Today I took a shortcut to work, up a gravel road through the hills. At the tip-top of the hill, where you can see miles and miles of farms and houses and hills and rivers, cars on the highway and cows grazing in the pasture, at the place where sometimes lovers park at night and where hikers climb during the day and where hawks carry off small rodents and snakes burrow and coyotoes and foxes move about in pursuit of their daily business, at this place I found something terrible.
A car, parked. A body on the ground behind it. Someone I do not know, someone cradling a shotgun in his arms, the life already gone from him, hat on the ground a few feet away. I did not see his face. I did not want to look that closely, because the the moment I saw the gun, I knew I couldn't look any closer. Some things do not need to be seen to be understood.
I notified the authorities and waited for them to arrive, to begin the business of documenting the details of this man's passage from one life to the next. Facts, lined up like books on a shelf. Name, address, date of birth, next of kin, cause of death, time of death.
But these facts will not tell the story of the person who was laying on his side on the hard, dusty ground up in the horse heaven hills. They will not describe what thoughts went through his mind, what scenery his eyes beheld, whether he cried, whether he prayed, who it was that he thought of in his last moments with love or with hate or with despair. None of that will be known to any of us.
Somewhere today someone will receive a knock on the door from a sheriff's deputy. They will be asked to identify the body of a man they knew, possibly a man they loved. One man's life is over, other lives will be changed forever. Was he a father? A brother? A son? Does he leave a wife or a partner behind? What was the tragedy that drove him to the top of the hill? What obstacle in his life seemed so insurmountable to him that he could not face it? Who will mourn him now that he is gone? Will they be angry with him for what he did?
And now, on the other side of the veil, in that place we living cannot see or touch, does he know peace? Does he see things differently?
This is not about me. I am fine.
He is not fine. Or at least, he was not fine. Now he is somewhere else, and very likely has left behind some other people who are also not fine. Not okay.
Suicide is not the act of a cowardly person. Someone close to me who lost a loved one to suicide told me of the reading and research they had done to try and make sense of their loss. They learned that a person's body will instinctually attempt to resist the means of suicide. Every instinct we are born with tells us NOT to pull the trigger, not to swallow the pills, not to kick the chair out. The body will involuntarily jerk away from the bullet, try to keep breathing, vomit, struggle, even when the person who is attempting the suicide is dead set on taking his or her own life. We want to live. Even when we want to die.
When someone is living with suicidal ideations, there are patterns of behavior that are recognizable.
They talk about suicide or about death. A lot.
They say "I wish I were dead" or "The world would be a better place without me," or other expressions of how they feel their lives are meaningless, hopeless.
They isolate themselves from friends, family, coworkers.
They start giving things away, even things that really mean something to them.
They stop taking care of themselves, their homes, their appearance. They may show a marked drop in productivity.
There is no way to know for sure if a person is suicidal, but if you know someone who fits these criteria, now would be a good time to offer your love and support. To help them know that someone cares, to encourage them to take steps to getting well, like seeking medical or therapeutic help.
I took a shortcut through the hills today, and I saw something that makes me want to tell you something important. I want you to know that if you are not fine then can call someone who loves you. Or if you can't think of anyone to call, then call this number and talk to someone who is on the other end of the phone because they care about you and they want to help you:1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
He was not a statistic.
I don't know anything about him, but I know that he was a person and I wish I had a chance to tell him that before he pulled that trigger.
Mary a/k/a BarnMaven blogs at http://www.barnmaven.com about single parenting, living with ADHD, too many animals to count and dealing with ADHD/Bipolar kids.
More from living