The roads have been very bad in the Pacific Northwest, and so I've not been able to get to my friend, David's mother. It's supposed to warm up, melt the ice in the gorge, hopefully in time for the memorial on Friday.
David's death has revealed to me some fissures in the fabric of my community.
I approach the topic with trepidation, because it seems wrong, in a way, to even think about the ways this effects ...me. I was not a cherished adult in his life--I have no right, if I'm not devastated as in the loss of a Beloved, to even consider myself affected. It seems presumptuous, sacrilegious. How dare I profane their grief.
Yet I feel flat.
I wrote earlier today: "It’s funny how far the ripples reach, how it affects people he probably didn’t even know exist."
There are the primary affected: those who loved him dearly, felt responsible for him and feel the burden of responsibility now. And there are those of us, or perhaps I shouldn't speak for anyone else. There is me, who doesn't know him well enough to grieve honestly for his own sake, but grieves for the anguish of his parents. And has to confront the question of how close I am to them really, and indeed to any of my friends. What is love, what is intimacy? I try to locate a discreet sensation inside and it eludes me.
This is complicated by the fact that in coming to terms with my unhappy marriage and what I'm going to do about it, I've largely isolated myself. The time I've had to myself with the kids in school I've guarded jealously, and surrendered grudgingly while I wrote, and thought. Any claims on my time have felt like overwhelming demands. I've gone through the motions with people when I've had to, but usually I'm just waiting until I can be alone again. In general my history with friends is a sort of credit for closeness, but what is there to back it up?
And do I really care?
That's what I mean by flat. Rudderless, disoriented. Aimless. Even thinking about thinking is hard.
I feel guilty about this eddy my friends' grief has swirled me into. It seems selfish and trivial in comparison to the raw suffering that is their lives right now and for the future.
Perhaps that explains that peculiar tendency toward distance I experienced when I received word.
There's a hidden challenge in the fact of a close someone's suicide. My guess is that as it is causing me to examine what constitutes close friendships, his family may be examining what it means to choose to live. Although theoretically the doorway out of this life is in our hands, most of us live with the perception that it is barred and inaccessible. David's death leaves the door ajar, especially for those who are in so much pain at his passing through it. Years ago my friend Marti and I watched a movie called "Night Mother" with Anne Bancroft and Sissy Spacek. It was devastating; a young woman announces her intentions to her mother and the mother spends the whole night trying to talk her out of it. If David's family could have argued with him, they could have asked, perhaps, what about them? If he can pass through that exit, what would he feel about them doing the same? Perhaps he was in so much pain he would have been beyond that care reaching and influencing him. Perhaps he would have turned up his hands and said, "no. I wouldn't want you to go this way. But I'm hurting so soo much. And I'm asking you, please pay this price for me to have peace. Your pain will purchase my freedom. Please?"