I wonder what it is you think the very second before you die, if you’re brave enough to, you know, do the deed. Don’t worry, I’m not.
Brave enough, that is.
But I do wonder.
Do you think about how it’s finally, mercifully, ended and over?
Do you exhale your last knowing that you’re done; freer and lighter than when you inhaled?
Or is life instead cruel until the very end?
Would the last vision I had be the curled fist of this sleeping babe on my very own nursing breast?
Would my last thought be one of such powerful regret that it was its own final healing, exquisitely pure and ironically too late?
These are thoughts that aren’t strange to wonder. Not for those of us who live our lives on the tightrope. Balancing carefully between “well” and not, up and down, here and gone. For us this is just life. Just a thought. A languid wondering of what it might be like doesn’t seem so strange to us every once in a while.
I do find it strange, though, how we’re forced to wonder them alone.
Does this, my normal, scare you?
Sometimes, I guess, it scares me too.
Do you have a “me” in your life? It’s hard, right, to know what to say when they look like this, when they talk like this? It’s easier, so much easier, to wait from a safe distance while they pull themselves together. They’ve figured it out before, they can figure it out again. And they will.
Or this could be the time they won’t.
What if I told you it isn’t hard to sit with someone who is buried in their depression? In fact, what if I told you it often doesn’t involve sitting with them at all?
Send a message, talking about your normal things. No reply? Don’t take it personally. Don’t stop reaching out. Try again the next day, they’ll appreciate the effort. Let them know you’re available to listen. Feel like you don’t know how to listen because you won’t know what to say? Listening isn’t talking. Hear their words. Use your ears and your heart. They’ll appreciate your effort and the outlet, no matter what words you can offer in response.
Are you really worried about them and more of an action not compassion kind of person? Ask them pointedly what you can do to help. “I notice you haven’t seen a doctor in a long time. Can I help you make an appointment?”, “Would it be helpful for you if I came over and watched the kids while you got some sleep or got away for awhile?”, “What’s the biggest stressor in your life right now? Okay, how about if I did _______ to help handle that for you?”
Bring them a dinner. Do you have playdates with their kids in common? See if you can schedule one and then follow their lead – let them talk about it or not. See if they want some help cleaning house. Do they have a dog? Walk it.
And those “scary” words we might say? Things like wondering what the last thing you think right before you die might be. Is it so scary? Or could it be interesting? I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people who were casually curious about suicide and death. In our culture it’s a topic we are never, ever to discuss, of course. But why? If you stop and ask yourself, really, what is so wrong about having that rather intellectual conversation – what is the last thing you think before you die? do you think it’s different depending on if you kill yourself in different ways? what if you die of natural causes? and so on – it could really just be a rather intriguing conversation. Letting your friends say the really scary things out loud without shushing them with a “don’t talk like that” is, perhaps, the very best thing you can do for their slow walk back to health.
Thank you for loving us. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s scary.