painful. I'm guessing he didn't own a gun.

Of course, no one knows why. No one ever knows why. The person who called Hubby talked about the conflict Editor had been having with the publisher of the magazine. The publisher demanded increased profitability. Editor hadn't had a raise in ten years. She also mentioned a "crazy" ex-wife who wouldn't let him see his kids. I guarantee that it wasn't just the job. As for the ex-wife and kids, I don't think co-workers are in a position to know the truth about those situations. The co-worker was clearly hoping to blame someone for it, whether it be the ex-wife or the publisher.

The only person to blame is the person who set the newspapers on fire. No one can make someone else commit suicide. It's never about just one thing. Or two. Generally, people who decide to check out have had difficulties all of their lives, both in relationships and in coping skills. Typically, people who commit suicide have always chosen to deal with problems by running away. Suicide is the last ditch effort at running away. It trumps everything.

I'm so sorry for his family. My dad died shortly before the holiday season and I know what it's like to spend Christmas just trying to get through every minute of every hour. The pain is of a type and magnitude that is unimaginable unless you've lived through it. The minute I found out that Editor killed himself, I became furious with him. Thanks, Dad, for fucking up Christmas now and forever more for your kids. Thanks from the wife for setting the house on fire and causing damage that won't be covered by their insurance. If the blaze is deliberately set, insurance companies don't have to pay. His wife will have fathomless guilt to deal with and, probably, abandonment by many of their friends. People don't know what to say, so they withdraw. That withdrawal just increases the sense of responsibility survivors feel.

It took me years to get angry at my dad for killing himself. I've been angry about it for the past two or three years. He died 8 years ago, 9 days before my birthday. From that date through the holidays, I always experience flashbacks. Sometimes I can identify the triggers, but the majority of the flashbacks are seemingly random. This has been a huge trigger. I talked with my mom about it. She has flashbacks, too, but hers are worse because she found him.

We talked about how my dad had wanted to call me shortly before he died. We both believe that, had that happened and had I gone there, my mom and I would both be dead, too. I'm grateful that he didn't take my mom. I'm grateful that I didn't have time to make the trip there I was planning.

Editor's death invokes profound sadness. In part, it's the sadness I felt for my father. What a lonely place to be, the moment you make the decision. Lonelier still the seconds before the end. Then, all the suffering is left to the loved ones who must go on living.

I wish everyone contemplating suicide could know what they'll leave behind. A nuclear holocaust for survivors.


1 comment:

Evil Minx said...

I would leave a more profound and meaningful comment, if i could only think of one.

However, i can't. I cannot imagine what it must be like to go through that.

But i didn't want to withdraw.