Scott, you left way too early, honey. There was still so much good stuff....
Some time ago a friend mentioned the book A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, in a way that made me feel as if I'd been missing something without knowing it because I hadn't read it. Instead of buying the book or at least putting it on my to-read list, I started reading about the book instead. I quickly learned of Toole's suicide--prior to the book being published. Sigh....
The mythology within the literary community is that Toole was so despondent over his failure to find a publisher for his book, he killed himself, at which point his mother took up the cause, eventually finding a publisher who agreed to take it on--to great success. Toole was awarded a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for the book. It was first published in 1980 but today is still an Amazon best seller.
The truth about Toole is far more complex, of course.
I have yet to read A Confederacy of Dunces. But I did read Butterfly in the Typewriter by Cory MacLauchlin, which details the life and death of Toole. (The title comes from writing by Toole himself, who described himself at one point as a butterfly being smashed to death by a typewriter key, an accurate reference, I suppose, to the fragility of many creative minds.)
I'm not here to recommend MacLauchlin's book. (Sorry, fellow author.) It's far too long and rambling for its purpose, a bit repetitious and not well edited. (Sorry again. Truly.) Something happened, though, just as I was getting to the part of the book I'd wanted to read, the part about Toole's suicide, the part that explained what he did and what led up to it.
Just about the time I read about Toole's mental collapse and subsequent suicide, a cousin called to tell me that our youngest cousin had killed himself. He had a wife and kids and grandkids, but his mental anguish, his degree of depression, his "psychache," as Edwin Shneidman, founder of the American Association of Suicidology, would put it, had become unbearable, so he took it upon himself to end it.
I cried for days. At his loss (at Toole's as well), at the grief his wife and children will bear for the rest of their lives, at our inability to find an effective treatment for debilitating sadness, at the agony he must have endured in the weeks, months, years before he felt he could no longer go on.
The "if onlys" come hard and fast during these times. If only I'd been aware. If only I had reached out to him. If only someone had been there to say, "Wait! Just wait! One more day. It gets better. I promise you, it will get better." Because it always does. Ask anyone who has contemplated an early departure but decided against it, and they will say the same: "I'm glad I lived to see/to hear/to experience/until...." "I'm glad I lived."
I'm glad I lived.
If I had taken my life at 15, I never would have experienced the ineffable joy of watching my children grow up... then my grandchildren. I would never have known how powerful and heady it can feel to set a difficult and far-off goal--publish a book, earn a degree--and keep slogging forward until it has been reached. I would not have experienced the humbling yet noble and rewarding duty of guiding young people toward their own goals and aspirations.
Yes, sadness still haunts me at times. I still struggle to shrug off that heavy coat of my heart-crushing childhood. (Butterfly... typewriter....) But this is what I know: As stormy as the night may be, the morning always comes. The sun will rise, the light will shine, spring emerges after winter and brings warmth, relief, and new growth. I have a thousand things to look forward to, still. I'm glad I lived.
If you have come upon this post in a state of deep sadness and you have considered or are considering making an early departure, please, please, I beg of of you, talk to someone first. Just... talk. No, there are no easy answers, there is no magic pill. It's hard. Damn hard. But it will be so worth it if you can just hang on another day. There are people out here who care. I promise.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255