I believe that, no matter what, suicide is not the answer.
On Tuesday, February thirteenth of 2007, my sister killed herself. It is a day my family will remember with horror and grief for the rest of our lives. But although depression runs in the family, and I can sympathize with the kind of negative thinking that leads to suicidal thoughts, I believe that in the end, killing yourself is not the answer to life’s problems.
Emily’s death remains a kind of mystery. She left no note. There is nothing in any of her diaries to suggest she had any kind of suicidal intent. She had a date with her boyfriend that day, and plans to go to grad school for filmmaking in the fall. I am sad to think that she will never be a mother, a grandmother or an aunt.
She was a bright, energetic star, and already there is an enormous hole in the universe where she used to be not so long ago. The very fact that she is gone is palpable in every fiber of my body. She was my sister. She is irreplaceable.
But her death has also brought the rest of my family closer together, and it has awakened an entire community around us, too. Something was wrong, right under our noses, and we didn’t even know it.
Since that day, numerous visitors have stamped winter ice and dirt off their boots in the front vestibule. Casseroles and homemade soups have arrived at an impossibly consumable rate. Good friends and people that I barely knew opened their arms to me and to the rest of my family – the four of us left – to catch us in their warm, human safety net. The church was filled to capacity at her wake and funeral.
But no one can answer our questions for us. We frail living survivors can but stumble and grasp at what might be the truth, without ever really knowing what it is. There is only one truth we can know: she is gone.
And I know what is true for me: that no matter how bad things get, it is not up to me whether I live or die.
It can be a tempting thought at times. Why not leave this messy, broken life and trade it for the certainty of the grave? Let someone else handle the dirty details and figure out life’s meaning. But for me, that would be too easy.
I believe that if I don’t stand to face my problems, then nothing is solved. I believe that if I can see the sun rise again, then I should, because it might be more beautiful than any other sunrise that has gone before. And, ultimately, when I die, I give up every hope, every dream, and all the power I have. At least while I am alive, I can change something.
And the rest of my family and my community is counting on me to be there.
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