At age 50, I’ve experienced a half century of what life on this wonderful planet has to offer. Much of my life has been filled with times of joy and wonder but along with those were times of sadness; sometimes the deep and heart wrenching kind of sorrow that comes with knowing death, first hand. When my husband was the age I am now, he chose to take his own life. He suffered from a grave mental illness that put him on a roller coaster ride of emotions that took him to the depths of depressions most of us will never fathom.
After Eric’s death, I came to know the kind of sorrow that shakes your world. I saw it through the eyes of his children, his mother, his brother and my own. I also learned how many lives he touched through his work as a therapist, trying to help others, despite his own personal demons. I got to know the spiritual void, emotional turmoil and physical mess that suicide brings for those left behind that stays with us for the rest of our lives. The unresolved issues and questions, the conversations not had, the experiences missed. In the days and months after Eric’s death, I also got to know the deep, intense pain of losing my life partner. The person to whom I committed my heart and soul, “’til death do us part.” I learned that we really don’t part after death but our souls remain connected forever.
Since my husband’s death, I have a new perspective on life: I believe that as long as no one dies, it’s a good day. My priorities have been rearranged. What is important, what really counts and what is worth getting upset over is very different now than it was before. Before, if the boss looked at me cross-eyed, I would have a bad day. If I bounced a check, if my hair didn’t look just right, if someone cut me off on the highway, those events could set the stage for a bad day. Those things don’t really matter any more. As long as no one dies, it’s a good day.
Admittedly, my view is pretty self-centered. What I really mean is “if no one close to me dies” it’s a good day. We as a nation were touched by the shootings at Virginia Tech, for among every one of us is a child, a parent, a student, a sibling, a spouse, a teacher. If it wasn’t us that day, it very easily could have been. That was a bad day. A very bad day.
What I’ve come to believe is that death and sorrow are a very real part of life. The “why” is not as important as what we do afterwards. As a testament to those who are gone, we need to advocate for change and to move on as better people and as a better society. The ensuing dialog around Virginia Tech will hopefully bring the difficult issues of gun control and mental illness to the fore. My hope is that we move beyond dialog and rhetoric and move toward change so that those whose lives were taken will not have been in vain. Only then can we hope to be blessed with many more good days.
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