Another Steps In

Remember the word invaluable

its mystique left in its own mythological

persona, that feeling of worthiness

beyond the normalcy of our lives.

 

Remember we always believe,

seldom do we allow ourselves

to fail the resilient nature of

respecting the human condition.

 

Remember we tend to pretend

‘everything is alright’

‘we should get together soon’

while our facade takes us away.

 

Remember all the questions

that will arise

when one makes a choice

no one else can understand.

 

Remember the fascination we have

with living breathing smiling

human beings

remember we are all the same.

 

Remember to never take for granted

the actions of one have nothing to do

with you.

Watching Jumpers

a bridge

Driving over the bridge

I thought about the edge,

the lives standing on a ledge

wondered til I felt a cringe

 

Thought of all the lives

a beautiful spring day

turning evening anyway

bicyclists, walkers, drives

 

This quiet sense of wonder

overcame my state of mind

only a silent recall, remind

it does put an end to a wander.

 

Driving by again I returned

this time to lights and fear

there was an apparent jumper

bicyclists, walkers, all turned

 

away from the activity, a quiet

like our lives ever hold merit.

 

A Teenager Committed Suicide

Yesterday, a former student took his own life. The circumstances are horrific to realize that life had come to such terms. It is also ironic for many people including myself. We all have dark moments that cause us to imagine a deadly option. This young man somehow felt there was no one he could speak to that might help him through his crisis. In my life the issue of suicide has always been thought to be a cop-out and an easy option, a valueless choice for those around their lives.

I have students crying in the hallways today. I had a student contact me yesterday evening in tears – we spoke for several minutes, and I invited him to come by. This situation has impacted a lot of people including those that have the feelings themselves. Nobody really knows what a person is going through when they choose this deadly way to stop the pain. Nobody knows the tears in the final moments because we just don’t understand. I do.

I believe suicide is a mental illness beyond the circumstances of finality for a person suffering from inevitable mortality. That is the only time when such an act seems feasible. I say that again knowing in my own life there are times when the world I live in becomes exhausting and I no longer like the loneliness I feel. I am especially mortified by this situation with our student. He touched a lot of lives. I watched him laugh both in the classroom and with his friends. I watched him be successful in his love of sports in the events he participated. I watched people groom his life.

Today, I see the outcome. I sense the family and their reaction not as a close friend but as a person that appreciates the grief they feel. I understand why students are at a loss in their actions as they try to wrap their heads around his loss.

Suicide is something that everyone needs to acknowledge is a terrible way to end a person’s life. If someone reaches out be there for them, because the moment you take that for granted they may take action on something they didn’t have a chance to rethink or turn away from the act. Sadly one must though realize the end game is not their responsibility. A call, a visit, a wellness check may be all that is needed. Let them know they are not alone and they have a possible firm ledge to step back onto, let them find their own professional guidance.

Do not abandon a person when they are at their seeming lowest. Look for the signs and be there no matter the effect the notion might have on your own life.

The victim needs your real love.

The Words That Speak

I read a poem today,

talked about saving a life,

that words could

in such a remarkable way,

cause someone to

rethink their moment,

that impulse,

the frightened reality

the edge.

 

I wondered about the beauty of a word

 

We might easily write about death,

oh the beauty of their lives,

the regret of time,

the nature of loneliness

how simple it is

when described

yet complicated when

lost.

 

I wondered about the beauty of a word

 

How does someone decide

to listen

what is the correct cadence

of wanting a wandering soul

to find their way

inside the mystique of

questioning

the human condition.

 

I wondered about the beauty of a word

 

I stood along the railroad tracks

watched the lights brighten

the clicking of the clack,

the deafening horn,

I watched the light of tomorrow

suddenly set in the western sky,

and then I stepped away …

 

I wondered about the beauty of a word.

When A Friend’s Pain Defines Personal Purpose

I have a fairly good life. I am gainfully employed, live in a seemingly free country, with all the benefits of free speech and liberty. I have a family, we are all healthy. Our lives are determined by our actions. Given all of that reward I sometimes question my purpose, and I begin to doubt my ability, and I frame a rather skeptical outlook on my future. I’ll then beat myself up and struggle with the reality of my fortune. However, it is when I hear of the pain of someone in my life, close or connected that I really begin to recognize the gifts I have received. It is then I feel guilty for not appreciating what I have to live for.

That self-serving attitude causes a depression that can more often than not, be debilitating. I used to believe my depression was situational – created by short term events. I have now as I finish the 5th decade of my life realized my depression is clinical. I add fuel to it by recognizing an addictive personality – so many factors of my life have been defined by addiction. I feel fortunate to have responded to recovery in the manner I have. As a friend often says, life is good.

All that said, I believe life doesn’t really happen until you experience someone else’s pain. How many funerals have we walked away from where a person took their own life, and everyone is left with questions. It happens frequently and we are always sad, and for the moment, we do catalogue our own possibilities, and we do recognize how lucky our lives can be. But then reality sets in and life becomes again burdensome, and for me specifically I begin to question purpose.

Recently I was told of a friend’s battle with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. This friend is someone I knew in a previous time, and our lives have gone many directions in the last ten years. However, the impact of this news has literally shut me down and made me reflect again on what is my purpose. She is a beautiful person with beautiful children, and I can guarantee she did not choose this path in her final days. She’s younger than me, and today I am faced with the reality of finding perspective.

I spent this last weekend in my hometown, and I watched a music festival that was a lot of fun. My wife and I enjoyed the blues, and I spent rare time with my extended family. Whenever I return to my hometown, I am flooded with childhood memories, couple that with time with my family and it can be precarious. We came home refreshed and in good spirits and the foreboding feeling I receive when returning to my world seemed to creep up slowly. I again began to experience my depression, and the choices I make in my life become centered, and I began to wonder about purpose.

It was then I received an email about my friend. She was diagnosed recently and her condition is untreatable. Here is the quandary. Where I spend the night questioning my purpose and allowing my depression to win, suddenly I hear of this person who has everything in the world to live for and she knows it will be taken away. She doesn’t want that, not now, not in the prime of her life. I thought about her pain all night, and I realized that any time I feel sorry for myself I need to think of my friend and recognize I have chances that other people do not.

People are given windows into the lives of others for a reason. In this case, my friend’s pain is unfortunately my saving grace. I am not debilitated, I am not suffering a terminal illness, I am not losing my mind. God help me that those factors always evade me. Instead I will take her challenge as an inspiration that in her toughness might I show some strength in recognizing I do have a purpose in this life. I do need to move forward if not just for her, for my own well being.

Let’s pray we all might continue to find our purpose and strength to exemplify the life our friends and family might not have the luxury to fully experience.

Talking About Suicide

The other day I ran into an old friend. We had begun laughing about a coffee clutch of several gentlemen we knew that would gather daily in the summer. We’d both joined a couple of times, knew them all about as well as we knew one another, just regulars at a little coffee shop in our neighborhood. I hadn’t seen him for quite some time, and he told me that the circumstances of that gathering were a sad memory. I said I agreed, because I knew one of them had taken his own life a few years back. He nodded, we both sort of looked at each other, and then he told me another one had as well around the same time.

See, there were six guys, they all had morning routines, but they met for that 20 minutes or so for coffee and laughs, sometimes hung over, often times more powerful than the one next in their earnest desire to present their lives to one another – friends, coffee, beautiful summer mornings. I wondered about the remaining four, and how their lives had changed losing two friends, two members of a coffee clutch that seemed to last forever. I wondered about the true nature of a man’s loneliness to bring themselves to such desperate a measure as is, suicide.

See there is a lot of argument out there. A very dear friend of mine lost his brother many years ago to suicide. He would argue it is not a selfish act, whereby society for the most part might disagree because of the world left behind. But it is truly more than selfishness, because I would be willing believe not one successful suicide would ever imagine the fallout their actions will leave behind them. I do have to believe more often than not the act is one of a victim’s desperation so much so, they are unable to see any other options.

My friend and I on this day talked about the tragedy, and he said to me that there is more to life. He reminded me of his brother that he watched in chemo in a hospital room fighting every day of his life for a chance to live, and the same for all of the patients on that cancer ward.

See its hard to put it in a simple box of explanation. There certainly are those circumstances that lead to a sort of euthanasia frame of mind when struggling with a terminal and painful disease, but that raises the question of how some of the most afflicted people in the world will provide a more genuine smile than a healthy human being at the top of their game.

Suicide isn’t selective, we both agreed as we finished our coffee ready to go about our day. I think what was important for both of us was the validation of our existence and the appreciation for knowing two people whose lives had touched us in different ways and had made decisions we would always struggle to understand. In the meantime, we’d had a good talk and were lifted again in that standstill moment of time.

Please Scream Rather Than Leave A Note – Suicide In Our Lives

spade

Kate Spade / Anthony Bourdain


The other day, I read a NYT article that indicated suicide rates are rising at an alarming rate since 1999. The same day CNN listed a similar statistic at 25% since 1999. This was the day after Kate Spade had taken her life. I thought it a natural followup of a tragic event. This morning I woke to the news of Anthony Bourdain. His series ‘Parts Unknown’ has been receiving high ratings on CNN for years. These are two prominent members of our society based upon their achievements over decades. Yesterday at a conference, a colleague of mine made the poignant statement, ‘suicide isn’t selective’ in its victim.
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I’m really having a hard time wrapping my head around this. The first time I experienced suicide was when a friend of mine’s lover took his own life because he was terminal with cancer. I remember he lived a block away from me, and I probably could have heard the shotgun had I been on my deck, but I didn’t know about it until the next day. I remember his partner’s grief, and all the confusion that followed.
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Years later, a man named Spaulding Gray wrote a wonderful piece called ‘Swimming To Cambodia’ and I immediately fell in love with his writing, his persona, though I remember being tempered when once interviewed, he stated that when he knows he is too sick to enjoy a quality of life, he will jump in the East river. His body was fished out of that same river two years later. I was devastated. and again not fascinated, more sickened by the reality of such a gesture.
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In my own family, we have experienced such a tragedy, and there are never answers beyond the telling statement that depression is often a leading component in a person’s choice to take their own life. I’ve seen it too many times to count, and I still cannot wrap my head around it.
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I know in my life I’ve struggled with depression more than I would like to admit. I’ve felt the dark moments that I suggest to all of my students as they go on to college or just live their present lives that when those moments arise, they have to call someone, they cannot allow themselves any other choice. I recognize the hypocrisy of my emotional reaction to this terrible outcome in the lives of so many people in our society and world.
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Yet, all I can do today is speak to it from my heart. I didn’t personally know Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams, countless names in the public eye. I don’t know the names of all the people that the reader’s of this commentary have lost over the years. I only know the pain and confusion is real. I only know when my dark moments come, I cannot help but reflect upon the realities that exist around me on any given day.
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I can only suggest that people use the hotline – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, rather than accepting someone’s final option as the only answer. There have got to be solutions, and more importantly there has to be a greater awareness and acceptance around the stigma that is attached to mental illness and depression.

AP File Photo