On Tuesday afternoon, a man crawled out of an apartment window. He stood on the ledge above the Forever 21 store at Powell St. near the cable car turnaround hesitated for a moment, and eventually, he jumped. He was pronounced dead at the scene. This happened on 16 February, 2010. A mother’s son, a friend, a cousin, alone.
In another part of San Francisco a freshman boy ended his life on the same day, 16 February, 2010. A child, a brother, a grandson, a teammate, a student, alone.
“Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.”
On 18 February, 2010, a man in Austin Texas, flew his light plane into a federal building to end his life and leaves a lengthy note to explain why. A father, a husband, a co-worker, a son, alone.
Sobering as this week’s deaths are, they will pass into memory soon enough. To those closest to these individuals, they will haunt their memories forever. There is no “getting over” no “closure” for families and friends. These individuals chose suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Even though the feelings don’t seem temporary, they really are. In the first incidence, the man on the ledge hesitated, turned back for a moment then changed his mind and leaped. The permanent solution.
For me, the internal pain I felt when I attempted suicide back in 1977 was so cyclic, it fed on itself, that when I made the final decision just to get rid of the pain, came peace. What I did not realize at the time was that the peace induced was not a lasting peace but a false peace. I did not reach out. I looked into the darkness and saw that it was inviting. Had it not been for friends, I would not be writing this now or ever. I am no expert on suicide, I can only speak to my experience.
I do not know what was in the mind of the youngster who took his life on Fat Tuesday. I can only imagine that he was trying to grasp that elusive peace so the pain would just go away. As a teacher for many many years I have been to funerals of students who have died, and no funeral is more devastating than the funeral of a teen suicide. I, on the other side of an attempt, can see the futility of what seems to be the only good option, death. I am frustrated that I can not communicate that to young people so that when they reach that point they do not have to act on it. I am frustrated that I don’t see the hidden signs in their young lives which raise the red flag. Oftentimes the warning signs listed by the suicide hot lines just do not manifest themselves. And we, the living, are left to wonder, scratch our heads and mourn together. There are no good words of comfort.
To say that the individual is in a better place is trying to grasp at meaning of the undefinable. For us the living, the better place is life, with friends and with family. The frustration is how to communicate this to people.
Looking for reasons to help us understand why someone would want to take their own life is futile because there is no good logical reason. I think sometimes we want to know the reasons to make us nod and say, now I understand and go about our day. To know that the man who flew his plane into the Federal Building in Austin was pissed at the IRS, helps us to understand his mindset, but it is not a good (if there ever is) reason for ending ones life.
Life is way short as it is, and in that time we need to connect with one another, we need to have a best friend to share our hearts with and we need mentors who are wise and who will listen to our insanities without judgement.
Pray for the dead today. Pray for those who are left behind to clean up the mess and who are trying to make sense out of a senseless deed.