Robin Williams’ suicide continues to touch raw wounds.

I have the honor of sharing a deeply touching story from “Mary” today.  She very eloquently describes what it’s like to be left behind the wake of a suicide.

 

“Mrs. M died today,” read my diary. 

That’s all that’s written.  Looking back, I just don’t think there was any more to say.  How in the world could I explain it to my diary when at age 10, my best friend’s mom died and left us all bereft, swirling in a pool of uncertainty?

Now more than 30 years later, when September rolls around, I still think, Susan died today.  I call her Susan although back when she was alive, she was always Mrs. M or “Mom” as she allowed us to call her.  She was my best friend’s Mom and my sister and I spent many a happy day and night at her house.  My sister Annie, my best friend Suzy (who was my age) and her sister Lila who was a year older than Annie, spent many a weekend together.  The four of us were inseparable and many times, we stayed over Suzy’s house for the weekend.  Mrs. M. became our surrogate Mom and we loved her with all of our hearts.  She called us her lovies and always saw the good in us.

Annie and I were happy to stay at their house as much as we could.  Our family life was rife with dysfunction although back in the 70’s I don’t think that term was coined yet.  All we knew was at the M’s house, we were loved, praised, comforted and didn’t have to worry about what would happen when our dad came home.  That was a huge incentive to remain good girls and to be invited to stay over every chance possible.  Our parents were fine with it ~ they didn’t care that we stayed over almost every weekend.  Mrs. M. treated us as if we were her real daughters and many a day, I would pretend.  She was kind and for me, had a heart of gold.

So when she took her life that day in September when I was in the 5th grade, I was devastated.

I found out the day after, right before school began, when one of the paramedics in town’s daughter gossiped about how Mrs. M. was found dead the afternoon before and that she had killed herself.  I distinctly remember calling the girl a liar and being numb the whole day long.

My mom picked me up from school that day.  I got in the car, I can still hear and see the entire moment when I told her that I had heard the saddest news.  Mrs. M. was dead.  My mom confirmed it, and years later when we were older, Mom told us how our Dad had left his office to come home to tell her in person since he didn’t want her to be alone when she heard the news.  I remember crying, so sad for my best friend and her family.  I just couldn’t understand why Mrs. M. whom I adored didn’t want to be here anymore with us.  Didn’t she love me anymore?  Why would she have done that to her girls and her own family?  What would happen now?

My Mom took us to Suzy’s house that day after school.  We spent a few hours there with our friends and my Mom did what she could to help the rest of the family cope with the tragedy.  I remember Mrs. M’s Mom whom we called Grannie was there, having already been on her way to spend the weekend with her daughter and family.  She had no idea at the time that Susan had planned that it would help for her to be there in the wake of her suicide.

We never attended the funeral, for my parents thought it would have been too much for us.

Looking back, I truly wish we had been allowed the closure of knowing that we were there for our friends and their family.  I remember Suzy’s Dad trying to get their lives back in a routine and asked to have Annie and I sleep over a few weeks later.  Mrs. M. had taken her life in the en suite bathroom of their master bedroom, a place that Suzy and I had often played in as she had a dressing table with all sorts of fun make up and jewelry that she never minded our using when we played dress up.  The first night we slept over, Grannie called to see how everyone was and Suzy told me to grab the phone in her parents’ bedroom to talk with Grannie.  Well, I had seen her parents’ room down the hall, but hadn’t entered it since that fateful day.  I don’t know what I expected to see when I went in the bedroom to get on the phone extension, but I remember the relief I felt when the room looked like it always had.  Serene flowered wallpaper lined the room and the bed was made as always.  There was a pile of dirty clothes in the corner in front of the closet doors which had never been there before and I wondered if it was to cover blood stains.  That pile haunts me to this day even though I have been told that she cut herself with the electric carving knife in the bathroom so as not to make a mess.

My Mom is haunted as well.  Susan stopped by to see her unexpectedly a week before she committed suicide.  Over coffee before their daughters got home from school, they easily chatted like the friends they were.  They didn’t run in the same social circles, but there was a kinship which bonded them over the years due to the their daughters’ friendships.  That day, Susan gave my Mom a ladybug ~ she said she had seen it in a store and wanted my Mom to have it.  The ladybug has remained on a leaf of my Mom’s favorite plant in her house for over 30 years.  Looking back on the conversation, my Mom believes that Susan already had it planned and was visiting to say her goodbyes to her friends because she stopped in to many homes that week with small trinkets that she had picked up for her friends, ‘just because.’  In fact, Mom remembers how Susan had asked her where she thought her brother who had committed suicide year ago was because in her religion, committing suicide means you go to hell.  My Mom assured Susan that she thought her brother was in Heaven because God understood that he was haunted by his memories of being in the service during the war.  Mom remembers that Susan visibly softened that day and hugged her extra tight adding that she thought God understood too.  My Mom didn’t think anything of the conversation at the time.  She only saw the comfort in Susan’s support.  Who knew that Susan may have been asking for herself that day?

I’m sorry.  Tears are running down my cheeks as I try to explain to you how even though she wasn’t my Mom, I still miss her something terrible.  And even though I was only 10 at the time that she did it, I am haunted by her actions.  When I was a Mom of a 5th grader and September rolled around, I was depressed the whole month.  I just couldn’t get her out of my mind, or the fact that my child was now my age when it happened.  The days got better as fall’s crisp weather came in and time moved to October.  But it resurfaced again with a vengeance when my younger son became a 5th grader in September two years later.  Again those feelings of overwhelming sadness poured into my soul.  I held my sons tighter that year.  I held myself, wrapping my arms around myself to ground me from the overwhelming tears of sadness which poured out every day when nobody was looking.

Sadly, as the years went by, Suzy and my friendship faded.

I think I reminded her of those good times we shared when her Mom was alive.  I know that when I see her, I think of those good times as well and I can’t help thinking of the sadness that plagues her soul.  A few years ago, I met her younger sister Lila at a party.  We hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years.  As soon as we recognized each other, we threw ourselves into each other’s arms crying for what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes.  A lifetime of understanding passed between us.  When we finally separated from our embrace, we realized that the others around us were looking on bewildered.  Lila simply explained, “Mary knew my Mom.  My real Mom.  There are very few people who knew her like she did.  We haven’t seen each other in years.  It just feels like my Mom is here, you know?”  Of course, most of the people just thought that Lila’s Mom had died, but we knew the whole story which bonded us.

It is etched across my heart forever.  There’s an Angel up there in Heaven who loves me for who I am, who gave me comfort, support and understanding when chaos swirled around in my life and when she was taken from me, she left a scar on my heart, a hole that I have never been able to fill.

September is coming again.  The start of a new school year.  Lucky for me, I don’t have any more 5th graders.  But still, there will be a day in which I think of Susan, I send her blessings, love and a healing hug.  She is missed by me.

The impact this suicide had on Mary was very powerful to me; I admire her for sharing it with us.

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