Thirty years ago today my mother successfully ended her life.
There are lots of phrases people use when saying that someone died: “she passed away” “she moved on” “she died” “she killed herself” “she committed suicide” “she’s no longer with us” and more.
It’s interesting to note that years ago one of my brothers and I discovered that we both have responded the same when people push us about what happened. We were talking with a stranger and we mentioned she passed away and the other person said “what happened?” and we respond “she killed herself.” In those moments we aren’t trying to be gentle with the truth, we’re no longer protecting the nosy conversationalist or ourself, you asked and we answered. Chances are you have now learned a lesson and in the future let the one telling the story decide how much to tell. It may be we were protecting you from the harshness of the reality, or maybe we were protecting ourself from saying again what happened. In any case, when talking with someone, especially a stranger – let them tell their story their way! If they want to share details they will. If they’re leaving details out chances are they have a reason.
So, I have no idea what she was thinking. I can imagine some of what could make a woman who is 3 days shy of her 34th birthday decide being all done is more appealing than carrying on. But, as in any situation like this, she is only one that truly knows what motivated her decision. I do think that if she had any idea of the scope of difficult things that could follow her choice she may have reevaluated and decided to hang in there.
One of those hard things happened this week. My sweet 5 year-old (who never knew this grandma) and I were making sugar cookies. As she was excitedly mixing the dough with the electric mixed she looked up and said “did you make cookies with your mama?” I didn’t have a good answer. The truth is I have no idea. Chances are we did make cookies together in those 11 years she was present. But, I can’t picture it happening, I can’t recall a memory of standing together creating something yummy to share with others. I just can’t. So I answered as best as I could with an “I think so”. In the joy of the moment I’m hopeful my kiddo didn’t see the tear forming and sliding down my cheek. I believe it’s ok for her to know there are sad things. And she knows my mommy died when I was young, but I don’t want our fun moments to be tainted by this sadness that can pop up from time to time.
As tends to happen on anniversaries I am thinking of her today. Actually I began thinking about it when I reserved a car to be picked up on 12/7. That’s when it hit me that the 30 year anniversary was upon us. We made that reservation to be able to take a quick trip to Indy this weekend. One of my mom’s sisters has been battling cancer this year. Her daughter planned a “Holiday Bash (And F Cancer Party)” for Saturday night (which would have been mom’s 64th birthday). Figuring out how to go celebrate with them was tough. We’re in a period of searching for full-time employment for Morgan and our car just can’t make the trip, and we usually turn that 11 hour drive into at least 16 hours. So, there were lots of reasons that it may just not work to be there. But I kept thinking about it and wanting to make it work. In the end we decided traveling to celebrate with family while my aunt is still living would be better than making the trip once she’s passed. So we hit the reserve button on the car and began making arrangements to be gone for the long weekend.
I just told my kiddo that I’m writing about my mom since she died 30 years ago today. “Are you sad?” “A little bit”. “Ahh, I wish she could have stayed and meet me”. “Yep, me too”.
So, while I don’t have many memories of fun holiday stuff with my own mom and for years this time of year has been difficult due to her death and birthday, I’ve decided that enjoying today is important. I get to decide whether to let the past cast a shadow and take over today or whether I want to have a day of good times. And, I’m intentionally choosing joy. I’ve decided to celebrate this season with my husband and kiddo. I get to make up our own traditions that let us have fun together. With some time and energy we’re having a blast watching movies, decorating the house, drinking hot chocolate, baking cookies to share, decorating ornaments to give, and just relishing the time we have to be together having fun.
It was easy to spend a lot of years just wishing December would finish up so the sadness would pass. But, many years ago I decided that over a decade of that was enough. I took some time processing, thinking, praying, and deciding to move forward with a new perspective. I’m so glad I did! Doing that work on myself made it a whole lot easier/more possible to have a good December. I’m able to embrace the fun of the season like I couldn’t before. And, I didn’t have to figure all that out with a kiddo by my side.
So, if you’re still reading my rambling thoughts and having a tough day: hang in there! We can all choose joy. Don’t give in to depression -deciding to end your life can make life a whole lot harder for others, for some you may not even know yet.