My mother recently called me and informed me that one of her closest friends had committed suicide. She found out the day after it happened- just after the Fourth of July. We will call my mom’s friend Shirley* to protect her identity. A family friend called my mother and told her what happened.
Shirley and her family went to a party to celebrate the Fourth. Shirley was happily married with a son about to be married. His fiance was a blonde girl with two mixed children, a little girl and a little boy. They all lived together at Shirley’s house and the daughter followed Shirley around like a shadow.
It turned out to be a shadow that haunted her. Shirley lost a child twenty years ago. She had cared for and utterly adored a special needs little girl for eight years of her life before she regrettably passed. They say that she had been speaking about her deceased daughter more often lately. She was going through menopause and her mother said she suffered from depression.
Even so, no one expected what happened from her. There was an altercation between Shirley and another woman and they left the party. Everyone went back home. Shirley said she had to go to the bathroom, and asked the little daughter to stay in the living room with everyone else, she’d be right back.
She went down the hall to their bedroom. She collected a shotgun her son had gifted her and wordlessly carried it with her to the bathroom. No one noticed anything until they heard the shot.
Her body fell against the door. Her son had to hack at the door and break it to get to his mother. There was nothing they could do, no help to get. She was gone. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law came to clean up the mess. Everyone was shocked and grief stricken.
My mother said it didn’t sound like her, she couldn’t believe it. I caught my mother in the throes of denial. She half way wondered if there could have been foul play. It was so utterly unlike Shirley to do this to her family. Her son was supposed to be wed the very next month. The family friend said that her husband was in shock and that her son was angry beyond belief. Who could blame him? My mother insightfully said, “But you know what? Being mad at her is probably what’s going to be what gets him through this.”
When we went to the Celebration for Her Life, I was touched by the amount of people gathered. There were well over a hundred people there. Her death touched so many people. Suicide robs everyone of you. It is so horrible. I know no one knows the pain she was in, but to see all her loved ones gathered makes you think about how you can’t take them for granted.
That’s what I was thinking as I sat next to my mother and squeezed her hand. But even as tears dripped down my face, they weren’t for Shirley. I was secretly terrified the same thing could happen to my own mother. She lost her son. What if she broke one day, too?
Afterwards in the card, I even told her, “Don’t you dare ever do this to me.”
My summer has been saturated in death and mortality. So many griefs and shocks. My cousin passed away. We found out my Grandpa has cancer. My mother has been pressuring me to talk to my dad for her and I can’t bear the rejection of him not speaking to me. He can ignore her all he wants, but God forbid I try and he doesn’t. The fear of rejection is strong. I couldn’t find the words to tell her that.
My birthday was an affair to remember. The week leading up to it I was a bundle of raw nerves. All I could anticipate was based on past experience and generally my birthdays include crying at some point. Not Happy Tears. I lived in fear of my husband’s temper and belittling attitude and cried in dread of the day. I cried to my mother that I didn’t want to be alone with him because he’s so insensitive and I can be so fucking fragile.
Doesn’t sound like a happy marriage, does it? I have always struggled to get the respect I deserve. I actually specifically asked my husband to be nice to me on my birthday. I just said he always found a reason to yell at me on that day and it would be nice if he didn’t this year. He miraculously didn’t. He loves me, I know he was trying. I guess he actually listened for once.
After the debacle that was my birthday, we had another hurdle to jump as a family. Or so I thought. Toby’s birthday came so shortly after his passing, but we were all supposed to spend it together. It wouldn’t turn out that way.
On his birthday, I called my uncle and he informed me that my mother wasn’t invited anymore. His wife struggled with drug addiction in the past and now she had been found out again. She relapsed and blamed it on my mother. Yes, my mother had a part in it. But she was to blame also for imploding the family dynamic.
Now relationships are strained and we still haven’t all agreed to be in person yet. My mother and aunt had been healing old wounds before. My mother used to hate my aunt more than anyone and they were becoming friends over my cousin’s illness. Now that has been ruined again. My uncle is barely speaking to my mother. Rightfully so.
In tandem with this secret family drama, there is other family drama afoot. My Grandpa has the misfortune of getting diagnosed with cancer shortly after admitting to a life of lies with his wife.
My Grandpa cheated on her. She was willing to forgive him. Then she found out that some family members such as my mother were involved, and now my mother is a trigger in their relationship and she won’t let my Grandpa speak to my mother. He told my mother not to call or text him, he’d get in touch with her. It is heartbreaking what this woman is doing. He’s fucking dying and she’s cutting him off from his family. Her final, bitter revenge for ruining her life with a faithless man.
She’s right to be upset, but there’s a limit. They are bound to separate, it seems. She has been one of my Grandpa’s longest relationships. But he needs his family, and they need him, too. Everyone hates her even though Grandpa is the one that cheated. We live in a topsy turvy world.
To put the cherry on top, I finally had the courage to call an intervention helpline for my mother’s sake and was immediately discouraged. How could we ever pay for rehab? The answer is we can’t. I have to look harder for the answer but I feel so afraid. What if it doesn’t help? She doesn’t sound willing to go. So much effort in a doomed pursuit. I don’t know if I have it in me, and that makes me feel ashamed.
Welcome to my life.