The recent adaptation of “A Star is Born” with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga tragically ends with Cooper’s character hanging himself. This ending is as shocking today as it was when the first version was released in 1937. The message of this ending is that even when someone’s life is filled with fame and glory, there is something that drives this character to turn away from the love of his life and choose a path of darkness and finality….with absolutely no turning back.
For those of you that follow my blog, the past 16 months were the hardest of my life. My husband left after 34 years with little contact during the painful six months of a long distance separation. Then the divorce was final three days after our 34th wedding anniversary. I felt like my life was over and some days I wished that it was. I watched TV non-stop, in a zone of disbelief, not showering or getting with anyone for weeks. I searched for ways to quietly end my life with no mess and no fuss, but then the sweet faces of my grandkids and son would flash by in my mind. How could I leave a legacy of pain and defeat behind for them to live with the rest of their lives?
My ex-husband was struggling too, as he had all of his life with depression. He attended group therapy sessions for a year and even tried a month of inpatient treatment and nothing seemed to help. I reached out and told him that I still loved him, that we should start over and try again. Months would go by with no contact, then suddenly in August, we began to talk, really talk about a new future together.
I was dating by that point, but not allowing myself to get too close to anyone. It felt like I was being unfaithful to my husband, even though he was not my hubby anymore. I found myself comparing him to everyone I met. One guy was not as good a dancer, another didn’t enjoy the same foods that had been my hubby’s favorites and none of the men made me as comfortable as he always had. At times it felt like he was in the room with my date and I.
Then at the end of September, my son texted me one night and asked me to meet him at my house in 15 minutes. I was on a first date and we left the restaurant, driving quickly back to my house. As we pulled up, I saw my son and daughter-in-law sitting on my dark front porch. The look on their faces told me more than I ever wanted to hear. We are a tiny family and I knew that the grandkids and my mom were fine so that only left one person in my life who must be sick…..or something.
As I walked towards my son in the darkness, I knew what had happened. The world started swirling, my breathing slowed down and the tears started flowing. I asked him not to tell me, I just couldn’t bear to hear the words that would change all of our lives forever. Just days before, my grandkids had been with me for five days while their folks were on an anniversary trip to New York. I had tried repeatedly to get their Paw Paw to talk with them, so they could tell him about our fishing adventures. He refused, saying “not now.” That was the day before he ended his life with the same finality as Cooper’s character had done at the end of the movie.
I cried and sobbed until my sides hurt, my head throbbed and I wanted to throw up. Was this a nightmare that I would wake up from, a big mistake, a misunderstanding that was simply wrong? How would my son and his wife tell my grandkids? What would I tell my mom who only lived a mile from him and loved him like a son, while I live almost a thousand miles away in Denver? No one is ever prepared to hear the news of a loved one killing themselves.
During my divorce, few people offered their sympathy, and most assumed that I had wanted the divorce which was far from the truth. I posted a short note on Facebook after my son and his wife left that night. I used the same picture that is showing above, my favorite picture of us, taken on a cruise during happier times. By morning, a hundred people had posted loving and sympathetic comments. The list growing quickly; a memorial to my sweet hubby, who I would never see again in this world, never hear his voice with the slight southern twang, and never gaze into his hazel eyes again.
The weeks since have been like putting a jig saw puzzle together with many people each adding a piece, moving towards seeing a whole new picture of the man I was married to for over half my life. His very young life had been marred with unspeakable horrors, with the memories laying below the surface, but always simmering away in the dark recesses of his mind. All of the intensive therapy had finally released those horrible memories and the pain was too intense to live with any longer. His only way to turn off those meteorites. was to do the unthinkable.
When someone dies this way, the grief that their loved ones feel is completely different than that of a normal death. We all asked ourselves what we should have done differently, questioning everything we had said and done. Were words that were muttered in anger enough to push him over the edge? No. It was a lifetime of pain that he had endured and no longer could. He wasn’t thinking about what I would say to my grandkids when they asked why Paw Paw killed himself. He wasn’t thinking about the legacy of his life being defined by those horrible last moments of his life
That is the power of suicide. The demons consume the victims mind, body and soul, not allowing them to look past their consuming desire to stop time…to stop pain…to stop the memories. There is no hope, faith, or dreams of a future…the desire to live is like a candle blown out with a sudden final puff. And the darkness spreads across the lives of everyone.
My divorce papers never ended my marriage in my heart, and death will never take away this amazing man who I was honored to spend my life with. I know that someday we will meet again in Heaven, encircled by his loving spirit, free of pain and suffering, and truly happy in this new place.
Suicide did not win. It did not define who he was during his life. His love and spirit will live on in each of us in my family and everyone he ever met. My grandkids will stop worrying about how he died over time, but they will always remember the good times that they shared with their Paw Paw. I won’t ever let them forget. We will keep him alive in our hearts forever.