I remember it like it was mere moments ago, when it’s actually been several years. Some girlfriends and I were vacationing in Colorado and staying at my friend’s family cabin in the mountains. We were enjoying the cool mountain air, having some wine on the front porch and sharing the kind of deep belly laughs that make you feel totally carefree, safe and happy.
The neighbor came home from work and pulled into her driveway. We all waved at her as she gathered her things from the car and headed into her house. And that’s when we heard it.
The most shrill, terrifying, blood curdling, gut-wrenching scream.
We all stopped in our tracks. Cold chills ran down my spine. Something was very, very wrong. It seemed to go on forever and we were frozen – not sure what it could possibly mean. We wanted to run over there, but hesitated. I remember thinking the most random thoughts – what if an estranged husband is holding a gun to her head? What if a bear had somehow made its way into her house? (Not out of the question where we were.) My friend was already running for the phone when the woman ran outside and screamed to us to call 911…she needed help.
In the following minutes that transpired, two of my friends did go into the woman’s house to help. On the phone with 911, waiting for an ambulance to come.
We later learned that the woman’s son, a man around our age, had come home during his lunch hour and hung himself. She had cut him down before my friends or the police got there.
The brain is an amazing thing. Even though I never saw any of the scene inside the house, I somehow have the most crystal clear image of it in my head. For weeks the sound of her scream haunted me as I was trying to fall asleep. I can still hear it now and feel the turning in my stomach as I reflect on it.
I don’t know the woman’s name. Or her son’s. I don’t know anything about them. But I felt her utter despair and agony in that moment. I heard it and felt it in my bones. I still think about her often, and it makes me think of everyone I know, and those I don’t, who are deeply affected by suicide.
Admittedly, I don’t know anything about it first hand. I’m always shocked when it’s in the news and find myself unable to comprehend it. It absolutely breaks my heart to know that anyone anywhere is living with these thoughts. Either because they think they’re unworthy, because they feel there’s no other way out or that things will never get better, or because of a mental illness that doesn’t allow them to think clearly at all.
Maybe I’m saying it wrong – maybe my lack of understanding is making me sound like a complete jackass. I hope my well-meaning thoughts here are not misinterpreted or offensive to anyone. I want to understand. I want to help. I want every single person to feel worthy. To feel loved. To feel that life is worth living. I don’t really know how to do that other than to try my best to not spread hate, judgement or negativity. To try to send nothing but love and light and respect out into the world around me and encourage others to do the same. Life isn’t generally very fair. It’s full of ebbs and flows, ups and downs, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And I think that we sometimes forget about perspective.
We forget that we’re not the only ones dealing with hard things. We forget that while some people have it much better; some people have it much much worse. And that even those we think have it better may not actually have it better after all. I wish that everyone would always remember before spewing judgement or hatred that every person in this world of ours is human just like them and that they would have empathy. That we’re all sharing the same feelings and emotions, struggles and hardships. That we all celebrate joys, but also mourn losses. We all suffer. No one is above it, and no one should be marginalized merely for playing the hand that life has dealt them.
I know it’s hard, believe me, I have as hard a time as any, but we need to start working on believing that most people are inherently good. I feel like we’ve come to this point in time where we automatically assume the worst in people. Try to find the good – the commonalities – the connection, among other human beings. Try harder to be there for people. Try harder to be the best version of yourself, because when you feel like your true self, you can help others be comfortable doing that, too. We need each other now more than ever.
Spend time together. Call one another. Invite friends to dinner, even if your house is a mess. Invite acquaintances to dinner and become friends. I’m afraid we’re all getting so wrapped up in our safe-haven bubbles, only connecting via social media, that we’ve forgotten how to truly connect with other people. And we need connection to survive. Humans were not built for solitude. We were created for companionship and friendship. For the support and love and laughter and life-giving joy of spending time with others. No one should have to celebrate alone, and no one should have to suffer alone, either.
Be kind and keep spreading love.