A woman ended her own life last week. My mom had the extreme misfortune of discovering her body.
Luckily my sister, who was right behind my mom, didn't see anything. But that didn't stop her from leaving a very emotional message on my answering machine. The message was really vague - I think all she managed to say was, "Call home now." And given how hard she was crying, I thought something horrible had happened to someone in my family.
So when my mom picked up the phone and told me what had happened, my first emotion was relief, which was then followed by guilt over feeling relieved, which was then followed by concern for my mom. After all, the last thing she'd expected to see was someone hanging lifelessly from the ceiling. This image would forever be seared into her memories.
My mom, strangely enough, was angry.
"How could she do such a thing?" she said, sounding as if the woman had robbed a bank and fled the country.
She was angry about what this woman had just put her and my sister through. And, most of all, she was furious about what this woman did to her own family. She left behind devastated and confused children, and Lord knows how many other family and friends. Suicide, in my mother's eyes, was an extraordinarily selfish act - perhaps the ultimate act of selfishness.
I felt sad for the kids, I mean how do you deal with the knowledge that the woman who gave you life abandoned it forever? And, finally, I felt sad for the woman. I didn't know her, so I don't know why she did it. Loneliness? Clinical depression? Menopause? Personal or financial problems? Perhaps nobody knows.
But then I think about the countless people out there who are suffering in the worst possible way, or those who are dying and are fighting to stay alive. I can't help but wonder how many of them would have gladly accepted the life she chose to throw away. And then I get angry too.