While I was looking for the photo of me with my old dog Stormi for my last post, I came across a picture of an old friend who died 23 months ago. The picture was from 1999, taken during her hiatus from studying abroad in France.
I thought of her yesterday, too, when I saw a clump of dandelions in a yard. She liked dandelions. One of her last Facebook posts had been a goofy refusal to clear them from her yard like her suburban neighbors.
Recent reports have revealed a “surge” in the numbers of death from suicide, and the NY Times had an article titled “sweeping pain” a few days ago (although the title has changed).
Sweeping pain is right.
I didn’t know how she died for weeks. I didn’t want to ask after I received vague word she’d passed. I wasn’t surprised.
Like dust with a broom, the first slap of grief billows, cycling back in smaller clouds.
I know depression is a disorder, with suicide as a consequence of failed treatment. So it seems wrong to try to understand it within an individual. To think thoughts like — she was always the conductor of her own life, no other disease or attack could snuff her out. Or to become furious with her — she was always so selfish.
Yet since I’m still here on this side, imperfect, I know my thoughts are normal, natural. Like every other person in her life I’m sure, I can see in retrospect where I might’ve guessed she needed help. Living 700 miles away though and still struggling to forgive her for not showing up for me in 2007, when she easily could have, I kept my distance from her.
It’s entirely speculative when I try to imagine her thoughts in her last moments, and I wonder often about the role simply being a woman, a wife, a mother may have had. To erase your self in children; to make choices about where you lived based not on your own dreams alone, but the needs of your spouse as well; to make a major shift in your career path so you can fit with his.
When I think of the two girls we were when I snapped that shot seventeen years ago, both poised to be ex-patriots, both sure we were anything but ordinary and would never be boring, I never would’ve imagined us back in the States, her in a suburban mansion and me in a Midtown bungalow, learning to knit (her), crochet (me), and wash diapers.That’s all gone now. Depression is a disorder, I know. It might be my own grandiose image of self that makes me imagine I could’ve helped.
Just when I’d think I understood her, she’d always show herself a black box to me. But I just can’t help myself from thinking that if only I’d spoken up, talked to her about the way my own life had zagged along my path, she might’ve zigged back into hers.