I can hear the drip, drip, drip of the snow melting off the roof, the warmth of the sun coming through the windows and my feet feel warm in the pools of light on these old worn-out wood floors. I peek out the front door and there against this crooked old house in the melted snow I see tiny little white bells being held up by spikes of dark green foliage, snow drops! Springs first flowers, planted here perhaps decades ago or maybe even a century or two ago. I like to picture the woman who planted them sitting there against the stone foundation of the house on a cold autumn day tucking the little bulbs into the cool soil. Daydreaming about the hope these little flowers would bring her at the end of every long, hard winter. As February came to an end, did she look out there every day waiting to see God’s first gift of life in her garden? These flowers are the first true sign that we have made it to the other side of the long, cold days of winter and if we just hold on a little big longer spring will soon be upon us.
The birds are waking up and singing their brilliant songs, the sun is out just a little bit longer every day and garden planning is at the forefront of my thoughts. There is so much to look forward to this time of year, isn’t there? Just as the bulbs are breaking through the soil and budding trees are showing promise of fresh new life, I feel a pang of sorrow and mourning. A bitterness sticks in my throat as I remember that this is also a place where I am stuck in time, a place of great loss and pain, a place of death not life.
On March 30, 1992, I was a 14-year-old girl walking down the cobblestone street of Newburyport with a skip in my step, watching all the colorful tulips and yellow daffodils come to life as I walked my neighbor’s dog, my after-school job. See, I was excited because my dad was coming home, he had just left a couple weeks earlier and was due to come back any moment and I was counting the seconds. He had shown up on my doorstep just a few weeks before, I hadn’t heard from him since I was three years old and then suddenly there he was! My father had come back into my life after a long painful absence, he stayed with us for a couple of weeks, and I was the happiest 14-year-old girl alive. My daddy came to rescue me just as I had always dreamed, my prayers had finally been answered!
The morning my dad left he dropped me off at school, it was a hard morning for me, I was scared for him to leave me again. My dad sat there in front of my school in his red Ford Escort wagon with his green army jacket on and promised me that I wasn’t going to lose him again, that he was going to be my dad and he was coming back to me no matter what. I wanted so much to tell him that I loved him, but I was deathly shy and so shut down, I just couldn’t get the words out. He drove off that morning with me waving goodbye in front of my red brick school, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the last time I ever saw my father.
On that spring day of March 30th, instead of noticing the flowers and seeing the hope in all the new life around him, my father took his own life. He never gave me the chance to tell him that I loved him.
Someone close to my father said to me once that my father loved spring and it had been a dreary, late spring that year and if he could have just held on a little bit longer maybe he would not have killed himself. My father is not alone in committing suicide in spring, springtime has the highest rate of death from suicide. Yes, it’s true. Most people assume it’s winter, but the month of April holds the highest suicide rate for both men and women.
I have been through some heavy trauma in my life and have had my ups and downs with depression and attempted suicide myself at the age of 16. Losing my father to suicide is one of the big T traumas in my life and something that still holds a lot of pain for me. It took me a lot of years to forgive him and to understand why he would make the choice to leave his children. Understanding the mindset of depression has been a journey for me and is something that is close to my heart.
As someone who has experienced all facets of suicide, I can honestly tell you that suicide is not an answer. The people in your life will not be better off without you no matter what you are telling yourself. I know that loop you are playing in your head, and it is lies. You will cause the people you leave behind tremendous amounts of agony, regret and confusion for the rest of their lives. Life for you will get better; I promise you that. I know how hard it is to ask for help when you are in that place, but please don’t go through this alone. Reach out, reach out to me. I get it. Lot’s of people have been where you are, you are not alone.
People don’t talk about it but maybe it’s time we should. We’ve all been through shit, let’s start being raw and real. Tell someone your story, you never know who it will help.