My life was turned upside down by a phone call. The caller ID showed up as my husband's cell phone on my phone. Obviously I assumed it was him.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I had no idea how much he was hurting, how hopeless he felt, the sense of self-loathing he had. When the sheriff's deputy told he had "passed away" it was as if the air had been sucked out of the room. I threw up my oatmeal breakfast. I'd been staying with my parents during a trial separation. I ran upstairs screaming to my parents that he was dead. I collapsed on the floor of my dad's office. Then I remember the deputy telling me that I needed to "calm down" because I had to go out to our friends' house to speak to the police. I couldn't write down the address. My dad wound up using the phone book to find the house.
I remember my dad refusing to let me go with him. My mom and I stayed behind, wondering what he'd done. Had he overdosed? That was our initial thought. Then my dad came home.
My husband of 11 years had hanged himself just 29 days shy of his 40th birthday.
My life has never been the same.
I won't lie: there was a reason (several, actually) that we were separated. Ours was not a happy marriage, particularly in the later years. But one cannot be married to another for that length of time and NOT feel something - anything - guilt, grief, rage, sorrow.
Those who have "survived suicide" know what I'm talking about. One day you're in your bright and festive kitchen making Cuban food, then all of a sudden you take a quantum leap to a funeral home. Do you want him to be cremated in the clothes in which he died, the funeral director asks. I could not form words, I could merely nod. A man who deals with death for a living took such pity on me that he only charged the pre-paid cremation plan fee. A brief, graveside service. Cards, flowers, phone calls.
Then the emptiness. An emptiness that feels as big as the universe. I was a grain of sand, I realized, as I grocery shopped at 3 am, or as I swigged cheap Chardonnay out of the bottle. The nights were the worst. I never slept at night; instead I sang along with songs like "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" by David Bowie, or "Madman Across the Water" by Elton John.
Time has marched on. I'm remarried. I'm now a three-time cancer survivor. Since then I've lost my mom, four cats and most of my idealism. But each day I know that life is worth living, that the darkest hour is just before dawn, that time does heal a little but love heals a lot. I learned who my real friends were. His death has made me more sympathetic to people, and that little things can mean a lot.
Walk in beauty,