Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Way It Is


There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.

- William Stafford

I used to really believe this - that you must NEVER let go of the thread. Suicide was incomprehensible to me for any reason. That was the rule according to the cosmology of a very young Reya.

Later on in life, after I had heard about the suicides of people who were mortally ill, people who were never going to get better, after I had heard stories about seriously old, chronically ill people who took their own lives, my hard and strict rule loosened a bit. At that point, suicide seemed to me a more complicated affair. Under certain circumstances, it was OK.

Since my client committed suicide, I've been rethinking the above, very very carefully. He wasn't old and wasn't physically ill, but the guy was miserable, truly miserable. I've been asking myself, could his death have been avoided? Should we - his neighbors, friends and caretakers - have tried harder to keep him from taking his own life? What was our responsibility, and at what point was his situation no longer in our hands? Was it EVER in our hands?

I walked around for an hour after work yesterday shaking Eduardo, my glow-in-the-dark skull rattle, rattling, rattling ... and walking ... and thinking ... and rattling. When I get into a mode like that people cross the street to avoid me - my energy must be so weird.

I was thinking about the idea that the soul is lost when someone commits suicide, asking myself do I believe that? Definitely not. I used to think that after suicide, on the other side of the veil, there was some kind of rectifying that had to take place. I believed suicide affected a person's karma. My thoughts on it were vague, true enough, but I felt there had to be consequences.

Yesterday I remembered that in certain cultures, taking one's life is an act of honor, of bravery even. And, too, the God I worship doesn't judge us. My sense is that after death, if God had a personna (something I don't believe), but if He did, after death, no matter what kind of death it was, He would simply say, "Oh. You're done? C'mon into the light honey. Welcome home." The God I worship is eternally and infinitely compassionate and forgiving.

What do you think about suicide? Any theories you can offer?

In many ways I am grateful to my client for giving me so much grist for the mill of my thoughts. Clearly I am still in shock, but beginning to process the reality that he is gone. A neighbor told me yesterday that there will be a memorial for him at Eastern Market. He was a gentle soul, terribly unhappy in his body. I believe he's in a better place now, I really do. When I tune in to his vibration what I feel is bliss, ecstacy and relief. For those of us still living it is not so pleasant. And that's the way it is. I guess.


StreamSource said...

Dear Reya... I feel the weight of your compassionate heart. I share all of the same thoughts about suicide as you - in precisely the same order of reckoning. Since I have no personal attachment to this soul, perhaps I could offer perspective through words, but I think you already have this. Now is your time to work through the shared experience of death. He took a part of you with him in his passing - that is your gift to him to take into eternity. Now, have you found his gift to you? It sounds like you have...

God bless all who knew and loved him. May the empty space in their hearts be filled with love - love that will mend others who suffer as he did.

Cyndy said...

I would imagine that some people who have given up on life, for whatever reason, feel completely powerless to change their circumstances and the choice to live or die is the one last thing they can still control.

I think other people who contemplate suicide might be just as unhappy but they worry about the guilt their suicude would stir up in others and that keeps them from doing it. But that also means they aren't completely ready to let go of life since they are still concerned about the feelings of those they would leave behind.

That bottom picture is so very appropriate for your thoughts today!

willow said...

I've personally known several people who committed suicide. It often leaves behind dashed and wrecked families, which is sad.

About the next life? I'm not sure what to think. WT and I were just chatting about this subject over the weekend. I think the ghost of the guy who hung himself on the tree in the front yard does lurk around the manor.

ellen abbott said...

I don't believe that god shuns suicides. Like you, I believe we all get the same welcome. I think there is a judging, but not by god. We will judge ourselves when the light shines on us.

Sudden death is shocking whether it is self imposed or not. I don't personally believe that any life is better than no life though I don't see suicide as a solution for me, but then, I am happy and healthy.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ellen - happy, healthy and MIGHTY. Your art isn't easy, but it's so so beautiful.

Willow, no doubt!

NanU said...

It's certainly not something to be taken lightly, but I believe that suicide has its place. I hope it is up to me, and only me, to make that choice if I ever find living to be more of a burden and a curse than a joy, _and_ if there's no better future to look forward to. I agree with people who are terminally ill, or in chronic pain (whether physical or mental). I just hope that people who contemplate suicide in the face of an acute situation can look further ahead and see it won't last forever. They need their friends and family to see that.

I never went through a period where I thought suicide was absolutely wrong. On the contrary, I went through a long phase where I thought it was perfectly okay. At eight I would pencil in dates in my calender. I only never got around to the fact because there was some thing on the horizon to look forward to. A birthday, a trip someplace, a movie I wanted to see. Really little things, even spaghetti on the menu for Wednesday! It was, 'ok, after I finish this book', but once I finished the book there would be something else, some proximal reason to keep on. I'm still here. And in bad times I still use this count-the-reasons strategy to keep my head up.

Reya Mellicker said...

Nancy, I am SO glad you are here!

JC said...

I have been through a lot emotionally & physically. There have been days when I wonder why I'm alive. I can see why some people make the choice but luckily I haven't gotten to that point.

I can see it if someone is in pain which I have been. Pain can be emotionally too.

I like the sky too much though .. and my cats.

I remember, at least I think it was a memory, when I was in my coma, they asked me & I said I had to go back...I actually told them someone had to feed the cats.

I do hope your friend was at peace ... and is now.


It is a pity that having' the right to die' is still a long way off acceptance, a matter of agreement between doctor and patient and relatives. And considering the practical benefits to the living, is not to diminish the
dignity of the patient. It is a heroic decision - does anyone question the decision of Scot to head into the snow to die, I wonder.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

what a complex and thorny issue/ question you raise.

suicide is often devastating on the family and friends of those left behind, there are exceptions.

for most of my life I've always thought that we have to consider the context of the act.

when suffering and/or pain is unrelenting and nothing can be done, can we really believe suicide is not merciful?

again, very complex.

so sorry about your client - is not mental pain and suffering as real as "physical illness" - what is so sad is when the mental misery can not or will not stop.

hugs sweet reya to you and all that this man left on this plane...

NanU said...

I like being here too, Reya. Haven't had a serious crisis in years, but the thought that 'if I don't want to, I don't have to' can really make life bearable.

Mrsupole said...

Suffering is suffering, regardless as to what kind of suffering it is. When the suffering becomes unbearable for someone to take anymore, they sometimes choose to stop the suffering the only way they think they can.

Somehow it is very hard for us to understand why the person would make this choice, for we do not see things in the same light that they do. We each have a threshold of how much we can take and some can handle certain things better than others. With all the attempted suicides that occur, one could say that the final threshold is many times met by these people. And until the threshold changes for a person, then they may attempt and possibly succeed in committing suicide.

Many times an attempt can also just be a cry for help, help that they feel they are not getting. I think that this is why it is so hard for us to understand suicide, and that we run around feeling guilt that we "let" the person commit suicide. We feel that we did not do our part in helping the person to get the help that they needed. And maybe some people truly feel that it is their fault, but it truly is not their fault. We can all only do our best and since we cannot read someone's mind, we many times do not even have a clue that the person is even contemplating committing suicide.

We also as a society put a stigma on the person who feels the need to commit suicide, and due to this, the person will not always get help. Then they go through with it and it is too late to get help. Some people are just bound and determined to commit the suicide and no matter how much help is given, they cannot be stopped, or the eventual outcome is just postponed until they finally succeed. But there are also success stories of people who attempt it over and over again, never successfully dying, who do get the help they need and then live long fruitful lives.

The hardest part that survivors have to deal with is the helplessness and guilt that they continue to feel when they think of the person who committed the suicide. Just talking about it is very important and by doing this we hopefully will be able to take the stigma away from people who have these feelings of helplessness, and to let them know that there is love and understanding out there in the world for them.

I hate it when people whisper or snicker in disgust about someone they know who has "tried" to commit suicide. They may not realize that the person they are talking to has also contemplated committing suicide too. Then that person might someday succeed at committing it because they do not want to have to go through the same things as the person they knew who did not succeed.

Truly, the one thing we can all do is to show understanding, love, and compassion, along with trying to give hope and help to anyone who feels this way. Who knows, someday we might be the person who needs all of this.

We never know what life has to offer, but we can always offer love to those around us.

God bless.

Ronda Laveen said...

He was done balancing what karma he needed to in this ring. Sometimes, when I see beings with great, inexplicable sadness in this life, I think they just miss being with their Creator. I don't know what else can explain such depression and unhappiness.

I send him great love, light and grace for his journey.

Reya Mellicker said...

We never know what life has to offer, but we can always offer love to those around us.

Yep. Well said.

Ronda I know your energy is appreciated, and I believe, too, that he will soon be long gone from this plane. As will we all sooner or later.

Thanks again to all. I'm moving through this. Oh yeah.

Steve said...

I think your notion of God and God's reaction is spot on.

I also don't think there's much anyone could do. Ultimately, when someone wants to commit suicide badly enough, they'll do it. Only they are responsible for their actions, and only they know their own minds.

Nancy said...

I don't know how I feel. I guess my belief is that dying is much like living - there are lessons to be learned - and not always by the person who is ill. Sometimes the greatest lessons are for the caregivers. Unconditional love is something that makes you stronger when you give it. Nothing like caring for a terminally ill person, whom you love, to take a giant leap in love and understanding.

steven said...

hey reya - death passes outside of time and space - it's a bridge, a portal - i learned from my dad's flying away that there's something to be said for making spiritual preparations to help build that bridge, to open that portal nice and wide. we probably share a godidea 'cause my god is good and gentle and loves without expectation - i had never really thought of what my god might say but the words "Oh. You're done? C'mon into the light honey. Welcome home." are the words i think would be right. because they're beautiful heartfelt words. steven

A Cuban In London said...

It's a strange act, suicide is. And I should know because I thought of topping myself off a couple of times in the distant past. It was after two bereavements that left me defenceless. I hit rock bottom and the only way out was to GO OUT! Completely. Since then I have come to see suicide in a different light. I love life too much.

Thanks for such an honest and open post.

Greetings from London.

Angella Lister said...

Reya, what a lovely blog. What food for thought your musings on life and death offer up. As far as taking one's life, I guess I worry that all the growth and wisdom that might have taken place even in, especially in, the midst of heartache, is lost. I don't feel God judges us or punishes us for it, but our own souls might weighe the act on the other side, and require of itself some counterbalancing experience in the next life.

I have two children, and raising them, I felt that I didn't have the leeway to be equivocal about suicide. I wanted them to know they could manage whatever came, to believe in that.

Three teenagers in my world have taken their own lives in the past year, two were high school students, one was a college student who had played in our courtyard with my son when they were children. I could not help feeling that no matter how desperate they were in the moment before they leapt (they all leapt from high places), if someone could have brought them back from the ledge, they would have discovered so much more that was available to them from life. But, humbly, I understand that I did not stand in their shoes. I cannot ever fully understand.

A friend, whose brother took his own life when she was 13 and he was 18, told me emphatically that it does no good to try and understand. Simply accept. All this to say, I have no answers, but pray for resilience in my loved ones, and in us all.