Yesterday I got news that a child of an acquaintance of mine had committed suicide. He was 37.

To lose a child is unimaginable. To lose someone you love by their own hand, is incomprehensible.

My heart is breaking for her even as I know that I cannot know what she is going through. In a few hours I will attend the funeral and already my chest hurts knowing I will see in her face unfathomable pain. What can I say to her to acknowledge the rending of her life into a new before and after because her child died? I am sorry for your loss is not large enough for any death, but it’s what we say. Because we don’t know what to say.

No words can be adequate, so I will do what I can.

I will bear witness to her grief. And grieve with her.

I will ask people to click on the photo below to learn about suicide prevention & coping with loss. My ignorance is complete. The least I can do is understand this half of her tragedy and hope I never need the information.

un-suicide-prevention

Went to a funeral last night.

The grandmother of my oldest friend died at 92. This was the kind of death that people call a relief because she had been ill and incapacitated for the last five years or so. Hospital bed in the middle of the living room, diapers, oxygen and IV.

Watching people die is never easy. The impulse is to hold on to them as long as possible, and so my friends self-preservation doesn’t factor in. Like a frog boiled in water that is heated slowly, she was unable to see the toll caring for her grandmother took on her.

My friend has had a hard life, and will likely continue to have a hard life. Her brother died last April at 46 of a heart attack leaving her the sole care-giver for both her grandmother and her mother, who is on disability. She will keep going and support her Mom but at this point its not clear which of them will bury the other.

It is difficult for me to see folks who still call me by my childhood nickname. My friend is effectively the last one who really knows me from the past. Who I was before I crossed the river to the never-never land of the suburbs. It might as well be Mars.

The chat turned to kids as it does once everyone has them, and my friend remarked that I had lucked out because my kid is so well-behaved. No drugs, no drinking, no smoking or running around in the middle of night with dangerous boys – everyone laughed remembering just how much of that we did. I said ‘Yeah, I am very lucky indeed’.

Another friend started asking me how I “broke that cycle that we are all in” with my kid because she was really worried about her niece. I said ‘the difference is my daughter has nothing she needs to escape from that can’t be accomplished with a good book’. I got a blank look.

I told her when we were kids we were escaping from crappy lives into whatever danger or reality altering substance was available. A giant game of chicken because, so what?, past present and future all looked the same. I got a nod.

Finally I said to her, ‘You know what? Tell your niece her life right now is not forever and she can get out if she wants to. She just has to want to’. I got another nod.

I wish I could remember when or why or how I decided I had to get out and do something different. I would like for there to be some epiphany I could share with others and be all inspirational like Geoffrey Canada. But all I got right now is – You gotta want to.

I hope thats the end of the funerals for a while.

Went to the wake and funeral for an old friend from the neighborhood today. When its said out loud its capitalized as in “The Neighborhood”.

It was the brother of my childhood friend who dropped dead of a heart attack. Same age as me, heavy smoker, overweight in that ex-football player way, and lots and lots of aggression. The aggression was channeled into his work as a security officer in local corrections, where he not only got to carry a gun, but got to knock heads together for a living. This is a big step up from the other option commonly available to guys from The Neighborhood which is being in the correction facility as a guest of the county or state.

The first step down my rabbit hole was seeing him laid out in a blue plaid shirt and jeans in the open coffin. Being on the other end of corrections he didn’t own a “court coat” (aka sports coat), and only wore a suit when he got married, which means he was buried in the neighborhood uniform. The bottom of the coffin was closed so I can only speculate that he had steel toes on as well.

The next summersault down the rabbit hole of the past was when I was listening to the memorial tributes from his buddies. Rambling stories about how much he loved his guns, and how he was a brawler with a tender heart. He was “warrior called home to God”, a “brother” who will use his strength to hold open the door to heaven. A gentle giant even though three different stories started with “The first time I met him, he chased me and beat me up”.

He never was violent to me. He was my friends little brother, and although he was bigger than all us by the time he was 15, we still picked on him. There was also the fact that he “didn’t hit girls”, he might punch a hole in the wall when we harassed him, but we were in no danger. Sometimes watching men beat on women makes an impression, and in this case it did so he didn’t hit girls.

In the old days parties were always at my friends house because her mom would buy us booze. Her policy was we were going to drink and do drugs anyway, so she wanted is to do it where she could see us. We would each drink a pint every Friday night (I was a Bacardi girl then) and then beer the rest of the weekend. We were 13 years old.

Sitting in the church, remembering this and that, was a WTF moment: we were 13 years old – why was she buying us booze? Anyway our routine of drunken sleepover parties every weekend included my friends mom periodically checking that no one choked on vomit in their sleep.

I was yanked from my interlude during the service by the realization that the guy two pews ahead of pew of me wasn’t drinking coffee but had a spit cup for his chaw.

The funeral ended and I kept my weeping friend company at the front of the church. She was clearly not leaving. People wandered back in to try and comfort her and she introduced me to her “Aunt” saying “She was the best damn stripper there ever was. That was back when you had to be able to dance, none of this bikini and a pole shit.”

I finally got her to leave the church and go into the fellowship hall for the funeral lunch by telling her it was time for Round Two – time to face down the relatives she doesn’t like, shake hands with her brothers pious church friends. She knows that you gotta do what needs to be done. And we did.

Too bad the past can’t be cremated and put in a jar on the mantle. Or scattered in an ocean. Or even buried.

I decided on the perfect song to be played at my funeral – Praise You, by Fatboy Slim. I want it played as everyone is leaving said good-bye event, with supplemental bass speakers and increasing volume until all attendees are driven out the door. Simple, upbeat and encourages folks to dance as they exit. It would be really cool if it could be played from rooftop speakers on the hearse for the drive to the cemetery, but there are probably noise restrictions. And then Three Little Birds played graveside. My life in two songs.

I was never much for planning the perfect wedding daydreams, or playing “how-many-kids-I-will-have-and-what-I-will-name-them”, but I can get into thinking about my funeral party. Probably because I don’t have to do anything except die. No small talk, no food prep, no clean up. With the bonus of not having to come up with the right outfit. And then changing it five times before I leave because its not quite right. A real low-pressure event when all is said and done.

Sometimes I think about what people might say at my funeral, beyond the required social niceties. Will they tell the truth? Will they remember how prickly and difficult I can be? How much I liked to dance? My appreciation for and skillful use of black humor? Will they mention my profound lack of patience for assholery? (BTW anyone caught mouthing cliches like “She didn’t suffer fools gladly” needs to have a drink spilled on them.) What is my “legacy” if I die tomorrow?

The best I can come up with is another song lyric. Lyle Lovett – “She wasn’t good, but she had good intentions.”

Listen to Praise You.