The death by suicide earlier this year of a client and friendly acquaintance leaves me speechless. Yet there are thoughts and feelings to share. Here they are.
(However, the details of this particular loss are not my story to tell. So I will conceal her identity, in respect for the dead and the mourners.)
But it can be said: the woman who died was a vivacious, sensitive, endearing role model in the corporate world. A career of success. At home, a large family. And, it must be said, to see her was to see a creature of beauty and grace. Behind her back, she was uniformly praised.
When I was younger, I used to wake in the middle of the night, every once in a while, and envy others. I might think, “Hmmm. I wish I could trade lives with him (or her).” This woman was worthy of such envy. She was a winner and beloved. In her end, she was sincerely mourned by more than her church could hold. The lesson that is confirmed for me: don’t wish to be someone else. Everyone has a basket of headaches. As we never should judge people by their worst moment, we must also never think that anyone lives without the deepest complications. If you wish to trade lives, you must be willing to carry that basket.
She left a note, which said, in its entirety, “Don’t judge me. Love me.” These five words, so eloquently written, speak volumes to me. These words dance in my head constantly. “Don’t judge me. Love me.” I have learned much from this five word lesson. Remember that the person you are judging is someone’s child. Show them some love.
This works in the mirror, too: don’t worry too much about how I am judged. Just love me.
Years ago, The New Yorker carried a long piece on the Golden Gate Bridge. In Tad Friend’s “Jumpers: The fatal grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge,” a paragraph haunts me. From the words of an investigator, sent to the home of a suicide:
“I went to this guy’s apartment afterward with the assistant medical examiner,” he told me. “The guy was in his thirties, lived alone, pretty bare apartment. He’d written a note and left it on his bureau. It said, ‘I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.’ ”
Show a little love. To an acquaintance. To those closest to you. To the mirror.
Last month I spoke to a group of families who had lost loved ones to suicide at a memorial service sponsored by Suicide Prevention Services. I learned that it’s very hard to mourn someone who completes suicide. We keep judging them. (Denying the right to die by suicide might be our way of discouraging our own potential, momentary despondency.) It’s hard to mourn them, to not judge them, to simply love them.
A note of help to those with questions about suicide. Cathy Smith, the controller at Young Isaac, is also the volunteer leader of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition and a volunteer with North Central Mental Health Services, the operator of the local, 24/7 suicide hotline (614) 221-5445. When this suicide was made public, Cathy asked me, “Were there signs?” “No,” a friend says, “There were overwhelming signs to the contrary.” And: who among us lives without some sign of challenge?
Are you motivated to combat suicide? Call Mary Brennen-Hoffman at Suicide Prevention Services at 614-299-6600, ext 2073.