Charity should begin at home, but should not stay there. ~ Philip Brooks
You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~ Anonymous
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. ~ William Makepeace Thackeray
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No one likes to talk about it.
Our hearts ache at the thought. Our guts churn. We close our eyes to try to hold back the tears.
There it was before me. I had been handed the task of letting her know, and on her birthday, no less. I’d never done it before, and I hope to never do so again. I stared at my phone … “How do I even do this?”
It was Friday, day one on my new job. I sat there, working away at my new little desk. I went down the hall to some of the classrooms. One of the teacher’s calls to me, “Tamara, I have something to tell you.” I thought it was odd because she didn’t really know me, being my first day and all, and this looked serious. She mentioned that a previous co-worker of mine wanted to make sure I knew. My heart started to race. Her eyes welled up, “Micah took his life last night.” Sucker punch to the gut. I couldn’t breathe. My eyes darted around the classroom as I tried to soak in her words. All I could hear from the depths of my soul was a resounding, “No! No! No!” But that didn’t seem to change the facts. He was gone. The tears unconsciously fell down my face. A wave of fear gripped me, “I wonder if she knows,” I thought.
The first time I saw him, I thought he was the scariest man I’d run into in my life. I’d see him most mornings on my way to work. We parked on the same street. He was of Asian decent and didn’t smile. Reminded me of someone from an old Van Damme movie. He went one way, I went another, as we each headed to our respective jobs. But when I started a new job, this guy was there. “So, this is where you work,” I thought to myself.
I steered clear of him for a few days. Then, one morning when he walked in, I looked at him, gathered all my courage and said, “You’re smiling on the inside, aren’t you?!” He burst out laughing! And, so, a friendship was born. He would relentlessly tease me like an older brother. He was a sweet young fella. I remember the day he flashed a ring at me. “Dude!” I said, “I’m already taken!” He laughed, “No! I’m going to ask her to marry me.” What a wonderful, happy day that was.
But life can be hard. He had made some bad choices in the past, tried to correct them, got on a better path, but life was still proving difficult. His character started to change. He wasn’t nearly as fun. He seemed angry more often than not. He ended up calling it off with his fiancé. I was bouncing messages between them to see how each was doing. Things were not ending well. My heart hurt for them both.
I was going to message him on Thursday afternoon, then thought better of it. He probably wouldn’t want me poking into his business anyway.
But that next morning, I was taken aside at the school. I had missed my opportunity to reach out and I will forever regret that. My first thought was of her. Oh, she must be devastated! I sent her a quick message to see how she was doing. She answered, “Fine.” My colour drained and I felt sick to my stomach, “She doesn’t know!” I asked her to call me. I was praying for the right words and for the ability to keep it together. Well, she called and was very concerned about me. Little did she know that my concern was for her, I knew what was coming, she had no clue. Sobbing, taking another deep breath, only to sob again, I managed to say, “Micah.” She sounded annoyed for a second, “What about him?” “I’m so sorry, hun…” She softened, she was worried, “What?” “He took his life, honey, and I’m so sorry. I’m so very, very sorry.” I burst into muffled tears, and I could hear that she had too. “Where are you? I’m coming to you now!” She told me and I dropped the phone into my purse and drove straight to her. The second I saw her she came right towards me, arms open. I just held her as she sobbed heart-wrenching sobs. I didn’t know what to say, so I whispered, “This has nothing to do with you, hun. Nothing. He made this choice. He was a hurting soul. This is not your fault.” Over and over again I whispered, “It’s not your fault.”
Folks, we know suicide happens. It happens far more than we want to admit. I’ve known of far too many people who have taken their lives over the years, but this one was, by far, the closest to home. I don’t have a solution. I really don’t. We do what we can, but we can’t make people talk to us. We can’t force them to make better decisions. We can’t insist that they go for counselling.
All we can do is watch and listen. Watch for changes in behaviour. Listen when they’re struggling. Listen to the venting, crying, screaming, etc. Help them find counselling. Be sure they have the local Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. Be their accountability partner. Keep in constant contact. Just be there.
And, in the end, if that’s all you could do, then you’ve done what you can. You are not responsible for this death. You could not have prevented it. This was their choice. As painful as that is for the rest of us. We cannot bear the burden of their decisions, as difficult as that is … and believe me, I know.
I just needed to remind myself.