[Editor's note: I again apologize in advance for deferring this week's installment of Old English and its history. As will perhaps become apparent below, circumstances have taken precedence.]
At the tail end of yesterday's blog, I had noted a prayer request from longtime friend of this blog LindaG. I had referenced the post there yesterday as it was a late notice on my part; I post it here today:
"I know many of you have seen this on faceless book; but I ask you to pray for my husband. Ask everyone you can to pray for him.
He is asking me to kill him. :-(
You all be safe and God bless (insert heart emoji here, something I can never do - Editor) "
This is a shocking thing to read as you are about to close down at 2245 local time - however, something I know a bit about as well as this is the same request my father had made of us near the end. I will not say the thought stuck with me all night, but it was indeed a restless sleep.
Suicide is not something which I have any idea that "runs" in my family; if there was a member that was anywhere close to it even in a theoretical sense it was me from ages 17 to 19. In my case it was (likely) less of a serious attempt than a cry for help (which did get answered), although to this day there are likely slight scars underneath years of tanning and melanin to speak of a day where it was a bit more than theoretical. In my case, some years of counseling as well as learning to find some level of balance in my own life.
My father for many years was never one to discuss his internal workings or fears; the day that he mentioned almost in passing that he had been diagnosed as a manic-depressive in his sixties was one of the most surprising of my life, as well as the fact that he was taking medication for it (likely a serotonin inhibitor). That was probably the only time that he mentioned it; after that it was just something we both knew but never discussed.
The conversation in question started at some point after July of 2020, when I started going to The Ranch once a month to stay with my parents. I recall the moment quite clearly: we were out on the porch, my father was talking about my mother's condition and at some point said "If I get much worse, I want you to shoot me".
These are words I never expected to hear. Frankly, these are never words that a child should hear from their parent.
I talked it off of course, saying that things were not that bad and we could do something to resolve them. But that was not the only time the conversation came up, either with myself or my sister. It was never anything to do with my mother, always with him. "You can just shoot me" - never "I am going to shoot myself".
We took precautions of course, verifying that any potential items which could be used in that way were locked up and the combination conveniently hidden. And it certainly was not for every visit, just now and again.
Then, of course, the move happened, and then the stroke right after it.
After my father's initial recovery and in the period of time between that and his second stroke - perhaps 3 weeks - the conversation came up again with my father. It was my sister this time; at one point she got up, told him she was not discussing that with him, and left. Then of course the second stroke happened, and most all conversations, whether of that nature or others, halted.
To those that have never dealt with a family member that is inclined - verbally or by action - towards talking about suicide, you cannot imagine the stress of everyday living. Every call potentially becomes something of a potentially bad event. And it strikes without warning - my own failing seem to have passed on to at least one child, Nighean Gheal. What do you say to a seven year old that tells you that she wants to kill herself?
You watch. You get help as you can. You try to catch conversations before they spiral out of control. And you worry. You worry a lot.
So as I write this, I suppose in one way I was "prepared" for the conversation that my father had out of the blue with me, because I had been managing that sort of thing for years before.
Why would my father have wished for this? I cannot fully say, but I suspect it was a combination of stress from years of being a primary caregiver and the burden of watching the love of your life and companion for 50 plus years slowly fall apart and being unable to do anything to halt it. It is one thing for tragedy to strike when one is younger, when the wisdom and experience may be lacking but the energy and stamina is there. It is another thing for it to happen years later when the situation is reversed and the wisdom and experience is present but the energy and stamina is not.
There is never, I suppose, a good time for tragedy, but the timing does affect how we can and are able to respond to it.
Why my father said what he said and why Linda's husband said what he said are equally unknown and unknowable to me in the specifics - even if they were able to give a reason, I have had my own experience with that sort of despair to know that words cannot truly express what that vast dark tunnel actually feels like. It is not a thing I think I could convey except to say that I know.
The practice, cultural impact, and ethics of suicide is one I will not touch here, as it is it's own topic (and by "it's own topic" I mean "not today") and does not do a whit to resolve the situations that people actually find themselves in. Pray, if you will, for those that find themselves in such situations and more importantly, for those that love and are dealing with those in those situations. Likely they will not mention to you until something drastic has occurred; in that sense I am grateful that Linda was able to ask what she asked. Pray if you are one that prays; even good thoughts are welcomed by those enduring such situations (trust me, I know).
"Everyone is going through a battle most know nothing about" said some wise person sometime. And often those battles go on unseen and unknown behind the public facades we often feel we must put forth.