Last month was “Suicide Awareness Month” and during it, I wrote this. There is always time for awareness, healing, care, and growth, so I am sharing this now.
I walked in silence today. No music. No audio book. No podcast. Not even my dog today. In the dark before the dawn. Normally there is a moon to guide me, but he was hiding today, giving me even more space to think. At some point, the birds began to wake, but even they honored the silence for the most part.
In the dark silence, I thought about a face I have only seen in photographs: my Grandpa Dewey, who I never knew, but whose legacy impacts me everyday. One particular captured moment shines brightest: a hearty grin and his windswept hair dancing with the wind and waves out in the San Francisco Bay.
Grandpa Dewey died by suicide. A desperate, torturous, violent suicide.
In the silence this morning, I also pondered commitment. Commitments to people. Commitments to countries. Commitments to ideas. All the commitments we make to ourselves, each other, and those who live on after we are gone.
Sometimes saying someone “committed” suicide triggers the surviving loved ones, because they make the association to committing a crime. “Say died by suicide instead,” they insist. Their loved one wasn’t a criminal, they were ill. That’s true. And we should still interrogate it, I think.
To commit to someone or something is a decision. Whether made in right mind or not, it is still a decision. And a decision by definition means to “cut off all other possibilities.”
The fact remains. My grandfather “commited” suicide. He made a “commitment” to end his life. He “decided” to end his life, cutting off in that moment all other possibility of healing. In that decision, the words don’t actually seem to matter. What matters is that we become aware of signs and care for the decision maker while they are suffering, if we can, and if not, understand the ripples that undoubtedly follow, the ghosts that live on.
Suicide shatters families, even for generations. The trauma perpetuates, and, tragically, one more “viable way to die” gets added into our consciousness.
When someone takes their life, it is undoubtedly a choice. It is a choice that has rippling effects. But to say that it is a selfish act or cause for blame does nothing to support the ill or hurting person, who simply wants to so desperately stop the pain.
Sometimes there are things that are best to stay silent about. And sometimes we just need time to ponder before speaking. For anyone who has ever been in a fearful situation and tried to scream, but found in the moment that their vocal chords froze, they know that even soft ways of speaking up, asking for help when you most need it, is perhaps the hardest commitment to make. This is why awareness in our communities is so vitally important.
As I finished my walk this morning, the sky opened up and wept. It rarely rains in the early morning where I live, so I welcomed it as a blessing for a renewed and refreshed day. I commit to our collective WE, one that can’t change the past, but can change the future, one bridging and caring moment at a time.
5:32am September 7, 2021