Today would have been my mother Virginia’s 88th birthday; she was born July 7, 1924.
My mother died August 12, 1992. She committed suicide. After her death people who’d known her since I was a baby told me she’d been talking about suicide since the 1960s. Well after I reached adulthood and after a nearly 10-year gap in our relationship, she talked about it to me too, referencing a condition called restless legs syndrome as her primary reason for considering the option.
We agreed that ending one’s life is a choice each person has the right to make. Then and now, however, I voiced the belief that suicide was like many of life’s choices. The choice could be made for healthy or unhealthy reasons. If someone is terminally ill and chooses to end their lives peacefully rather than run out the clock by availing themselves of every damned piece of medical technology and pharmaceutical option out there, I support them.
This was not the case with my mother. She was not terminally ill. She was, I now believe, deeply depressed.
My mother did not believe anyone loved her. She was wrong in this, many did, not least of all me. Nevertheless, she believed no one loved her and, as inaccurate as her belief was, it was hard-wired into her thinking and feeling and, in the end, it led her to end her life with a hefty mix of alcohol and codeine. Moments after her graveside service came to an end my legs buckled under me so severely I would have collapsed to the ground had my wife and someone else not caught me in time; such is the power of pulverizing heartbreak and agonizing emotional pain.
Not long after her death I realized I too was trying to die by consuming enormous amounts of alcohol and pot while at the same time taking prescription medications intended to help me manage the brain damage I’d sustained when I was held up and shot in the head in 1984, an event that left the bullet lodged in the frontal lobe of my brain. That I am alive to write these words to you, my reader, is nothing short of a miracle. Consider the fact that at the end of my drinking I was consuming 12 to 14 gin and tonics (in tall glasses) every night, smoking pot all the time, taking meds, and doing two to three nebulizer treatments daily to keep my lungs open so I could keep smoking pot.
This July 12, five days from now, I will be sober 10 years. I do not think it happenstance that my sober date is so close to her birthday.
My mother was my friend. I’d go to see her, usually arriving midday and we would talk all day long. Sometimes we’d go out to dinner, but always our time together was spent in conversation. They were the best conversations of my life. I miss her terribly, well beyond the reach of words.
According to my mother’s minister, a truly remarkable woman named Laurie Ferguson, I was my mother’s lifeline and had I’d not been part of her life she would have ended it a lot sooner. I wish I’d been a stronger lifeline.