Writing About My Mother’s Suicide

Every honest writer knows words can take you to some painful places. For me, none more so than writing about my mother’s 1992 suicide. I am, I think, about four months away from finishing the memoir and am now writing about her suicide. There is a piece in this blog called Goodbye Mother Sunday which talks about it.

No matter how much time has passed, this August 12th will mark 19 years, the soul-tearing pain and heartbreak never goes away. There are certain events in life that are so big they freeze me in place, one giant ache. This morning, writing, a conversation with her letting me know the time to end her life was coming, my head bowed down and, although I live alone, I got up and closed the door to my writing room, not entirely clear, then or now, exactly why I’d closed it Protecting myself, I suppose, though from what I don’t know.

What I do know is that she is gone, and that, I will never get over. Despite our rocky time when I was growing up, a time that culminated into my being disowned three months after my father died when I was 15,  resulting in a nearly 10-year estrangement, we reconnected not long after the birth of my daughter in 1977 and, in the last 10 years of her life, became very close friends. In fact, when it came to advocacy of all kinds we were each others number one adviser. We both worked hard for the Brady Bill and rejoiced when it became law. She helped Laotian refugees find homes and volunteered at the GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) and we both fought against the death penalty.

My mother cared deeply about many things, but not herself. In the end, I learned, she did not believe anyone loved her. She was so wrong. I loved her and my sister loved her and her grandchildren loved her; many people loved her. But sometimes our personal histories gain so much power, they destroy our ability to see ourselves clearly. It cost my mother her life.

I will finish writing about her, her suicide, and I will finish the memoir and then, I will keep living. I know that’s what she would have wanted me to do. I know it’s what I wanted her to do.


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