Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Two Perspectives on Suicide

I was saddened to hear that a relative of a poker friend committed suicide. I began reflecting on some posts I had written over the years regarding suicide. I am reposting two of them below.

If you are ever thinking about harming yourself, please talk to someone -- a relative, a friend, anyone.

They Were Peeing in the Creek
November 22, 2015

Saturday was an interesting day as I was helping out with a program two people on my staff were hosting for the local community -- International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Both organizers had lost a brother to suicide.

As we got through the program on  a snowy central Illinois November morning, I thought about how fortunate I have been to have never had a close relative or close friend kill her/himself. There have been some times when some family members were suicidal and even a few times when attempts were made -- with one attempt being quite close to being successful. But despite those attempts, I still never had the unfortunate experience that was shared among the session participants today.

It was incredibly moving to hear stories from the people who experienced the aftermath of suicide first hand. In the final exercise of the day, we went around the tables while eating lunch and shared stories about our loved ones who had been lost. When it was my time to speak, I said that I just preferred to listen and not speak. I really didn't know how to say that I didn't share the commonality that everyone else there shared. Also, being a gambler, I am at least a little superstitious and hate to have even written the last sentence for fear that I might have jinxed myself!

I did think, however, about the family friend who took her life just over three years ago. Cindy was one of my wife's closest friends. When Cindy and her husband still lived in town, we occasionally socialized with them as part of a larger group activity. One time, however, the four of us decided to head out to Turkey Run State Park in western Indiana for a day of tubing down Sugar Creek. The title of this post came from the part of day when both Cindy and Mrs. lightning had to go to the bathroom while in an area that had no public restrooms. Their solution: jump in the creek and just pee there. The look on their faces in the picture at the beginning of this post is classic. They were such bad girls!

Shortly after Cindy's suicide, I wrote a post about it. At the time we didn't know or understand why she did it. We are still not 100% certain, but it seems likely that some mysterious physical and psychological issues that she was having at the time motivated her to take her own life. Unfortunately, as much as Cindy tried to help heal the pain in others' lives, she kept her own pain hidden from most of those closest to her.

Although I couldn't feel the same extent of pain that the other people at the conference felt, I could identify with the shock of hearing devastatingly bad news and of searching for meaning despite it. The day Mrs. lightning and I found out that our son had cancer is a day that is forever seared in my memory. However, we were gifted the equivalent of a poker "one time" as our son had the cancer removed, did not even have to go through chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and now, over five and a half years later, remains cancer free. The difference, however, is that suicide doesn't offer the opportunity for that "one time."

So yes, I cried a little tonight when I thought about the pain that some of the people at the program suffered -- and how fortunate my life has been. I have been gifted some awesome run-good in life and try to remember that everyone isn't so lucky. I hope I never forget it.

Cindy Wall

Dealing With The Suicide of a Friend
September 30, 2012
It was difficult when my father passed away eight years ago. My best friend at work lost a health battle and passed away shortly thereafter. I remember thinking that I had been pretty lucky, living as long as I did without having to feel the agony of one of these “firsts” that many people had experienced so much earlier in life. Today, however, was a shocker. It is the first time that one of my friends has committed suicide. I am just numb.

I had actually first met Cindy’s daughter and husband when I assisted them in planning out academic schedules in their college years. Cindy and her husband, Keith, became part of my family’s circle of friends through the Italian dinner club – a group of locals who had taken a cooking class offered by a local Italian chef. The group meets once a month to share dinner -- always great food – drinks, and friendship. Keith played in a couple of my home poker games and was an easy guy to get along with. He was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in having one of his legs amputated, but he seemed to weather it pretty well.

Cindy was funny – almost always caustic, which is why I liked her. She intimated that I was, shall we say, shorted in the manhood department, so we had a good natured love/hate relationship. Cindy was a very caring woman, however, and quickly became one of my wife’s best friends. She and Keith moved away to North Carolina a couple of years ago to chase a dream of owning and operating an Original Pancake House franchise. Unfortunately, that never panned out. Both Keith and Cindy were working in the real estate field.

My wife visited Cindy a year ago and had a great time. Cindy made a trip back to the Chicago area and of course my wife drove up for the weekend to spend some time with her. In fact, Mrs. Lightning was planning to visit Cindy later in October but Cindy had not been feeling well and asked that the visit be postponed for a time when she would be able to fully enjoy the visit.

My wife has a lead role in a local production of Steel Magnolias and had posted on facebook Friday night that the cast had received a standing ovation at the conclusion of the play. Cindy responded on Saturday afternoon, “Way to go! So many talents … so little time! : ) .” Sometime shortly thereafter, Cindy walked outside her house into a field and shot herself.

Of course, my wife is totally devastated. We have heard that Cindy left a note, but we don’t know much more right now. Her daughter said that no one saw this coming. We knew that there had been some things that Cindy had been unhappy about. However, those of us who knew Cindy knew that she was a fighter. She helped her husband through his medical predicament and his rehab. She fought for several years against a work situation that she felt had been unfair. She was not the type to give up.

So tonight many of Cindy’s friends in central Illinois are mourning the death of a friend and wondering why. Tonight will be a long night.