Passing

*Trigger warning, I will be discussing suicide

Today is the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. He jumped off a building with a picture of me in his pocket, and just like that, my life was split in two – the beforetimes, and the time after my father’s suicide.

I’ve written about dad a few times, most notable here.

Loss like this leaves a gaping hole in one’s heart, and agonizing questions, the Why did he do it? What could I have done? How could I have not known? and in this case, Why was my picture in his pocket?

Several years after his death I was on an Amtrak going from NYC to Buffalo, and I struck up a conversation with a philosophy professor at NYU on his way to Chicago. It was snowing hard that day – 20 inches, eventually – and the track became impassable (this says more about Amtrak than the actual snow, BTW). We were stuck overnight on a darkened train, somewhere in Upstate New York. The professor had brought a case of wine with him to share with his Chicago family, so he cracked open a bottle and we started really talking.

I eventually told him about my dad, and the endless pool of sadness and confusion about the picture in his pocket, of me and my dad together on my wedding day, right before the ceremony.

How wonderful, said my professor.

Wonderful?

How wonderful that he chose you to help usher him into the unknown, that he took strength from you as he embarked on his journey, he said. You must have been a source of great comfort and love.

The ache of suicide is that those of us left behind will never know, and that we have to find our own answers, or find a way to tolerate the discomfort of open questions. I don’t know if I believe my professor, but I think that may have been beside the point. He reminded me of my own strength, my own compassion, and I drew comfort from that.

They say it gets easier as time passes, but every March 29 I feel grief anew, and I’ve decided that I’m ok with that – it’s a form of self-compassion, I suppose. It’s not easier, simply not as front-and-center as it used to be in the landscape of my life. It will always be there, and I’ve made my peace with it.

I know suicide touches more people than most of us imagine, and tonight I’m sending out my love.

8 thoughts on “Passing

  1. Stan Hooper says:

    Love back at you. You’re lucky to have run into the professor who had more wisdom than I. Each time I see you doing your work, I see that strength shining through. Looking forward to next Friday in that regard. Each time I read your posts, i see that compassion behind whatever you write. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. chefdorch says:

      A belated thank you. Compassion is what I strive for in every part of my life, and I’m glad that it comes through in my writing.

      Like

  2. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, I believe that we were given our five senses to taste the wonder of life and to share our empathy with others facing struggles and pain. Grief is the deep and poignant stress of the loss of a loved one, which we all must face in life. I share your grief of experiencing the suicide of a family member and the guilt of missing the red flags to stop it. I’m glad you have the courage to share your thoughts. I hope the following poem will bring peace to you each March 30th, as you remember the love shared with your dad…

    THEY SAY

    They say I’m sorry for your loss,
    They say your heart will mend,
    They say you’re in a better place,
    and death is not the end.

    They say you’re reunited,
    with loved ones gone before,
    They say you’ll be waiting,
    when I walk through heaven’s door.

    I feel their love in every word,
    of comfort they impart,
    And know that each is spoken,
    from deep within their heart.

    But all the words of comfort,
    though kind, sincere, and true,
    Can’t take away the emptiness
    I’m feeling without you…
    ~Donna Waag

    W

    Like

  3. Hello Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    You’ve probably made some introspection throughout the years.
    Compassion seems to be a keyword in your philosophy of life. It may have inspired your friends and supporters.
    Every loss of a loved one takes time to grief.
    You’re a brave and strong woman. xo
    -30-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. seskona1icloudcom says:

      Sarah your story is compelling (to say the least!). As I read this I’ve contemplated- it’s Holy Week after all – verse of scripture that’s used across denominations during the consecration prayer over bread & wine. “…Having loved His own in the World He loved them until the end….” Your Dad loved you just like that with an exception- Love Never Ends. Peace be upon you😇

      Liked by 1 person

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