To Be or Not to Be

 

One of my high school friends just killed herself. She jumped from her 11th floor condo and killed herself.

It was not her first attempt.

Over 20 years ago I picked her up from Norwalk Hospital after a failed suicide attempt. She had slit her wrists.

I’m not going to try and play amateur psychologist, I have no idea what was going on inside her head. I can tell you this. She was always different, and I don’t mean tattooed, blue hair different. I mean she dressed like an adult in high school, caked on makeup, had a fake ID, ordered her own NutriSystem meals. She also knew how to steal money from the register where she worked without getting caught. She lived on a plane not meant for 16 year olds.

I suppose this continued into her adult life. We lost touch over the years. I know she was arrested at some point for identity theft. I also know she was working in TV, I saw her playing a nurse on Fringe.

When I saw her obituary and put it together with the news story about the woman who had jumped from her 11th floor condo, and initially survived, I was horrified.

I understand the impulse to want to kill yourself. Life is overwhelming, you hate where you are, you hate the world, you no longer wish to suffer. I have felt all of these things. But I never acted on that impulse.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people in America. It’s the tenth leading cause of death in American adults (according to the CDC). We have a suicide prevention month, suicide hotlines, suicide clinics…oh, wait, we don’t.

No, I am not suggesting children be allowed to kill themselves with the assistance of a medical professional. But I do believe adults should be afforded that right. My mother, who had Alzheimer’s, would have chosen assisted suicide over the slow decay of her mind and body. After all, the result is the same, and one allows you to die with dignity.

Yes, dignity.

When you Google “suicide clinics” in this country you get a couple of clearly slanted articles by The National Review – Christians, it seems, believe in suffering. Well, as my British mother would have said “Bully for them.” Thankfully, we are not all Christians. It’s time we put aside the notion that suicide is immoral and face the fact that people do indeed kill themselves. Maybe it’s time we afforded people the opportunity to do it in a way that doesn’t involve traumatizing others – the ambulance drivers, the emergency responders, the people walking by who covered my friend with their own clothing to keep her warm until help arrived. How are they coping? How unfair and awful it is that their lives be turned upside down because someone had no real options to deal with the pain, the chaos and the ever present impulse to kill themselves.

It’s sad. And it’s reality.

When I am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I will go to the nearest suicide clinic and spare my friends, family and self from having to see me deteriorate before their eyes. I would like to spare myself the indignity of shitting on the floor every morning when I wake up. I want to remember my life before it ends. I just hope that I don’t have to travel to a foreign country to do it. But I will, because here in America we love telling others how to live their lives. And as long as the government stays in bed with organized religion I will be forced to find my own way to off myself. I just hope I can remember to do it in front of the National Review offices, since they like human suffering so much.

As for my friend, I can’t say she is at peace now, because I don’t believe there is anything to be had, experienced or felt after death. I could maybe say she got what she wanted, although I’d bet she changed her mind as soon as it was too late. What I can say is that she deserved better. She may not have led a perfect life, but she was one of us. She had dreams, desires, wants, needs, emotions and everything else that makes us human. And our sense of compassion and empathy should override any man-made rules and regulations regarding the end of life and how we get there. I do not believe in suffering and I question the motives of those who do.

I will miss you, my friend. I will think of you often. I will remember the good times, the Halloween costumes, the shows, the music, your outfits, your make-up, your long straight blonde hair and your short curled bangs. I will never forget how you left us. I will not be able to forget your wake, aptly named for the ripple effect your leaving has left upon the world.  You have shuffled off this mortal coil, and it gives us pause.

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