I awoke early, morning rituals pulling me from an interrupted sleep. My mother’s trembling hands, my father’s madness haunted me. I made the bed, wiped my tears and steeled myself to meet the day.
J’s alarm whined unceasingly. I was slow to knock and wake him. My stomach heaved with resentment. I wasn’t his “caretaker.” Stand on your own. Damn it!”
I pushed the door open to his blue lips, skin mottled, hands molded to a bowl of fruit decaying in the intense heat – the room stank with death. His narrow frame was silent. “J” was naked except for his brown corduroys and a thin leather belt. “Wake up. J, please. Please! Oh God.” I wrestled him around the bed, screaming his name until I was hoarse. He lay so still. I slapped him, pushing him from side to side, pulling at him -breathe.
He took a sudden breath as I threw him to the bed. My shaking hands rushed to his chest, and began pumping, pressing the clammy flesh, demanding it to move. Please breathe, I screamed. He snarked a shallow breath, then nothing. His face was calm and untroubled. My heart drummed, threatening to explode.
I wailed into the cell phone. “Send the police, please God, now, now, now, now.” Using the weight of my body, I tried to force air into a closed airway. Dear God help me.
The police burst through the open door armed with their defribrillator. “Stay away,” they barked. I had lost my voice and could only nod. Where was the rescue squad? The street was silent. At last they came in pressed white uniforms. “Dear God.”
Calling Larry, I croaked, “They’re taking him to the hospital.”
“Is he alive?” he choked into the phone.
I stared glassy eyed at nothing. The EMT scolded, “Would’ve gone easier if you’d said ‘overdose.’ Five vicadins. Brought him back, just barely.” I squeezed his arm and wept. “Thank you.” Our eyes met.
How easy to take your life – a few swift gulps, with a bottle of pills stashed secretly under the bed. Was it an act of defiance? A sign of unbearable pain? A show of bravery?
Beginning with the first tiny speck dividing into itself, life affirms its energy as it drums into our blood, our heart, our mind, our sex. We say “yes” to life every minute with every breath. The sound of living is thunderous inside us. Do we listen to the noisy clamor of cells applauding each other?
But what if the spirit sickens, do you shut off the electricity? Do we stop it dead?
Life demands our living, whatever the consequences. We dig deep and keep the force alive and moving because we are made so. Should I honor another’s choice to take his own life? No, even if she cannot hear the music of her soul. Not if his body strums so loudly only I can hear it. Yes, I am for saving life. This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.