Sunday, November 1, 2009

Suicide and Guilt

I am a single woman, 60 years of age. That is a funny number: 60. It sounds so much older than my mind, and yet I am an old soul and always have been.
Some people have said that I am not what I think I am and that always confuses me because are we what we think we are? All we have is what our mind tells us we have and yet there are outside forces to remedy what we think we are.
For example I had a dream recently wherein I received a compliment. It was a compliment that came from another source other than my own mind. I have had a few dreams in my life that felt like that: that what I was dreaming came from without rather than from within.
When my children's father died in 1999 I had a lot of guilt. He died from a drug overdose and had been in the hospital not too long before he died for another suicide attempt. He had come to our son's wedding in Las Vegas looking like death warmed over, literally. And yet with all the emotions of having a son get married in Las Vegas, meeting the bride's parents, rushing to the chapel, dealing with social awkwardness and hotel room keys, we all just acted like everything was okay. The man could hardly stand up and yet his personality was blithe and boisterous and it was all just pretty awful when I think about it.
The next day we saw him get into a taxi with his carry-on bag and his leather jacket and we never saw him again.
The torture of what we could have done, could have said. The what-if's like could we have kidnapped him and taken him home and gotten him well? Could I have said, "Please don't leave us. Soon we will have grandchildren to enjoy and I will need you then."?
As it stood life went on and I had decided not to do a Christmas dinner at my house that year. I can't remember why. I must have been dispirited with my dad's Alzheimer's disease or something like that.
I called my ex-husband to cheer him up (at the suggestion of his cousin Mary). As I was leaving a message, a policewoman answered the phone. Much to my shock and grief, she said, "You are too late." He was dead.
I will never forget that night. I immediately called our daughter, who was alone at the time, and told her. I should have waited until her then-boyfriend got home so she wouldn't have been alone. I went over to my father's and I took a Tylenol PM. That was the only drug I could allow myself. It didn't do much. My father and his friend went out to dinner anyway and left me alone in their house. They had little sympathy for me.
I called my sister in Hawaii and she didn't seem to care either. She just started talking about herself.
I was very, very sad. I remember crying more for him than for my own parents when they died.
A few weeks later I had a dream. He came to me in the dream. He looked young and healthy. He was tan and exuding the stuff of life. He was also dealing drugs and he let me know that I was not responsible for his death. This came from outside my own mind.
I was convinced that I had killed him. I had married him when I was 17 and had treated him poorly. Not too long before he died I had written him a letter that was a bit angry. I was angry at him for his ideas about my family and my father in particular.
The letter was never found. He had thrown it away and I had to love him for that.


  1. Whoa, Shelb. I hope you don't still feel guilty. You gave him a good life when you were together, and you particularly gave him fabulous, really fabulous, children.

  2. Thank you for being able to be clean and honest and vulnerable in your sharing. You are an inspiration to me, both with your writing, and your art.