The Night The Lights Went Out
On April 6, 2017 at 11.00 pm, the lights went out in my house and on my street but not on the adjacent streets — just mine. It was a strange evening. I had just been given a last-minute deadline to prepare a proposal for a potential new client. It was going to be a big-step for my social media company. The entire evening, I was literally on edge. My energy was through the roof. I was neither here nor there. I reached out to a friend in a panic. In fact he was the one to point out to me that I was off kilter and admitted to being surprised at my anxiety level. In fact, this is not my usual reaction to projects. I may be overly excited and nervous but not to the point of disarray. Fortunately he was there to align me and veer me on the right direction. I will forever be grateful for his patience.
Five hours into this kick-ass proposal, the computer screen blacked out and the whole house fell upon darkness. I sat for a few moments in the dark. As soon as the creepiness settled into my bones, I sprang from my wobbly desk chair. With blind eyes, I scrambled inside my closet looking for the battery operated candles I bought at the dollarstore way back when my sister and I were caught in a 3 day winter storm. Next task was to find my phone and hopefully there was enough battery life to find out when these lights were coming back.
It would be a 2 hour delay. It was one of the longest ever. The longer I lingered in the dark, the more monstrous images my mind conjured up. Without further ado, I ran down the stairs and into the solarium attempting to find the last slivers of the moon’s rays. My energy took a turn and a calmness overtook my body and mind. Why wasn’t I furious about losing half of my work? Why was my street the only one to be affected? Where was my black-out partner?
Four days later, my life fell upside down. My dear, beloved sister took her own life. She left a note with the date and time of her death. April 6th, 11:00 pm.
The street lamps returned to their brilliance the day after her funeral. I live my life believing in signs. It’s the only way that I can take one step in front of the other. My sister and I shared the same beliefs. It’s all I have left of her.
When she finds her peace, I will be waiting for the sign.
Here is a letter I wrote to her and have been unable to publish but If I want to help others, I realize I need to bear my soul too.
I’m sorry for ignoring the signs.
I’m sorry for not being there when you needed me the most.
I’m sorry you had to suffer so much in silence for so many years.
I’m sorry for feeling hurt and disappointed when you were the one in turmoil.
I’m sorry for not reaching out to you more than I did, especially in the last year.
I’m sorry for accepting your wishes to be ALONE. I really believed I was doing right by you, sister.
I’m sorry for failing as a big sister.
I’m sorry for failing to understand your anguish.
I’m sorry for thinking that taking you out into my social scene was going to make you happy.
I’m sorry I disappointed you day in and day out. You were so much wiser than me, even if you were younger. I really did look up to you even if you didn’t believe it.
I’m sorry for not acknowledging that perhaps you had a mental illness. I really didn’t want to believe it.
Why? Why does this stigma still exist? I have been guilty of judging those who suffer from mental illness as the spectrum is far and wide. Who am I to judge anyone? I enter deep dark holes that are not comprehensible to even my friends. If I was experiencing this, why wouldn’t I have imagined my baby sister dealing with this ten-fold. She was alone when she took her life. I never imagined she would have done that. But, then again I wanted so much to believe that she was content in her loneliness. Was I being naive? Should I have pushed myself into her life? Would she have regressed even more if I had done so? I have so many questions. And no answers. Closure is just not what we are ever going to get as a family.
If I am being really true to myself and to my sister, I have to believe that she is so much happier now. I feel it in my heart. Am I being selfish that I want to see her again? Do I even have any right to want this from her? Do I even deserve any answer since I am partly to blame?
I’m on my third book on dealing with the aftermath of suicide and unfortunately it seems bleak for us survivors. Every single book has forewarned me that the second year will be the most difficult. I can’t imagine how it could be worse than this first year. The last time I felt this overwhelming weight of sadness was 31 years ago when my mom died of cancer. To be honest, when my mom lay there lifeless in my father’s embrace, my feelings switched off; the tears that streaked my face were usually forced as the bricks were rapidly cementing themselves within the depths of my soul from the moment she took her last breath. The only way any release of emotion occurred was during my “Peel Pub” college days. It took copious amounts of cheap alcohol to chip away at the foundation. Even then it was merely superficial sadness. It took me over 20 years to complete the stages of grief and I still don’t think I am fully healed. It doesn’t matter anymore because she has been replaced by my beautiful sister.
And now we are inundated with what-if scenario’s: what-if we sought help for her? What if I called her that week? What if I was kinder to her that last time I saw her? What if she ended her life because of me? What if I was a better sister? What if we had insisted on tougher measures of healing? What if …? What if…? My emotions are on a roller coaster. I feel guilty. I feel at peace. I feel sadness. I feel tormented. I feel hurt. I feel nothing.
I hope to find the same peace that you have found.
I hope that one day I will be able to erase the way you left this world completely out of my mind.
I hope to one day look at your photo and imprint the joys and laughter we shared at that moment, instead of reverting to “I’ll never see you again and it’s ‘killing’ me” mode.
I hope to make you proud by sharing your story to the world; a better grasp and understanding of mental illness and suicide survivors is a must.
I hope to help at least one person out there who is suffering like you or suffering like me.
I hope to be able to find happiness again; right now, it doesn’t seem possible but I promise to try (for you).
I hope to truly understand the pain that you were in to properly convey your message to the world.
I hope that mom is by your side and you are both at peace now.
I hope that you know how much we loved you and still love you, always and forever.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It was not easy to write and I’m sure for those who loved her dearly, will not be easy to read.
*If anyone is in the same boat as I am, feel free to reach out to me. The more support we have, the easier the journey ( I think…).