Honoring the Choice of Suicide
On July 9th 2015, at approximately 12:30pm, my college friend drove to a quiet cul-de-sac in suburban Houston, placed a gun to her heart, and pulled the trigger. According to the coroner’s report, death was almost instantaneous. She had a history of suicide attempts, and this time she was determined to get it right.
Her husband was leaving her. She’d texted me in the week beforehand, saying she didn’t really want to make it through. I told her everything she had to live for, all her options. How it was going to be okay.
Because it always is okay.
Divorce is a wound that heals, the betrayal and hurt fades like a scar slowly dissolving back into the surrounding flesh. You become whole again. You love again.
Ana knew this. She became more upbeat. Told me she was going to be alright. This wasn’t her first divorce; she’d been in abusive relationships, seen close family members die. She hadn’t had an easy life, and she knew what pain was. She knew it faded, given time.
She knew she could make it through. She knew that she could start over.
She chose not to.
I know Ana wasn’t staring at the oncoming train of middle age comfortably, looking back with nostalgia at her achievements, and looking forward to conquering new heights. She had regrets in life. Like all of us, paths taken and decisions made look different when viewed from the down-hill slide that starts once you turn forty. Like me, she was at that age where the reality of your mortality starts to nag at you. Perimenopause starts without fanfare, gifting you with hormone swings that can seem like PMS for weeks on end and irregular periods that can last for weeks, then vanish for a month or two. You look in the mirror, and once smooth, plump skin is starting to wrinkle and sag. I catch sight of hefty, marbled and veined thighs in a mirror, and shudder when I realize they are mine. It’s a hard time to be a woman, regardless of anything else. When her husband left, the façade crumbled from the comfortable cookie-cutter cul-de-sac life she had so painstakingly created. She was single, stuck in a stressful un-filling job, facing rebuilding her life, reinventing herself once again. If I stepped outside my judgment and personal grief, could see why she did it. I could understand. I can understand.
But I am still heartbroken. Still angry.
It’s the first time I’ve been angry with someone who is dead, and it’s really conflicting. Dead people are sacred. The very act of passing from life makes them untouchable, as if all their negative traits and bad choices have been wiped out, as if they were always unflawed, different from the rest of us with our bitching and ignorance and poor life choices. You don’t get mad with dead people; it’s just not done.
But I AM mad. Mad that she took the easy way out, the selfish way. Mad that she thought her friends and family cared so little that we’d be better off without her here. I am angry at her for being weak. Angry for choosing not to fight and stick with it.
Then I stop. See myself for the hypocrite that I am.
I believe in choice. I believe in a woman’s right to abortion; a terminally ill patient’s right to die. I believe that we each own our life. So why can I not accept that Ana had the right to make a rational, planned, and unemotional decision to end hers?
It wasn’t an act of passion; not a crazy impulse nor a spur-of the moment gesture of bravado. Her home had been cleared of anything she could use to harm herself, and to find the gun that she chose to kill herself meant going to a relative’s house at a time when both she was alone and the relative was out, then searching through every room and every closet to find the guns where they had been hidden. Supposedly in a safe place. But nowhere is safe to someone who is determined. Someone on a mission.
She drove to a deserted street. Texted her husband to say good-bye.
I don’t know if she saw the text I sent, just moments before she pulled the trigger. I never will. It was flippant, inconsequential. It was unaware of the gravity of her mental space.
She pointed the gun at the place where the pain resided. She made her decision.
Did it work? Did the pain vanish in a flash of red and gold as her spirit exited her body?
I don’t know. Can’t know. Will never know. What I can do is support her, as my friend, as I would support her if she were still here. I support her by saying that regardless of whether I think her choice was right or not, it was her choice to make.
I honor her choice to die.