Editor’s note: This post contains descriptions of violence and may be triggering for some readers.
When Mother became sick she was very accepting. This was her third match with cancer. Uncharacteristically, one day she insisted I visit her in the hospital at a specific time. I arrived to meet the patient ombudsman and to sign on as the health care proxy. We very specifically discussed the fact that Dad was too superstitious to do the deed; she felt I had the strength to pull the plug, and that she wanted it pulled. Within the year, a friend tasked me with the same responsibility and I had to ponder what this said about me; I am seen as a viable tool towards ending it. Mother passed without me having to make hard decisions, as did Norman. I believe I would have enforced the DNR.
When Dad became sick I flew to his side: we had only recently reacquired our relationship, strained by his marriage and decision to have kids with her. I asked him, in addition to offering to take him to a priest and shark cartilage curanderos: Did he want to start assembling enough pills or heroin to end it if it got too rough?
Did he want me to go get him a gun?
He felt that the pills were easily obtainable at a later date. He reminded me that he had always hated guns, another thing we had in disharmony. I suspect him of being a good Catholic on a basic level. He was old enough and sick enough to qualify for an experimental drug and treatment regimen. While he lived for four years past his diagnosis he eventually opined that “it wasn’t worth it” and looked at me meaningfully. By that time she was watching us like a hawk and assistance would have meant jail time for me and truth be told I was sort of disgusted with his grasping at mortality as his dignity evaporated.
Dad had four brothers.
Dan died in Missoula in an “accident” that featured a stove and a broken pilot light. When Dad passed through Denver on the way to retrieve Dan’s ashes, I met him at Stapleton with an overnight bag and a cleared calendar. I was severely disappointed that he didn’t want my company and felt he was dealing with some shame. There is shame in ending up ashes in a cardboard box for a man who attended Catholic seminary for a while and thought he was Jesus returned for than more than a few moments. I had visited him on the summer solstice one year in what was one of my all time great benders and had a great time; I’d called my Dad, not knowing what to do with him when he showed up at my door in full bipolar mania.
Andy maxed the AC, pulled the covers up to his chest and put a gun under his chin. Broken hearted over his divorce years before or in a dark internal imbalance—it makes no difference; I liked him the few times I saw him. Nobody is sure how long it took to find his body. The story of my getting to DC, to crash the funeral, is cute. Recounting the funeral which features his Fillipino girlfriend and her family of midgets is pure Fellini. By the time the priest unraveled the sin of omission he was on his way to burial in sanctified ground.
I’ve known men and women who succumbed to drug overdoses, lost fights and drunken single car and motorcycle accidents; I suspect more than one of these were conscious decisions to check out. The first was a lovely young woman, in high school, with diabetes who chose to drink a bottle of whiskey. There is no way Steve flew his bike 250 yards off of Look Out Mountain by accident. The latest is a young man who pulled his car around a train crossing gate.
I drank, drugged, played with firearms, fooled around with married women and biker chicks, engaged in felonies and fought in bars, got my ass kicked hard as often as I kicked ass. I saw a guy get killed fighting over a quarter on a pool table. I wrecked one car at 115 MPH, was busted twice doing in excess of 100 and ate half a dozen DWIs in 30 states and on three continents. When I got sober I realized I would have killed anyone who tried to kill me as I tried to do myself in.
I am hard wired with a predisposition for suicide.
I repeat the mantra “A Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem.”
In Canada and the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Read more on Suicide.
Italian monumental cemetery image courtesy of Shutterstock