Tag Archives: grief

In Perspective: My Best Friend’s Death

Wikimedia Commons

For the past two weeks, I’ve been anxious and depressed. I have received a tentative job offer from a company, and any day now, I am hoping to get the firm offer. The deadline to submit everything was last Friday, November 28. It’s only been a day and a half, I keep reminding myself to no avail.

What would I do if I didn’t get this job? It seems like a shoe-in; what if it slips through my fingers like the previous offer from the university? They did my background check after they gave me the offer, only to rescind it the next day. I was crushed.

I get obsessed so easily whether it’s women, job offers, material goods, aikido, et cetera. I develop the worst tunnel vision.

Without much faith, I have been begging God to give me patience and to wait on Him. I’m having loads of trouble doing that, though.

I quickly forgot about these problems, however, when I learned yesterday that my best friend from high school had passed away.

I have never had another friend like David; I don’t expect that I will. We were kindred spirits. Somehow we connected on the first day of high school despite having come from different middle schools. We were both anti-social and awkward without realizing it. We knew each other better than anyone because we were just like each other.

It was the hardest thing in the world for us to make friends with others. We were so shy and afraid of interacting with people that it’s a wonder how the two of us even met. I guess it was our destiny. I don’t recall how we actually met; I just remember having metals class with him, and, before I knew it, we were best friends. Neither of us had a circle of friends, so we made our own circle of two. We didn’t let anybody in, and no one wanted in.

Maybe it was like having an identical twin brother. I don’t know what that’s actually like, but I have read that identical twins are best friends for life. Maybe David’s and my friendship — no, our bond — was like that.

We weren’t complete unless we were together. We confided in each other — even stuff that our parents never knew about.

One time when he had built up the nerve to skip school and spend the day in the woods, I was lost and even envious. Just going one school day without him had me wandering around the halls, dazed and depressed.

Only one time did we fight; I mean literally fight. David was fuming because I decided to hang out with his neighbor, a dorky kid our age who liked the same 80s hair metal (before it was called “80s hair metal”) bands but didn’t have the same connection to David or to me.

In our confrontation later that day, we came to blows; we were both crazed with anger. Amazingly, that was the only time we were ever at odds with each other. It was the strangest thing.

Being a mama’s boy, I attended college close enough in order to keep living with my family. David told me a few times in passing that he was considering the military. I didn’t believe him. I mean, he couldn’t leave! I was attending college near my house, and our life was the same as it was in high school — just the way we wanted it.

But David ended up joining the army. His departure date loomed in our minds, overtaking us like a shadowy demon.

In college, I was recruited to join a Christian cult (but that’s a different story), and David was in the army, stationed far away. We kept in touch, but life took us down different avenues. Eventually we lost contact.

Around the year 2000, I was desperate to locate my best friend. David’s dad was transferred around the country a lot, so I had no idea where to start looking. Google produced no results. Several times I almost hired a private investigator.

I refused to give up. David was more shy and anti-social than I (and that’s saying a lot), so I figured he didn’t want to be found. Nevertheless, I continued scouring the Internet. Then my online searches for him became intermittent; about once a year, I did searches, always coming up with nothing.

I was becoming convinced that he was in the witness protection program or something.

Well, yesterday I did my annual Google search for David, and the fifth result was his obituary. On the website, David’s mother had listed her phone number hoping that I would see it and contact her.

It took me over a year to find the obituary and phone number, but I did indeed find them.

Last night, for the first time in over 21 years, I was speaking to his mother. Same voice and everything. That alone made me cry; I wasn’t ready for it. Hearing the pain in her voice brought everything together, and it finally hit me that my best friend of all time was dead.

After finding out about David and talking to his mother all evening, I am sobered and humbled. I had been stressing out over a measly job offer while David’s mother has been going through hell, perpetually grieving over both of her sons who were taken from her way too soon. (David’s older brother passed away when I was in college.)

I miss you, buddy. I will always miss you.

~t


Dear Rachel: A Letter to My Baby in Heaven

Credit: lameken5050

Dear Little Rachel,

I will never forget the day that your mommy and I put the manjū rabbit on the tatami mat of our neighborhood Shinto shrine. It was Japan, so there weren’t any churches. Somehow that little shrine transcended religion and its boundaries.

I have never been moved quite so much than at that moment. To ring the bell, clap our hands twice, and pray with mommy for the repose of your soul affected me more than had you been born alive.

Just like placing flowers before a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe or lighting a votive candle before St. Joseph the Worker, I knew that the offering was well taken care of. The manjū rabbit was more than an offering, though, Rachel. It represented you — that little thing, parted from mommy and daddy, surrounded by eternal happiness in that beloved shrine.

You were about five weeks old, but mommy and I were so excited. You would have been our first child! Mommy liked the name Rachel because she has always been a fan of the TV show Friends, and I liked it because it’s a lovely Biblical name.

I will never forget the little sonogram photo that showed you in mommy’s tummy. Of course there’s no solid proof that you were a girl, but somehow we knew. Your grandma is a psychic, and even she was sure of your gender.

I remember exploring the grounds of a nearby Buddhist temple the week before you stopped kicking. We were excited to have discovered such a beautiful landscape and temple. Monks were chanting from inside. I thought it was God’s way of blessing you, and I was happy. However, mommy later told me that it was a funeral ceremony, and that she felt that the monks were saying it for you, Rachel. Mommy and I never went back to that place.

I’ve always wanted a little girl to spoil. I see pictures everywhere of proud dads with their little princesses, and it gnaws at me in the depths of my spirit. It goes without saying that I love your two brothers more than life itself. But there’s a reason for everything, right, Rachel? You know; you are with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom. You are part of the beatific vision and, thus, you probably know the reason. Mommy and I won’t know until we meet you after falling asleep in the Lord.

I’ve never brought this up with anyone, Rachel, but I have an idea why you didn’t stay with us. Of course, I don’t know the mind of God, but I have a conviction in my heart that is as strong as iron. I struggle continuously with lust and sexual impurity. I honestly believe that God allowed mommy to have a miscarriage to somehow help me to be more holy. I am sorry if that sounds selfish. I really am. Also, our next two children were boys; we were to have no girls.

I would have loved you and protected you with my entire being, though.

Mommy and I are filled with joy that we have two happy, healthy, normal little boys.

But I will always think of you from time to time — and walking away from the manjū rabbit at the shrine nine years ago.

Well, little one, I’ll wrap up this letter for now. Mommy and I will see you later. (Pray for mommy because you know how stubborn she is when it comes to spirituality!) Give Mama Mary a big hug for me.

Love always and forever,

Daddy

~t

An explanation of manjū is here.


Interrupted by Death

I barely heard the muffled sound of my cell phone in the pocket of my cargo shorts. With all the commotion of helping my son get his catcher’s equipment on and the chatter and cheers of the players, coaches, and parents, it took me a while to pick up on the constant ring tone.

If it goes to voice mail, you’ll know who it is, I thought grimly. The day was perfect for a t-ball game, but a dark cloud had finally moved in from the north, and it began to envelop my very soul and mind into its midst.

A type of cloud that I hadn’t experienced in about 15 years was back.

The cloud of death.

I then heard the triple beep of my phone as the caller finished leaving voice mail.

The night before, my sister notified me by text (how I miss personal phone calls) that our grandma was suffering kidney failure. Grandma, living with my mom, stepdad, and stepfather-in-law, alerted my mom that she was having trouble breathing and couldn’t move. After being transported to the hospital and evaluated, my grandma stayed overnight for more testing. My sister told me in her text that she would keep me posted if anything changed. A routine hospital run; no different than before.

My ignorant assumptions crumbled like a centuries-old letter.

I dialed my voice mail as my son took his position behind home plate. Leaving the chain-link fence next to the empty dugout, I quickly walked to the adjacent baseball diamond where, luckily, no game was being played. Putting my index finger into my left ear as I jammed the phone against the other, my sister’s voice came on: “Hi Scott. It’s me. Grandma’s not doing too well.” A long, horrific pause ensued, meaning only one thing: My sister, the one with a heart of stone, was actually choked up. I stood confused and helpless, trying to decipher her message.

I had to replay the voice mail to understand her through the sobs. “Her kidneys are failing, and there’s nothing they can do. The doctors are gonna give her a private room in another section of the hospital so she can go peacefully.” The last few lines after that were unintelligible.

Immediately dialing my sister’s number, I quickly wondered how my son was doing as catcher before remembering that it was t-ball and catchers didn’t do much. An instant later, my sister answered.

“So there’s really nothing that can be done?” I asked, walking toward the low right-field fence and looking at the trees in home-run territory. Birds sang in front of me, and parents cheered behind me.

“No. Grandma’s too old for dialysis and a kidney transplant. Dialysis would be three times a week for six hours each time. The doctor said she would live miserably. She could go on life support, but her and mom already signed a form refusing it.”

“I see…”

“Yeah,” my sister said, and then paused. “They’re saying she can only last several days without her pills or being hooked up to a machine.”

I knelt down and then plopped onto the tall grass with my back against the wooden fence. In front of me was part of a black, dried up seed pod. I stared at it during the rest of our conversation.

“Can family visit?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, “It’ll be a nice room. Really nice. It’s called South Care Hospice House. At least everyone can be with her and…” Another pause. “say goodbye.”

My sister lost control, and I felt a sucker punch in my gut. She managed to choke out the sentence about her being en route to the hospital.

It was my turn to cry. “Can you… tell her… bye… for me?”

“Yes.” Very short and clipped.

“Thanks.

“Sure. Bye, Scott.”

“Bye.”

I stood up and looked out into the distance beyond the fence. Orange and yellow trees stood tall under the blue, cloudless sky. “Grandpa, please appear to grandma in her room right before she goes so she won’t be scared.”

As an afterthought, I continued, “But ask God first if it’s okay for you to come down here.”

Another afterthought: “Oh, and, while you’re at it, can you arrange a last-minute flight for me?”

I knew grandpa would do it because, well, he was grandpa.

After a few minutes, I went back to the ball game just in time to help my son put on his batting helmet.

The dark cloud loosened its grip on me, but it remained nevertheless.

In Memory of

Grandma B

October 31, 1920 – October 10, 2011

The preceding was written two years ago after the death of my last surviving grandparent.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Stand by Me

A bench in McGregor (Texas) Cemetery

My sister flew down from Missouri this past weekend. My kids were excited for her to visit because, when any of my family members come, my boys receive “presents.” My sister, Kay, always has fun visiting.

However, this was no ordinary visit.

For the past two years, Kay and I had been talking about driving down to McGregor to visit our aunt’s grave. We kept mentioning it but never made time for the trip. Finally, the stars and planets aligned, so we chose this past weekend for our road trip.

Actually, our aunt died three years ago, but not a single family member knew about it until Kay’s 2010 Christmas card to our aunt was returned to her. Baffled since our aunt had lived in McGregor for ages, Kay did some online investigation and discovered that our aunt had passed away back in March of the same year.

You see, my sister was the only family member who had kept in touch with our aunt and sent Christmas cards to her every season. (Kay has a big heart, obviously much bigger than mine.)

You may be wondering, Why did no one keep in touch with her? Well, my grandfather ruled our family with an iron fist. A shrew self-made multi-millionnaire, he wielded incredible influence and power; we lived in fear of him, referring to him behind his back as The Godfather.

Years and years ago, my aunt met a man and ran away with him to Texas, where they eventually settled in a small quiet town called McGregor. “Leaving the family” against my grandfather’s wishes, he severed all ties with her, excluded her from the will, and told us never to contact her again.

The only memories I have of her have faded a little: going to her house with my mother for coffee; playing with her big, furry dog; rolling around on her shag carpet like I was in the woods; and her trademark cackling at everything we kids did.

So my sister and I were glad that the day had finally come. Only a few hours away from where I now live, our biggest regret was that we hadn’t visited her while she was alive. By traveling there and paying our last respects, however, I believed it would comfort her lonely soul and put a smile on her face as she looked down upon us.

The fresh bread in this Czech town of West always reminds us of our heritage and the kolache that our great-grandmother used to make.

It’s always exciting to take a road trip, especially with a friend or family member. My sister and I are only three years apart, and we have been growing closer as we get older. She suffers from bipolar disorder and a troubled marriage like I do, so it would be the perfect chance for us to, in essence, be counselors for each other.

I made a playlist on my iPod of various dance/pop/R&B songs for the road trip, and we loaded up my car with a cooler full of bottled water (Texas summers tend to be pretty brutal). We set off in good spirits with the music creating a cheerful background as we chatted and took in the landscape of rural Texas.

I told my sister as we left the metro area that everything we were doing reminded me of the movie Stand by Me: Although the purpose of our quest was a somber one, we would have fun along the way, make a few detours, and enjoy each other’s company. Lifelong memories would be formed.

One humorous moment was when we stopped at a small Mexican restaurant along the way for lunch. Kay ordered a margarita since she wasn’t driving, and the waitress asked to see her ID. Having been given such a compliment, my sister quickly gave the waitress her driver’s license. The waitress looked at it and said in a disappointed tone, “Oh. You’re not from here.” She walked away with Kay’s driver’s license without saying another word. My sister and I exchanged puzzled looks. Ten minutes later, though, my sister was happily sipping her strawberry margarita.

Later, as we rolled west on highway 84 toward McGregor, I started to get butterflies in my stomach. This is it, I thought. I hope we find the grave. All we had to go on was what our aunt’s former landlord had told us; nothing on the Internet helped us at all. The city cemetery didn’t have an address or phone number.

Loose gravel crunching beneath the tires, we pulled into the cemetery.

No map. No office building. Just what we expected.

One thing we didn’t expect, though, was the size of the cemetery: It wasn’t a little podunk scrap of land that we had imagined. Rows and rows of headstones and memorials in all shapes and sizes stretched as far as we could see.

St. Eugene Catholic Church in McGregor. I had planned on lighting a candle inside for Aunt Lois, but a wedding was taking place.

“No problem,” I said confidently to Kay. “Look. The dates on the ones near the entrance are as recent as 2012. It’s got to be up front here. See?” I pointed to the next headstones. “2010.”

We quickly found out that there was no organization whatsoever that we could perceive. Gravestones from 1882, 1910, and 1963 were intermixed with ones from the 21st century. Our hearts sunk and reality hit us: We would have to park the car and roam around in the 103-degree (39 C) heat until we found it. Well, Aunt Lois, I thought, we’re definitely thinking of you now. There was no one to ask for help; we were the only ones in the cemetery.

Kay took one vast side of the cemetery, and I took the other. Our iPhones in our hands like walkie-talkies, we began the search. My sister soon texted me: This is like a game. Kinda fun! I smiled.

We both got caught up in pausing before interesting gravestone/memorials. Each one told a story by the engraved pictures, words, and items placed in front. This distracted us from our true mission, but we didn’t mind. I couldn’t help but set vases of flowers and teddy bears upright as I came across them. I apologized out loud before touching these precious items, though. I wanted to do it out of respect, but, at the same time, I felt like I was invading the peace and tranquility of the departed souls.

Two hours later, after numerous breaks under shade trees, a bag full of empty water bottles, and sweat-drenched clothing, my phone rang.

It was Kay.

I prayed in this spot on the church grounds before we drove to the cemetery.

My heart fluttered in my chest. We had texted up until now (don’t ask me why), but she was now calling me. I answered.

Yep. Just as I thought: She had located the grave.

I jogged toward my sister who was standing way back at the far end of the cemetery, not far from where I parked the car (ugh). On our way into town, we had bought four different kinds of plastic flowers at Dollar General because we wanted them to last longer that just a couple of hours.

We planted the four sprigs in diamond formation around the small but gorgeous headstone. I suggested that we have a moment of silence. (I didn’t want to use the word pray because my sister is definitely not the praying type.) I bowed my head as my sister respectfully gazed down at the flat rectangular stone.

In silence, we got back into the car and drove along the gravel trail back to the entrance. Suddenly a thought came to me: We didn’t waste the past two hours wandering under the fiery sun. Aunt Lois had no family and very few friends when she died. To her, the past two hours were like an afternoon of coffee and chit-chat with her niece and nephew in the run-down apartment complex that she called home.

All I know is that Kay and I were the only family members who had made the trip to pay our last respects.

I imagined Aunt Lois smiling and seeing us off at the entrance, her hair in the same beehive style that I remember.

“That was a nice visit,” Kay said as we slowly drove away.

“Yep. It was.”

The Circle of Life: We saw these horses directly across from the cemetery as we left.

~t

(all photos by Topaz)


The Flea Market

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“So, let me get this straight,” the bearded old man said, adjusting his round spectacles and placing his palms on the cheap folding table that separated him from the customer. “You want to donate this gorgeous hunk of jewelry? And you don’t want any money if it sells? Well, I can guarantee that it’ll get snatched up as soon as I put it out with the other things.”

The customer, a tall, average-built 30-something, merely nodded. He wanted to explain everything to the old man, but it would have been too embarrassing to start bawling right there in the middle of all the bargain hunters.

The flea market volunteer hesitated and then slowly took the glistening ring from the young man’s outstretched palm. The customer sighed heavily as the small platinum band with the large inset diamond left his possession once and for all. Thoughts and memories flooded the young man’s mind: placing the ring on his new bride’s finger during the ceremony; the bouquets of Oriental lilies filling the chapel with their sweet, pleasing scent; Jennifer whispering “I love you” as they walked down the aisle toward the doors, anxious to begin their new stage of life together; and embracing his little boys every chance he got because they meant everything to him.

“Mister, you can probably get a few hundred for it at a pawn shop. You sure about leaving it here?”

Jim fought back tears. “It’s OK,” he said, waving his hand, barely able to choke out the words.

“Well, all right. That’s mighty kind of you. This’ll make someone’s day, that’s for sure,” the old man said, taking in Jim’s chiseled features. This poor guy is a wreck, he thought.

Turning back to the surplus items in boxes behind the sales tables, the old man didn’t hear Jim’s whispers: “Bye Tyler. Bye Garret. Love you, my buddies.” Jim sniffed and swiped at his nose. “Bye Jennifer.” With that, Jim turned around and weaved through various tables full of clothing and knick-knacks.

Looking back to see that Jim was out of sight, the old man turned to his wife, a round, cheerful lady. “Now, why would he do such a thing? I don’t get it.”

His wife smiled, the crow’s feet accentuating her squinted eyes. “Don’t worry about it, hon. Maybe you’re not supposed to ‘get it.’ Ever think of that? Go ahead and put it over in the ring display.”

The old man examined the exquisite platinum surface. A few scratches, but surely it wasn’t more than a decade old. Could have been a divorce. Then why didn’t he give me his ring as well? The old man became enveloped in his own thoughts. Everyone told him he dwelt on things too much; that it was a weakness of his. 

Instead of placing the glistening treasure among the gaudy, rusted rings, the old man dropped it in his apron pocket instead. He wasn’t about to let just anyone have it for next to nothing.

#####

By Sunday afternoon, most of the decent stuff, if you could call it that, had been snatched up. The tables in the sprawling yard of the community center contained only junk: watches that didn’t work; old, ratty clothing that no one would even pay 25 cents for; baby dolls with missing limbs; and so on.

About a third of the tables had been folded up and removed, leaving room for the children to run around while their occupied mothers milled about.

The old man set the newspaper on the chair beside his table and shook his head. He breathed heavily.

“What’s wrong, dear?” His wife glanced down to the folded paper showing a portion of the obituaries. The prominent photo showed a handsome, smiling man still in the prime of his life.  “Didn’t I tell you to stop reading this section!”

The old man sighed. “That’s him. The guy who gave me his wife’s fancy wedding ring.” He shook his head again and wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief from his back pocket.

The woman picked up the paper. “James Michael Sherman.” She quickly scanned the few paragraphs under the photo and name. “Passed away Friday. Survived by his ex-wife Jennifer and two young sons.” She placed the paper on the table and covered her mouth, tears trickling down her face.

The old couple embraced, gently swaying back and forth.

“Um, excuse me.” The old couple let go of each other and looked behind them. A young guy dressed in a faded Polo shirt and shorts stood near the ring display. “Is this all that’s left?”

The old woman walked over to the man, forcing a smile. “I’m sorry, sir. They’ve been picked through all weekend,” she said, motioning toward the cheap remnants in the ring case.

The old man approached. “Looking for something in particular?”

The Polo guy smoothed his dark hair to the side. “Uh, I was hoping to find something for my fiancé. I don’t think she would go for these huge gaudy things, though.” He laughed.

“Have you tried the mall? Some of the jewelry places are having big sales, with the economy the way it is and all,” the old woman said.

The young guy laughed again, this time in embarrassment. “Speaking of the economy, I got laid off right after I proposed to her. Her folks are paying for the wedding, but I really wanted to give her something special. I guess that won’t be happening now,” he said, his eyes sinking to the ground.

“Wait here.” The old man turned and pretended to rummage through a box. Instead he pulled the platinum diamond ring from his apron pocket and turned back around. “Here it is! I knew it was in there somewhere.” He held up the shiny piece of craftsmanship.

“Whoa… How much do you want for it?” the young man exclaimed.

“Fifty dollars,” the old woman said softly.

“I’ll take it!”

After the Polo guy bought the ring and practically sprinted away, the old man reached for his wife’s hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back and put her head on his chest.

~t


That Fateful Night: An Excerpt

Credit: realhdwallpaper.com

I have been writing a lot for the past couple of years. How much is a lot, you ask? Well, I have a few completed manuscripts that I’ve accumulated.

That’s great!! What are you waiting for?? Send them in!!

Ha.

If only it were that easy.

I haven’t wanted to release any of them yet. And the one manuscript that I did shop around turned out to be lacking something. Oh well. We live and learn.

Live.

Yes, it’s all about living. That much I know.

This current project feels like it might be the one that sees the light of day. It may very well be the one that gets published self-published. Why? Because it’s the only one that feels right: the story that is bleeding out of my still-open wounds. It’s not like I’m on a 1,000-word-a-day writing binge, but I’ll get it written at some point.

My goal is to have it finished and bound before my mother passes away. She’s not sick or anything, but she’s the one who keeps urging me to publish it, so I’d at least like to finish it before she does pass away someday. She wants me to get my story out there so others can learn and benefit from it. Plus, she thinks it’ll earn me millions of dollars.

Yeah, right. It helps to dream, though.

Anyway, below is an excerpt from my work in progress (I almost said Enjoy! but decided not to). Mind you, it’s a rough draft, so please overlook mistakes of any kind:

 

**************

 

I never thought I would be so brave as I rushed toward my death. No goodbyes, no crying (and I was quite the crybaby). The four margaritas, each with an extra shot of tequila, had given me the courage, though. They had taken the credit just like everything else in my pathetic life.

Luckily I had enough sense to pick up my prescription at the drive-thru. The Muslim lady with the head scarf gave them to me through the window just like she always did. She has her faith. That’s good, I thought. I had mine: nearly two full bottles of Xanax.

Like in that Clint Eastwood flick where the one-armed deputy had two guns in his belt.  “But you only have one arm,” someone had asked him. “Well, I don’t wanna get killed on account of not being able to fight back,” he had responded. I, too, wanted to be like that.

 

**************

 

Not so smart now, are you?

Why was my mind still working?

Somehow I knew it wasn’t God’s voice; sounded too familiar.

I didn’t see anything.  No blackness.  Just… nothingness.  Even with all the liquor and drugs in my system, I was still somehow tied to reality. What was going on?

 

***************

 

“Scott, Scott, where are you?!” The voice was frantic. I knew it was my wife’s, even in my condition. That smallest hint of recollection. Funny how the mind worked. Her voice sounded tinny, like it was coming from my grandma’s childhood radio that she had shown me pictures of.

I was fumbling with my work bag on the floorboard. “I can’t find my phone!!” I was frantic, too.

But why? 

Oh, I know. 

The redneck standing outside my passenger window. I’m not actually sure if he was a redneck, but that’s what I called those guys in Texas who drove those huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks. I think I had asked him if he were okay. “I’m fine, but your car is totaled,” I remember him saying.

I never started up my car.  I was still in the crowded parking lot of El Ranchito… right?

“Where’s my blasted phone?!” I shrieked again and again. It was no longer in my bag. I was going by my sense of touch, unable to see. I could still hear my poor wife’s frantic question coming through the receiver like a short-circuiting megaphone in the darkness of my mind.

“Scott!!”

 

******************

 

–killed someone!  You could have—

I was on my back, staring up into a bright light. Nothing but radiant fog, like headlights shining through early morning mountain air. It was a woman’s voice. She seemed to be addressing me.

–could have killed—

–someone!

You could have—

Yes, I get it, now shut up, I thought.  All I was conscious of was my vision, or lack thereof; I hadn’t noticed my limbs, if I were even able to move them.  Was I strapped down?  Was I in an ambulance?  Were we in motion?

Who cares?  The radiance was giving way to a shadow; an eclipse entered my line of mental vision and sent icy pellets of fear through my body.

I’m dead.  Oh my God, help me…

Someone had an arm around me and was helping me walk. I felt cold. I sensed that nothing was covering my legs. Where were my clothes? I was doubled over and staggering like an old man, a few baby steps at a time. I’m 6’3” and a lean, solid 220 pounds, so whoever was helping me was pretty strong, that was for sure.

Come on…  you can do it…

An old man’s voice. Maybe it was God.

 

*******************

 

~topaz


The Consequences of Surviving a Suicide Attempt

People commit suicide because it’s a way out. A way out of the gloom that has encased them. They see it as a way to finally achieve peace; little do they realize that they leave behind family, friends, and other loved ones who have to carry on with the enormous amount of grief weighing on their hearts.

Being a way out is the reason why I attempted to end my life last summer. Had I been successful (and I still don’t see how I wasn’t), it would have put an end to my suffering — or so I believed. But who’s to say the afterlife doesn’t have its share of problems? Hmm. Maybe it depends on which afterlife to which one goes.

Individuals who are trapped in their mental illness don’t/can’t stop and say, “Hey, what if I don’t die? Will I be paralyzed? Will I suffer permanent brain damage? Will I be hooked up to feeding tubes, my brain a worthless vegetable?”

When I was being checked in to my first mental hospital, the nurse and I began to chit-chat. Normally I don’t like to make small talk; it’s a waste of time. However, she brought up a topic that immediately drew me in. “You know,” she began while filling out the first of numerous pages of forms, “you’re lucky.”

“And why is that?” I asked bitterly. I was ticked off that I was still on planet Earth.

“Well, because some people live through their suicide attempts.”

“Really.” I didn’t ask in a typical shocked or interested tone; it was more like a response to her telling me what she had to eat for dinner the night before.

She began to tell me about a young man, a former patient at the same hospital, who shot himself in the temple and actually lived. The bullet passed through his head, somewhere between his brain and his eyes. It missed his brain but severed some nerve systems leading to his eyes. He was perfectly normal except for permanent blindness.

She said that another person at the county hospital (where I was initially taken) survived after jumping off a five-story building. He was in pretty bad shape, as you can imagine, with permanent damage to his back and legs.

She proceeded to explain why I was so fortunate: I didn’t have any lasting damage (at least at that time I didn’t; the overdose may have affected my memory and so forth).

So, to summarize a bit, it basically sucks to live through a suicide attempt because most people suffer physical and other lasting injuries.

However, at the time I didn’t know, but I wasn’t off the hook.

Luckily my parents helped my wife and me pay off the thousands of dollars in hospital, ambulance, and “miscellaneous” (i.e. doctor visits, blood work) bills. Psychiatrists and medication that they dispense are not free: They cost a lot. As do therapists.

My paid-off car was damaged beyond any hope of repair, so we suddenly had a car payment again. Plus, my insurance went up. Way up.

After the horrible accident which I don’t even remember having, the police mailed back my driver’s license without a single note attached.

I was finally free!

Months went by, and as each one passed, I prayed hard. Six months after the accident, still no word from the police. Lawyers began telling me: You’re in the clear. Nothing to worry about. Go on about your life. It’s all behind you.

Nine months after the accident, nine months, I received an ominous envelope in the mail one day from the police department. My first thought was that I had run a red light and one of those intersection cameras caught me.

I opened it and almost fainted: It was a warrant for my arrest.

“Why did it take nine months for them to send me this?!” I remember yelling to my wife. For crying out loud, they even told me my blood alcohol content was 0.00% after the accident.

So, it was not the end of the story; in fact, there were quite a few more long chapters that I had failed to notice.

I turned myself in and was booked like a common criminal, including the infamous mugshot and fingerprinting. I had to scramble to get a bail bondsman and pay the 20% which turned out to be $200.

Then I had to get a lawyer who charged $4,500 whether we would win or lose the case.

Then I had to start missing work due to psychiatrist appointments, counseling appointments, and court dates. The first several court dates were pretty much a joke: I had to be in the court with a bunch of other offenders for roll call, and then, one by one (i.e. whenever the lawyers got around to it) the lawyers would saunter in. Some would appear with their clients in front of the judge, and others, like mine, would take us out into the hallway and tell us the lowdown before releasing us.

By the way, if you have read any John Grisham novels or have seen the movies, um: He doesn’t embellish a whole lot. I would say not at all.

The lawyers that walk in and out of county criminal courts are the most eccentric, goofy-looking lot. Okay, okay, some look and act normally (like mine of course), but, but…

I know this is Texas, but do some of them have to wear their ten-gallon hats to court? Some lawyers look like they wear the same suit day after day, and others don’t seem to own any hair brushes or combs (or soap).

I swear, one guy came stumbling in, a small black bag in his hand, and almost tripped over some of the benches. His eyes were bloodshot, matching nicely with the color of his face. Yep, he turned out to be a lawyer.

Anyway, it’s a circus in the court on any given day. People milling about the spectator area, conducting business, while the judge hears cases at the same time. The second time I went to court, I made sure to get a seat in the very front row right behind the rail.

This is so embarrassing for the defendants, I thought as the judge heard cases while the circus was in full swing all around her.

Another thing I was surprised to witness was that the judge carried on emotionally and admonished the defendants like a drill sergeant mother, not that much differently than Judge Judy and all those other reality show court programs. Who would have thought?

Today I was actually glad that my lawyer was running three hours late because I got to witness several cases. The first one was a 40-something man who got his second DWI conviction. The judge had no mercy on him because, for some reason, he hadn’t even bothered to start an AA program that he was supposed to. Plus it was his second DWI charge in two months, bumping it up to a class B misdemeanor (that means hello jail and goodbye driver’s license).

Another lady looked strung out and was dressed in light blue county jail attire. She didn’t seem to understand why she was before the judge. Her charge was public intoxication for the fifth time. I’m not kidding. She got sent back across the street to corrections just as quickly as she had entered the court.

One case really pierced my heart, though: An 18-year-old pregnant woman went before the judge for an offense which I didn’t really hear. It could have been DWI or drug possession (seemingly most of the cases in County Criminal Court (CCC) #6). The judge went through questions about her life, and for the first time, I saw the judge’s compassion for certain offenders: She was asking the defendant what kind of future she imagined for her and her child because the father had abandoned her. The young woman had recently quit her waitress job and was living with acquaintances. Even the stone-faced bailiff looked softer as he fetched a box of tissues for the young lady.

The judge cut her a break, only adding on an extra six months to her probation and telling her to complete her GED program. Since I was directly behind the bailiff area, the young lady had a seat inside the court and was just inches away from me. I wanted so much to tap her shoulder and tell her everything would be all right because there were strangers who cared about her and who were going to pray for her. She could have been my daughter.

However, I didn’t dare attempt to reach over the courtroom barrier. I had already had enough excitement a few hours before.

Earlier in the morning, as I passed through the metal detector downstairs to come in, of course all the bells and whistles went off even though I had taken off my belt and wedding ring. Well, I had totally forgotten that the rosary ring that I sometimes carry in my pocket could be considered a weapon in a county courthouse. I had to leave it with one of the sheriffs. Talk about embarrassing: I was whisked away and separated from the general area while the rosary ring was examined and while I was yelled at.

Rosary ring: a weapon for spiritual warfare. In a county courthouse, though, just a straight-up weapon.

Anyway, after several initial appearances, the trial is finally set to begin in September. My lawyer told me it will more than likely be moved back due to the state having to assemble witnesses and experts. So the end to all this is still nowhere in sight.

A whole year after my suicide attempt, the consequences of that fateful night are still popping up like ant hills in our backyard during the long summer months.

Here is the moral of my story: Don’t try to kill yourself.

Just don’t even try.

Besides forever hurting those who love you, you just might live through it, and your problems would then be multiplied. And, believe me, it sucks.

~topaz