Four years, four months, and eight days.
This is how long it has been since my husband ended his life.
This is how long it has been since my husband ended my life.
The mercy of the first year of grief was the numbness. I sleep-walked through twelve calendar months. When I began to stir from the opiate of grief, memories came up like photographs in a screen saver: Disorganized, disembodied, disconnected.
I preserved a sense of household normalcy through strength of will and habit. Friends and family were supportive, but I could not be comforted. Deeply ashamed, I would not tell strangers how my husband died. I told partial truths, “He had Parkinson’s Disease.”
He committed suicide. He died by suicide. He killed himself. He took his own life.
We were Christians and Catholics, among whom one would expect to receive mercy, but where, more often than not, judgment is harsh and more liberally dispensed than in any gathering of sinners. I learned to shut my mouth and my heart.
Year one passed by.
Year two was worse than the first. Old schisms and fissures expanded. Brittle relationships buckled and failed. One I had loved with as much love as I have ever loved anyone whispered he was the good one. Another I had loved and known since birth said you’ve changed too much and unfriended me on social media.
She’s crazy. She’s a bitch. She’s a sorceress.
She’s too liberal now.
He was the good one.
I stopped trying to explain myself. I drank more wine. I wanted to die.
During the third year, a leprosy of my soul set in: Nerve damage, a loss of vision, the bloody stump. A corruption made visible, emblems of decay and pollution, weakness and sin.
“Unclean! Unclean!” I rang the leper’s bell.
Stay downwind; stay away from us. We’re not like you.
Don’t associate with them, their dad killed himself.
Something is wrong with that family.
I learned why Jesus associated with whores, thieves, tax-gatherers and sinners. I drank vodka tonics at the bar. I learned to make the perfect Bloody Mary. I stopped going to mass.
At the end of the fourth year, my friend died. She who was at the births of my twin daughters. She who was like a second mother to them, a daughter to me. She who communicated the love of Christ better than anyone else I’ve known, other than my husband. She who carried me through the years of grief over my daughter’s death, over my husband’s death.
Daddy, Mommy’s asleep and won’t wake up.
Daddy, I can’t wake Mommy.
She who had three young children ages two, six, and eight was dead on her daughter’s sixth birthday, a Happy Birthday banner strung across the fireplace.
Once upon a time . . .
My child died.
We had almost recovered, but then—
The tremors began.
He was diagnosed.
He grew worse.
He wasn’t himself.
He had a wreck and nearly killed a man.
He lost hope.
He ended his life.
He ended my life, and then—
My friend of 24 years died.
The process of suffering gone to decay and degradation has a name in alchemy: fermentation. Fermentation is a two-step process that begins with the putrefaction of a child, the hermaphroditic child who resulted from the conjunction process.
Pay attention here:
A union occurs, a marriage, a conjunction.
A child is born, a whole and glorious child, the fruit of this union.
But then, the child becomes diseased and dies.
The child putrefies and rots.
Once, I was blessed, O so blessed.
I married the love of my life and received every good thing.
Every wish I ever wished came true.
But then, my husband became diseased and died.
And now, I putrefy and rot.
Von Franz, Marie-Louise. Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology. Toronto, Canada. Inner City Books, 1980. Print.