Monday, August 4, 2008

My Mother's Suicide Note

[This is partially a response to Twisted Rib's excellent post "Guns and Dogs".]

My Mother's Suicide Note

She didn't leave one.

But she did leave sitting out on top of a pile of papers the copy of this poem (below) that I had written out by hand and mailed to her a couple weeks earlier.
It's the last thing I ever sent her, for which I am grateful beyond belief.

I worry sometimes that in my self-protective way I have not said clearly enough how much I loved my mother. She was brilliant and saw meaning in everything, making her great to talk movies with (though making her daily living cumbersome, where it's helpful to screen out the little stuff); she was wack-o funny, in a laugh-till you drool way; and she drove like a sexy vampire. 

The fact that loving her was, fuck yeah, a burden, even a nightmare sometimes, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.
I mean, that's love, that ridiculous pearl of great cost, worth nothing less than everything.

When my brother called on winter solstice, 2002, and told me she had shot herself, the first thing I said was, "Good for her."
I felt oddly proud of her, finally doing something she'd wanted--maybe needed--to do for so long, and that she was finally done with pain.

And the next thing I thought was, I have lost the person who made the universe make sense.

Sister read the poem at our mother's memorial mass.

"I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great"
by Stephen Spender

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud,
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


bink said...

"Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre." That line of the poem seems to me the most like your mother. She could burn so bright...

I don't know that it was "the traffic" that smothered the flowering of her spirit, but certainly there was a fog that descended and stayed all too often. If only she could have seen her brightness burn through that fog!

I'm glad she gave you into the world to be my friend.

Manfred Allseasons said...

What a beautiful poem.

Rudyinparis said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's hard, as an outsider, to feel comfortable pressing you for reflections about your mother, for your feeling and thoughts, etc., easier instead to assume you will say what you want to say when you want to say it... and I hope that assumption is true. "Driving like a vampire" by the way is a startingly convincing and vivid description, so much so that now that I've read it, I can't believe it's not a common phrase.

fresca said...

Bink: I love that you knew her and can match the words to the person. Thank you.

Manfred: Yeah. I think it was Randall Jarrell who said the poem is embarrassing, and I thought, how bizarre... It's a eulogy, for god's sake.

Rudy: Driving like a vampire! It SHOULD be a common phrase, you're right. It perfectly fits my mother.
It's odd--you know, mostly I will talk about anything. Spanking Capt. Kirk, torture in Congo, and so forth.
But it's true that I don't always like to talk about my mother and her death--it's so complex and I feel protective of both her and me, and while no one has said anything *intentionally* unkind about suicide, people do have a lot of feelings and preconceptions about it, and I'm not always emotionally up to dealing with them.
(You are not an outsider!)
I guess I write about it here in bits and pieces--I was surprised to see all the times I've tagged a post "suicide," as Twisted Rib's links showed me.
Thanks for writing.

momo said...

I have something to give you when you come back from the Star Trek Con.

Jennifer said...

How odd that as I read this, "driving like a sexy vampire" jumped out at me. What an amazing phrase, I thought. I can totally see it. I feel like I know Fresca's mother better now. And that's exactly the phrase dear R. picked out as well. Sorority triumphs, I suppose.

Like her, I also feel an awkward abashedness on the topic, but am glad and moved to read your thoughts. The poem is beautiful.