Weekend of Life and Death
Today is Memorial Day. It's cloudy, it's supposed to rain cats and dogs all afternoon. Marty is working today because it's double-time for him. It's a paid holiday for me, too, but I'm taking the day to stay home and process.
Friday night the Sabbath rolled in and was welcomed. It was a long week. It was a hectic week and we were both tired. Sabbath is our time to truly rest together, to set aside the worries of the world. We recharge. I cooked dinner for a change and we ate together. We turned in early. It was nice. Before I headed to bed I took the card I'd bought for Marty and left it on his chair so he'd see it first thing in the morning since he gets up so much earlier than I do.
Saturday morning came. It was Marty's 56th birthday. It was a nice quiet day, which we needed. We couldn't visit with friends - some were out of town for work, one had just had knee replacement surgery, others are more in the "at risk" group and really aren't visiting at all, even outside. But it was a nice day, anyway. After you hit a certain age you just don't care so much about birthdays.
Sunday morning came. We got up early, shared coffee on the new deck and then got in Marty's van and headed to Walmart. We were on the hunt for a new grill. Marty never asks for anything, so when he expresses that he actually wants something it's a big deal. He's wanted this big honkin' deck for the last four years and I finally managed to squirrel away enough to afford the materials and he got his deck. He wanted a new grill for the new deck, so we got right out there on the hunt. It was a wood pellet grill we were looking for. There were none in stock at Lowe's or Dick's, but Walmart had them on hand so that's where we went. And we got it. Got some mesquite wood pellets and some apple, too.
We left the store, got about halfway home and suddenly....bumpbumpbumpbump, Oh, what is that sound? Sounds like a flat tire! Oh, look! Rear passenger side, looks like we're now riding on the rim as we look for somewhere to pull off the road....
In a car this would not be a big deal. Ten minutes to change a little tire. However, we're in the van which is heavy to begin with and is loaded with a few thousand pounds of tools, ladders, generators, air compressors.... a new grill... and it's like 90 degrees out with a hundred percent humidity. It took a while to get the van jacked up - it slipped off the jack twice because for whatever reason the van actually started rolling... Marty's arm got all gashed up and of course this is the weekend that everyone we know is at least an hour and a half away from home. But it's okay, he got it changed and we got home. Shortly after that our neighborhood friends returned from the lake and helped Marty get the grill together. They also make chicken kabobs and stuff to put on the grill and we had a post-birthday cookout on the deck, In the rain.
So, all in all we were still enjoying the weekend.
Until I saw that I'd missed two calls from one of my oldest and dearest friends. I won't mention her name out of respect for her privacy in this matter. For the purposes of relating the story I'll call her Rachel. I texted her back and told her we were in the middle of a cookout and she said to call her when I was free, she had some news.
So, after we cleaned up from dinner I called her back. What I expected was for her to tell me that her mother had passed. Her mother is elderly and has never been in great health. I've known the whole family since the early 1970's. Her parents moved from New England to Florida many years ago. Her dad passed already some time back. But the news she had was not what I originally expected. It was not her mother who had passed.
It was her younger sister.
Her younger sister killed herself.
I'll call the sister Robin.
Robin was never what I would call the most stable person, emotionally. When she was a young woman she attempted suicide once or twice. In 2001 she was living and working in NYC, so she experienced 911 up close and personal and lived in the city in the days and weeks following. I know how frightening that period was for all of us, but for someone living right there it must have been terrifying. There was also an incident in her past when she was raped by someone she worked with. The damage kept piling up. She did have a breakdown, and she wound up moving back in with her mother years back.
Robin's demons were bound to catch up and overwhelm her at some point. The fact that she was able to purchase a handgun surprises me. I'm not sure what kind of questions are asked or how in depth any background checks are. I owned a pistol back in the early 1990's and I remember having to wait for two weeks while they checked for any criminal history or whatever, but I really don't remember answering any questions, just handing over my ID. Regardless, if she hadn't been able to purchase a gun she would have found another way. People always do. If you are determined to hurt yourself or someone else you're going to accomplish that goal.
I understand that perhaps the Covid situation may have triggered some things from living through 911 in NYC - she was obsessed with getting things from the store, making sure she had an overstock of necessities. I don't know what the final straw for her was, but on Saturday night she pulled the trigger after leaving a detailed note concerning her bank accounts, insurance policies, passwords for things, etc. She said no one was to blame. My guess is that she waited until her mother was asleep after taking her medication for the night and then put the gun in her mouth. When morning came her mother waited for her to get up, and when it seemed like she was sleeping far later than normal she went into her room and found her.
This has to be any parent's worst nightmare. So now my friend, who I'm calling Rachel has to drive 12 hours on a holiday weekend (there probably won't be as much holiday traffic this year) to get to her mother, to try to hold the pieces together. Their mother feels like she failed as a parent. She did not. I don't think there was anything anyone could have done to prevent his from happening eventually. Sometimes medication, therapists and family support just aren't enough to deter someone from taking their own life when they've had the thought in their heads for over half their lifetime.
I wasn't shocked when I heard the news. I was sad, most of all for their mom who I love dearly. I don't know how many years she has left of her own on this earth, but I know she'll be living with this crushing sadness for every day she has left.