loss

UnresolvedĀ 

When you witness a suicide, you’re changed forever. You’re altered. It’s almost as if your DNA has been changed because things are no longer the same. The way you think, the way you feel, the way you approach life. The things people say. What once meant nothing to you now has more meaning than breath itself. Because sometimes you are left breathless by the tiniest of happenstances. 

I navigate around tall buildings and size them up. Where is the roof? Where would a body land should someone decide to kill themselves? I approach my own and plod forward, pushing myself to walk where she died. At times I am sleep deprived, still afraid of silence, still waking up to non-existent people standing over my bed. I still feel her around me, no longer a pest but a guide. It is not actually her that I feel but the shadow of her, burned into my soul. She is with me, always. 

Tonight, so close to her anniversary, a contractor needed access to the very roof she used to end her pain. I asked one of her (former) coworkers where the roof access was and advised there’d be contractors accessing the roof. 

I don’t know if they’re as hyper aware of people being on the roof since she died but I know I would be were I them. 

But then the contractor jokingly said to the coworker that when they were done they’d jump off the side of the building. 

Something changes inside you when someone you know kills themselves. You are forever altered. And the look on her coworkers face was evidence of that. He is forever altered. I bit my tongue and didn’t tell the contractor off because how was he to know? How could he? You don’t know what another person has seen or felt and we cannot traipse around the world, for all our given years, on egg shells. Life is meant to be lived, enjoyed, loved. A simple comment that has such intense meaning for us but none to him. It shouldn’t be held against him. 
And yet, it affected me still. More than I wish it could. And so I cried, losing my appetite as my tears fell into my pasta, I cried because I so wish his comment and her death could wash over and away from me. There is no 12 step program to death and grief. There’s no timetable of expectancy when it comes to loss and suicide. It just exists within you. Your DNA. Your fibers. It’s as much a part of you as your freckles and scars. 

Tonight, after I took that first step in overcoming my fear of heights, I sat down for my lunch break and cried. When I could breathe again, when I let it wash over me, I checked my email. There was a message from a complete stranger who had read my writing – not even the good writing that has been hidden from view – saying that my writing was a gift. How could you have picked today, of all days, to contact me?, when I chose today, of all days, to take that step out there?

I am forever altered, yes, but on this day my heart is full. 

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memory and memories

Time is a thief. I have memories of my childhood that are beautiful and sweet but minute details have failed me. How a lamp looked. How tall someone was. What their teeth looked like when they smiled. Details that seem unimportant are lost to me. 
Feelings we remember. We’ll never forget how something or someone made us feel. And we’ll never forget what it feels now to look back on a memory, as we remember it, as we experienced it, and as we experience it now. 

Smells can instantaneously bring back to us our forgotten memories. The sandbox in our kindergarten class. The smell of my Nana’s perfume. The smell of my grandparents property in the springtime. I remember these things and suddenly feel in awe of how amazing the universe is. 

But I feel cheated when I cannot remember, without assistance, the dimple in someone’s smile. When I can’t recall what my favourite lamp looked like. What hung on the walls above a couch. What the upholstery looked like on a favourite chair. It feels as if my brain and memory are cheating me out of a piece of my heart. These memories are insignificant in the grand scheme of things yet these minute details are the pieces of a larger puzzle. To lose those means to lose a piece of magic from my life. 
It’s tragic that you can forget something that was so beloved for so many years. It’s a reminder of how easily we forget, and how much we take for granted: memory and memories. 

Glue

I am damaged. Of that there is no question. I have been woven back together through sheer will to carry on, but I have not been woven back together properly. There are pieces of me in the wrong spot, out of place, shattered so completely that they are missing altogether. And I feel like I am lost. That there is a map to it all and I could escape if only I had the right page. But there isn’t and I’m still lost in this wasteland of empty space, alone with her, and an electric current that reminds me I’m alive but that that life is oh so fragile. Now more than ever I fear for that fragility. For myself, for my unanswered questions, for those left behind.

It could’ve been anyone up there. It could’ve been her, it could’ve been me. The wind rushing against her face. My face. It sometimes feels like it was me.

My thoughts, every day, are there, with her. I am there, with her and with me. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. And every night I am woken, still, from the sound of a body hitting pavement. So loud a sound for something so soft. Falling, weightless, like a feather. And then a door slamming in the dead of night. And it echoes. But it’s not a door and my eyes must be deceiving me. I could not have witnessed what I did and yet she’s there, and I’m here. And there’s a woman screaming outside but I’m not. How is it that I didn’t scream. How did I not lose my mind with grief and horror? I am on the phone and I’m still calm and I’m having to look at her face and now I can’t look away because I know her. I know her and I watched the last moments of her death. I watched.
And in the weeks that followed I became so immersed in her loss and pain, the pain she felt and the pain she caused me, that I was drowning and couldn’t get air. I was choking. I could feel the air, the life, the love leaving my body. I was shattered. It was then that I was woven back together, some pieces in all the wrong places, but I moved on. I pushed myself to exist, not because I wanted to but because I had people relying on me to continue. And it was horrible because there was such emptiness. My drowning had such depth that it took months to claw my way to the surface. And I lay there, unsure of how well put together I was, knowing only I had to accept it and move. Just get up and move. Move.
She was now part of me. She was the glue that put me back together and I hated it. I hated that I used her pain and our loss as the mortar for my soul, that cracked, fragile existence. She is part of me.
I live for them but she is the driving force, she is what pokes me in the back, pushing me, reminding me that it could easily have been me on that ledge. It could’ve been any of us. But it wasn’t. And it never will be.
Damaged though I may be, I will not let the shattering of my soul be for naught. She is my glue but they are my life and I live for them.

642 Things To Write About #1

What Can Happen In A Second.

*

Five years ago, Lily’s life changed in ways she could never have imagined.
Her son, Jaden, was four years old when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, two months later, he passed away in the arms of her and her husband, Jacob. They didn’t have time to process the diagnosis, never mind his death. Jaden’s absence became more and more heavy on their hearts and his room, untouched two years later, marked the grave they refused to purchase. It marked the death they couldn’t acknowledge yet sat in every room they existed in, dancing in their peripheral vision.

On the third anniversary of Jaden’s death both Lily and Jacob took the day off from work but didn’t tell each other they’d done so. They each spent the day in solitary meditation. Lily had gone to Jaden’s favourite beach and Jacob had walked through Jaden’s favourite playground. Jacob felt the eyes of each parent staring at him, silently telling him to keep his infectious death away from their children. His heart heavy with pain and sorrow, he got back into his car and drove to a pub close to his old apartment and drank in the corner of the bar, where it was dimly lit and no one, but the waitress, could see his tears.
Lily, back from the beach, her face stained with tears and her feet wet from the ocean, turned her cell phone back on. She had 27 missed calls on her phone, all from the Queen’s County Medical Hospital. Her husband had been in a car accident and could she please come quickly.

When Lily arrived at the hospital she was out of breath. She’d been yelling the whole way to the hospital, “Not this day, not this day, not this day…” It had become a mantra, to keep her remaining family intact, to try and cheat Death from taking more of her heart away. After Jaden died she was sure Death had taken the whole thing. That her chest was nothing but an empty cavity.

The doctor took her to her husband’s room and pushed papers into her throbbing chest, asking her to sign it for organ donation. The nurses were saying her name but all she could see was her husband, tubes coming from his mouth, blood all over his swollen face and chest.

Lily could hear nothing but a roaring noise in her ears. She was sure this was Death, coming for her husband. Though she couldn’t see Him, she felt Him in the room with her. It was a dance she knew too well. She heard the doctor’s voice speaking to her, explaining the accident, as he knew it to have been, but she comprehended little. All she knew was that her life had ended, this very same day, three years ago. How she had managed to carry on, how either of them had managed to carry on, she could never fathom.
Now, she could see very little. Her vision was blurry and all she could hear was her own heart beating in her ears, her own blood coursing through her veins, the beep of the machine that was keeping her husband alive and out of nowhere, her name, a question. “Lily?”
The priest, Father Patrick, who had sat with her and Jacob when Jaden lay dying, was here now. She blinked when she looked at him, the tears starting to flow freely now, and said, “Jacob…”
Father Patrick took her in his arms and, as they were going to take her husband away for his organs, her knees buckled and the reality of her grief, of her empty heart and sorrowful soul, knocked the wind from her chest. She couldn’t breathe.

Almost a year later, after speaking with Father Patrick before the anniversaries of the deaths of her husband and her child, she had made a final decision. She’d spoken to Father Patrick about the decision she’d made and asked him if it was selfish. He could only tell her that she had to do what she felt was the right decision.
For years Jacob had been promising to take her to the Grand Canyon. She decided to take the trip herself, carrying both her husband and her child in her heart. As she slowly climbed to the top of the cliff, the wind was roaring in her ears. She could feel Death. Again, they were doing this strange, yet familiar dance.
She spent quite a few minutes sitting at the top, looking over the beauty of the land, taking it in one last time. Her first, and her last sunrise in the Grand Canyon, had been spent camping here. She’d never seen anything so breathtaking. She was sure she’d never see anything so beautiful again.
Finally, at the same time that her husband died, she took a step and leaped off the cliff. The wind, Death, roared beautifully in her ears and she laughed. She laughed until she cried and screamed goodbye. She screamed goodbye to her dead child and husband, she screamed goodbye to the house she’d sold a month before, she screamed goodbye to the life she’d lived.
She closed her eyes for she knew the end was near. She could see it coming and braced herself. In the darkness behind her lids she replayed her favourite memories of when they were still a full family. Full of love, full of laughter, full of life. She smiled softly and the tears, locked behind those closed eyes, made the memories seem like a watercolour painting. “Goodbye,” she whispered.

The snap of the bungee cord forced her eyes open and, as she dangled there, she said goodbye to the ghosts of her husband and her child, the life she’d lived with them, and the life she’d lived in their absence. She apologized to them both for choosing life.

almost a year

It amazes me that it’s been almost a year since … well, since her death. I’m never quite sure how or what to call it. She killed herself. End of story. She committed suicide and I was a witness. I feel awkward writing it down, like I should somehow be ashamed of what happened, of what she did. I almost feel that when I bring it up, even in passing, that I’m trying to attract attention to myself or the situation. Which isn’t the case at all. I never speak of it, with anyone, other than my husband, and even then, very rarely. I’m not sure that people want to speak about these sorts of things, much less whether I, myself, want to speak about it.

The night/morning it happened, I was in shock and there were things that I had forgotten about and remembered weeks later. Later, when I had finally emerged from the strange fog I was in. What I am amazed with, though, is how it has not left me. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about her and re-live all that I saw. All that I felt.

I was the unfortunate witness to someone jumping from the 27th floor of my building. I didn’t see her jump. I saw her walk past me, wearing a hoodie and a backpack, clutching a stuffed animal. In my mind I don’t register what kind of a stuffed animal it is, only that she seemed to be in a hurry. I didn’t think she even belonged in this building. She looked more like a recent homeless person. I expected her to come back from the elevators and ask me where the parking elevators were. That I didn’t recognize her at all is telling of where she was in her own mind. Eleven minutes later I watched the last second of her life as she fell on the patio outside my doors.
To say that I was in shock is clearly, stupidly, obvious. My first thought was why would someone throw a mannequin off the roof? It was beyond my comprehension that someone would actually jump off the roof. My next thought was that someone pushed her off. Because, again, I couldn’t comprehend someone jumping off the roof. I then wondered how a homeless person could’ve gotten to the roof. Again, the comprehension of someone who worked here, someone I probably knew, wanting to kill themselves was not something within my mental grasp. I wondered, too: did they jump off or did they fall? How did they get up there? When it dawned on me that this was, in fact, a human who had jumped, and it only took about 3 seconds to realize this, I sprung into action. And, sadly, I ran to the door hoping to somehow revive her. Her brains were everywhere and her eyes were bugging out of her head, but no. My first instinct was to do CPR. It’s weird how each person reacts in such situations.

When I gave myself an internal headshake, I went back to my desk and called my coworkers while dialling 911. It was then that I realized the gravity of it all. I was not in a dream but honestly staring at a dead body. That I was honestly witness to a suicide. This only happens to other people, people you don’t know, in the movies or in tv shows. You never hear about it on the news. I knew people who’d killed themselves but never by jumping off a building.
The 911 operator asked me if I wanted police or ambulance. Wow. Good question! There’s nothing the ambulance could do and what could the police do? I asked for the police and then went through the horrible conversation of having to say, out loud, Someone has jumped off the roof of my building.
When I remember back to this part of the night/morning, I am looking at myself as if through the security camera (I have not seen the video from that night, nor do I want to. Even if I did, I’m quite sure the video no longer exists). I am bent over, talking on my cell phone with the operator, clutching my stomach. I have this growing pain in my stomach and I want to throw up, though I didn’t. I am disgusted that someone would do this. When I look up I see passersby coming over to see what’s going on and I try to wave them away, though they don’t see me. They see what I see. I feel terrible for them, coming home from a night at the club. No one should have to see that.

When the operator tells me that emergency services are on their way, the relief in my voice was evident when I replied that I could hear them. Because how can I possibly deal with this situation on my own? How can I possibly understand what I’ve just seen? I need someone to take over this situation that is far bigger than myself.

I get off the phone and immediately go outside to try and get the rest of the passersby, with the help of my coworkers, to stay away. Luckily the first thing the police did was section off the area and then the ambulance drivers covered her. Her body, still clutching that stuffed animal, will forever haunt me. Her shoe, laying several feet away, will always be in my memory. Her pale, snow white face, her eyes, her make up. I see it still. No blanket will ever remove it from my memory.

After the emergecny services arrived and I’d had a smoke, I sent my husband (also my boss) a message telling him what happened. I then realized I’d have to call the property manager. Luckily he didn’t answer the phone. I left him a message and gave him my cell phone number, told him to call me back but that I’d keep him updated. He didn’t bother calling back and instead came down to the site right away.
Over the next two hours several officers would come over to me and ask how I was doing and ask if I wanted to talk to them about what I’d seen. I was still in shock, still processing, and not yet ready to begin to understand my feelings. At 0315 the investigator, while I was trying to write my incident report, sat on my desk beside me and in this calm, soothing voice, told me that if I needed to leave the desk, that I should. That what I’d been through, what I saw, what I felt, was shocking and not something people normally deal with. And to hold it in was pointless. Go for a walk. All I could do was nod. I put my pen down, nodded again, and walked to the parking elevators.
There was nothing I could possibly do to stop the tears that had begun before I even left the desk. My boss came out of the elevator, put his hand on my shoulder and told me to take a walk. Go to the office. Be alone. But being alone terrified me. I was now left with what I saw and it was magnified in the silence. The sound echoed in my ears. Her eyes haunted me. Her red shoe. Her dark blue zipped up jacket. She was all I saw and it only made my tears flow harder. I was left with silence and everything was now louder.

My boss came to the office and spoke in soothing tones and even now, I don’t know what it is that he said to me. He rubbed my shoulder and I just wanted to close my eyes and sob, wail loudly and go home. I wanted to reverse the clock and not be there. I wanted him, the police, my husband, anyone, to make this all go away.

I called my husband and we spoke. I don’t remember what we spoke about. I think we were complaining about the patrol supervisor. Conversations haven’t returned to my memory, though I can’t see that they were significant in any way.

After I got off the phone with my husband, I tried staying in the office but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stay there, alone, with the visuals bouncing around in my head. With the sound of her echoing off the walls of my mind. I went back to the desk where there was bustle, people, noise. Distractions. Despite being 20 feet away from her dead body, it was where I felt the safest.
It was decided by my boss, by my husband and the investigator that was leaving. The investigator asked for a copy of my incident report and I spent the next two hours trying to write everything down and at the same time deal with the people who were there. And on top of that, try and understand what was going on inside me. Turmoil is an interesting word. It can mean so many things and pertain to many things. This is truly what I was feeling.
I met another boss for the first time that night. As I was finishing up my report he was standing in front of me, staring at me. I assumed, because I’d heard horrible things about him, that he was looking down at me negatively and the report I was writing. When I looked at him he explained that the coroner was removing her body and he didn’t want me to see. I can’t explain to the rest of my coworkers why I don’t believe this man is an asshole. Something so small meant so much to me, though.

Now, a year later, I am haunted and disgusted. I am still prone to panic attacks, which I am able to keep under the radar. I am still prone to ridiculous fears about the dark. I still feel her watching me, which is preposterous. But is it that she’s watching me or that I cannot truly let go of what happened? When can I expect that this will no longer be part of my waking moments? I don’t think about her all the time as I did last year. But every day she does make it into my thoughts and every day I do relive what she put me through.

I have tried to separate her action from her person but I can’t do it. I don’t know if it’s can’t or refuse. In speaking with a few of her coworkers, and after her memorial, it turns out that she was molested as a child and this was her reason for killing herself. This only angered me more and I try, every day, to remind myself that she was in pain. I try to reason with myself that this was her only way to deal with what she went through. I argue back, though, that thousands of men and women were molested as children and they’ve survived, myself included.

Going back to work was incredibly hard. My boss called me later that day to see how I was. I had no yet come out of shock, nor had I gone into what can only described as feeling like the living dead, and told him I was doing okay, considering. He then offered my husband and me tickets to a hockey game. He wanted to somehow make up for what had happened, though he knew that there was nothing anyone could do. I appreciated the gesture and looked forward to the game. The caveat, though, was that I had to pick up the tickets at my work.

So, four days later, I’m going back and I’m terrified. And also a little surprised at how busy the building is. I’ve always said that the shocking thing about the death of someone you love is that the world doesn’t stop for your pain. Turns out, the same can be said for the building. Everyone was still there, her coworkers included, though I was in tunnel vision. Get to the building. Avoid where she fell. Get to the desk. I didn’t see anyone around me. They may have tried to approach me, maybe not. I was still in this dense fog and have no real memory of the weeks following her death. I can’t even tell you who it was that the Leafs were playing against, nor can I tell you who won.

The day after her death, I think, was the scariest day for me. I can honestly say that I felt dead myself. I found no amusement, no joy, no sadness, in anything. I didn’t take joy in spending the day with my husband and kids, nor did I feel. I didn’t feel anything but fear. We went to the mall and I was deathly afraid to be away from my home. Home was safe for me and anything that wasn’t home terrified me. I can honestly say that had I not had an amazing support system, that I would’ve started suffering from agoraphobia.
That week my husband stayed home with me and when he was supposed to go to work my friends came over for dinner. It was the Keep Lindsay Sane dinner. Luckily my husband didn’t go to work anyway. When he did go to work it was painful how terrified I was.
My fears were petty and stupid, yes, but all too real for me. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of silence. I was afraid to close my eyes. Unexpected noises made me jump and made my heart flutter flaster. Even now, a year later, I still get butterflies at unexpected noises. I was afraid to sleep (and didn’t! I got 2 hours sleep the first night and 3 the next, I think 3 the night after that. When I went to see a psychologist/psychiatrist provided for me by my company, he decided I needed to start taking melatonin. To say that I’m stubborn is silly, but even taking melatonin didn’t help much because, despite being more than exhausted, I was afraid to close my eyes. What I needed was time. And time can be a friend or an enemy, depending.). I was afraid to smoke in the garage. I was afraid to stand outside. Bodies don’t fall from the sky and I knew this. I knew my fears were irrational and yet I was suffering from them regardless.

A couple of months ago I had a dream that someone had again jumped off a building. My husband was trying to protect me and refused to let me come outside. He even explained to me why I couldn’t leave, why I had to stay inside. He didn’t want me to see what had happened, to have to deal with it all over again. I pushed my way out, past him, and saw a body. It was not hers. It didn’t belong to anyone I know but I remember thinking in the dream that this wasn’t fair. Why it had to happen to me again.

I have no yet stepped on the part of the patio where she fell. I am appalled when I see her coworkers walking there, knowing what I do, remembering what I remember. I can’t yet bring myself to go there. As it is now, when I go outside for a smoke, I either walk away from the building or huddle up against the wall. It is no consolation to me, knowing that the window she opened has now been properly secured. Knowing this won’t happen again doesn’t make the fear of it happening again go away.

A year later I have still not forgiven her. I’ve given up trying because I don’t understand, really. A young, successful, beautiful lawyer, who, according to her coworkers, was extremely talented and gifted in her field, killed herself because she couldn’t protect herself from her own demons. I am not, by many standards, successful. I don’t have a career, I don’t have a university diploma. I don’t even have my high school diploma. I make just above minimum wage, I work night shifts at a dead end job. While I may not be successful in the ways that she was, I feel I’m miles more successful in ways that she wasn’t, but could’ve been, and never will be. I am successful where it matters. In my home with my husband, with my children, with my business, and in my heart.

I, too, have my own demons, of which she has contributed to. But it’s a fight or flight mentality and I’ve always chosen fight.