Last night, I attended the memorial for my friend Micki. It's been more than a month now that my friend, who was in deep mental anguish, shot herself. Her daughter planned and organized a very special memorial--with video footage and heartfelt words--with the help of at least a dozen of her own friends. And it was the most amazing service I've ever seen.
It reminded me of a trip I took not long ago to tour the historic inn in Winslow, Ariz., called La Posada. The new owners, who are refurbishing the place and rebuilding it to its original concept, are artists. But they're also adding their artistic flair to the decor. Included in that flair is a mural-sized painting by one of the owners, Tina Mion, that hangs inside the ballroom. Called, “A New Years Eve Party in Purgatory for Suicides," the subject of the painting is obvious. Everyone painted in the scene have killed themselves in one way or another. And they are all seated at tables. There are famous people, celebrities, and friends of the artist. I wish I had more details, but I don't recall the artist's exact words as she was relating the story behind the painting, which could be considered rather macabre. It doesn't have to be. It's really quite fascinating, and its impact is huge. It really makes you think. As the artist herself was explaining the reason behind the large painting and why it was hanging so visibly in the ballroom of the hotel, she said her reasons had to do with the fact that people do not discuss suicide. They ignore it. They pretend it doesn't exist. People can hardly say the word out loud. Mion's painting suggests suicide needs to be discussed, that though it may never fully be understood, healing still needs to occur. For that to happen, suicide needs to be spoken about. So the painting was there to make that statement. It's a powerful statement. And I've remembered it.
I didn't think I'd need it, though.
Not till my friend committed suicide.
At her memorial, when Kristin began to speak about Micki and share her mother's pain--in all it's ugliness--she did not stop short at the word. She stated it matter-of-factly, "My mother killed herself." She shared with us her own pain in trying to accept this fact. She shared with us her fear, her anger, her many other facets of feeling as she's been learning how to cope with the magnitude of the reason behind her mother's death. She even said she's wondered if she could have stopped the suicide. And then she let us know she didn't believe she could have. She knew she didn't have that kind of power. And she cried.
We cried, too.
Surprisingly enough, no one seemed to recoil at this young girl's brave words. What I felt was positive energy. In that room, I could feel the urges to jump up there and hug this young woman who is so clearly in pain herself.
I have never been so moved.
I ask you, my readers, to pray for Kristin as she steps forward in this new life without the only parent she ever knew. I ask you to pray for her continued strength, and that you ask that she also find relief from that strength. I ask that you pray for her in all ways you think someone in her place can use the assistance. And I ask you to not be afraid to speak of suicide if it should happen to anyone you know in your life.
The truth about suicide is that it's painful, it's ugly, it's raw. The truth about suicide is that it's whatever you think it is. And further, the truth is that we may not be able to stop it, but we can certainly work at trying. Ignoring it won't make it go away. Pretending it doesn't exist won't make it stop. But allowing those who are experiencing suicide, as ones who are left behind, to speak about it freely and candidly will help them heal. Let us all be a part of that healing.
All my best,