I try to write something each year partly in remembrance of my Dad but mostly out of a commitment to being open and honest about his suicide, and what it means for me, and all of my family, to be living with suicide.
I wasn’t sure what to write about this year. I wasn’t sure how to capture what it means to be living with suicide 11 years in. I wasn’t getting any lightening bolts of new insight or inspirations for how to communicate my experiences meaningfully.
Today is the day.
And then, this morning, around the time when my Dad ended his life, my family began circulating communications acknowledging each other and reminding each how much we love the other. So began my first tears of the week.
Life is humbling, whether we are living with suicide or not. And, the relationships that both remind us to be humble and bolster us when we feel broken are our lifeblood. Being broken isn’t bad. It’s just being human. So, attempts to avoid or shield ourselves from being broken, or pretending we aren’t to some degree already are self-defeating. They are a front, hiding who we are from those around us, limiting our ability to touch the world genuinely, and preventing it from touching us. Acknowledging and sharing our brokenness and piecing ourselves back together with others is our greater calling – the pathway to our becoming more fully human, to developing relationships and lives that matter.
As I reflected on the emotions stirred by my family’s messages, I realized that this is why. Living with suicide is about being broken. It is about a shared vulnerability and a responsibility to love and appreciate those who are also broken – all of us.
We are all living with something. Wouldn’t it be nice if we just acknowledged this and met each other with a note of appreciation, love, and humility?
Thank you for being broken with me.
I had the brutal sorrow of traveling this past weekend to the funeral of a college friend, who was also married to a college friend. At the same time, I had the extraordinary fortune of seeing many other friends there, some of whom I have not connected with in almost 20 years, and finding those friendships still fresh, alive, and fulfilling.
I drove 4 hours to the funeral dismayed, somewhat numb, and broken at the thought of my friend and his children who had lost their Wife and Mom respectively. As I drove 4 hours back home, I still frequently found myself in tears but also felt a strange sense of being on a high and feeling rejuvenated.
The experience clarified ideas I have thought and written about for years: when we have a relationship with someone, it creates something new and unique in the world. My friendships are not mine alone, and they are not yours alone. They manifest a unique collective, a third party to us as individuals – an energy, a resource, a power that is fundamental to our individual wellbeing and the wellbeing of the world.
If it didn’t have a life of its own, how could it be possible for a friendship that has gone almost totally un-invested in for years to be so ready and familiar? If it didn’t persist in some way in-and-of itself, how could it still nurture me when I have long since stopped nurturing it? When we create true friends, we put a life force into the world that we can always come back to. We won’t always do it, but we can.
Friendship has a soul.
This weekend, this soul provided safety in familiarity and solace in connectedness at a vulnerable time, when many of us felt troubled and alone in our thoughts. It allowed us to find joy and laughter at a time that felt crushingly sad. It fed us with a feeling of wholeness as we wrestled with the fragility of our own lives, faced with the fear of losing our own partners, and navigating such loss with our own children.
This soul, however, didn’t just serve those of us there to mourn, still living. It continues to connect us with our friend who has passed. This soul of friendship is the same force that we will reflect on, talk to, lean on, and otherwise find sustenance in long after we are able to nurture it in this world. Long after a friend has passed, the soul of the friendship will connect us with the soul of a friend.
Today, I am still hurting deeply for my friend, but feel strengthened in recognizing this greater truth of friendship. I know that the soul of his friendships will be what will keep my friend afloat, connected, and comforted; just as it will the rest of us.