All That I Have Left To Give
I called to talk to an old friend today. My call was answered on the very first ring. The voice of an older woman said, “hello?” I asked if my friend was there to talk to. Silence so still, I could hear the ticking of my wall clock… tick, tick, tick, tick… If I wasn’t hearing each second going by, I would have thought time had been stopped. The woman cleared her throat, and spoke to me of his loss. She was sorry that I had not heard, but her son was gone. He died a year ago, that exact day of my call.
And then she told me a tale so sad. By its end, we were both shedding tears. And our anger was impassioned as well, by the ignorance and cruelty that had killed her son. She found him hanging from the large oak tree in her backyard.
She awoke and went to the kitchen for coffee. A mindless morning routine, that had gone on now for for nearly 50 of her seventy years of life. She told me how she lifted her head, as the water filled the coffee carafe, and her eyes went to gazing at the view. Frost blanketed the lawn, and with the sun rising, each leafless tree skeleton stood out against a canvas of pink, orange, and lavender hue. Then her eyes locked on the body. Swinging slowly in the breeze.
“His feet,” she said. “I saw them first. I didn’t have to look at his face. His left foot was only covered by a sock, but his right was still in his slipper. They were a gift from a friend, from when he went in, must be four years ago now. Hands, they had hands, flipping the bird on the top of each one. I’d know them damn slippers anywhere, So you see I didn’t really have to look.”
“Have to look?” was my reply.
“Have to look at his face. So, I didn’t you know. Look, I mean. What was the point? The bastard went and offed himself. I mean, what a selfish thing to do. He’s got two kids that need money. And me, I needed him to help me too.”
She said he had a note pinned to his shirt. I could come by and read it if I wanted to. She never had. His mother didn’t care to read what the coward had to say for himself. Those were her exact words. And later that same day, I read what he wrote. I would like to share the same with you. I will never see his death as selfish. I will never believe it was a coward that kicked that crate from under himself, suffocating at the end of that rope. I knew him. He was my friend. And he saved my life, but couldn’t save his own. And the note-
“I am sorry mom. Sorry, I was your greatest disappointment. Please tell Jeannie the same. Tell her that I loved her, that I always will. And the girls, I love them too. Tell them please, tell them that this is all I have left to give. I didn’t mean to be so bad, or wrong, or what ever you all think I did. I hurt Ma. I don’t know what else to do. I love Je, and the girls. I tried everything she wanted, the shrinks, the meds, even the hospital. Several times too. She left me anyway, Ma. I have failed at everything. I can’t even hold a job. Everyone says I’m a loser, even you do mom. If I am out of the way, she and the kids can get help with money and stuff. They can’t if I am alive. I am nothing but a waste, so I figured I’d get drunk, and die. So please Ma, you can hate me. I ruined your life, and broke your heart, I know. But please let Je and the girls know, I am trying one last time, to help them.. I don’t want to hurt them, or you anymore. If I could give anything to this world in staying, you gotta believe I would. I ain’t never gonna bring any good to anyone. All I do is cause pain. I hate this fucked up piece a crap I am! I ain’t got anything to offer. This is all I have, all that is left to give. Please forgive me. I love you. – your son.”
I had read it too myself, though loud enough for her to hear what it said. From behind me, came the sound of her choked back sobs, and understanding grew, as I read. Until that moment, this note hadn’t been seen by anyone, but the authorities that day. She never knew that he held such guilt, or that his life had been ended because his shame. My friend’s mother and I talked for several hours that day. It is sad that so many are ignorant of the guilt, and blame a person holds inside, who takes their own life this way. He did not take a cowards way out, but honestly believed his death would be the only thing he could do at all, to make up for causing others so much pain. That his agony would also be ended, was secondary to what others would gain.
So sad, and misguided he was. A tragedy, lives lost this way. One of many such statistics, harboring more hurt inside, than anyone will ever know, while believing themselves unworthy of forgiveness, or even relief of the pain that torments their souls. He, like so many others, made to endure litanies of insults, all confirming a worthlessness of which they were quite aware. Blame, and accusations, and whispering gossip, destroy all hope, rendering a person to a world of despair. Until one lonely moment, no more left for the fight….
These are not people who do not possess any strength. Cowards. These are a despairing, wounded, guilt riddled, and mentally imbalanced lot. They have probably coped with, and lived with far more in the realms of emotional pain, and tragic circumstances than most will ever have to deal with in their lifetime. The very nature of the mentally ill, tends to be surrounded by crisis, turmoil, and sorrow. Can a coward live with all of that, for years and years, before they, ‘end it all, that is, if they make that choice. I don’t believe that a coward could. In fact, I am not sure you could…?