On my last Saturday on the mountain, I was working at the parking lot when Mr. Jack, one of the sheriff’s department volunteers, pulled in. Mr. Jack is about eighty years old, has totally white hair, and likes to talk…a lot. I don’t exactly cultivate friendships with cops (even volunteer cops), but I try to stay on friendly terms with Mr. Jack.
We chatted for a few minutes about it being the end of the season before I asked him if he had heard anything else about the dead man I’d found in a pickup truck the week before. At first he said no, but then he said something, something, suicide.
I said something aloud, maybe oh, no! or maybe even damn!
Mr. Jack said, Oh, you didn’t know… I could tell he felt pretty bad about blurting the news out that way. Obviously, he thought I’d already heard.
He told me a note had been found in the truck. He didn’t say where. He didn’t tell me exactly what the note said, either (maybe he didn’t know), but whatever the note said, the sheriff’s department decided it meant the man had lit a charcoal fire in his tightly closed truck with the intent to kill himself. I suppose he succeeded, although I bet to his family, it felt like a failure.
Mr. Jack said the young man was only twenty-four.
I teared up. I couldn’t help it. I felt so sad for the young man and his family.
I’ve dealt with depression since I was a child. I’ve had suicidal thoughts at various times throughout my life. I know depression can be immobilizing. I know depression has kept me from achieving goals. I know times of suicidal thoughts are dark and scary times. So when I say I feel sad for the young man and his family, I don’t mean I feel sad in some abstract or theoretical way. I’ve felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, felt like I couldn’t go on. I’ve longed for oblivion. I don’t know what exactly this fellow was facing, but I have a pretty good idea of how he felt when he decided he just couldn’t make it through another day in this world.
To me, in most circumstances, folks who chooses suicide are not in their right mind. Barring terminal illness, I can’t see a mentally healthy person making such a choice. Many people have negative things to say about individuals who have ended their own lives. Because I’ve felt hopeless and useless and low myself, I have great compassion for people who’ve had suicidal thoughts, people who’ve attempted suicide, and people who’ve completed this desperate final task.
I keep thinking about IF I had crossed paths with the young man at some point before his death, would I have known he was in crisis? Would I have been able to say or do anything to help? Could I have stopped him from killing himself or at least helped him live one more day, maybe one day long enough to get over being suicidal? What could I have possibly done or said?
I wonder why I was the one who found the dead man. I know someone had to find him, and I was the logical person, since no one had been staying in that campground and I was the camp host on patrol. But was the Universe sending me a message? I know we humans tend to want to find meaning even where there is none, or maybe we simply overlay our own meaning where none was intended.
I’ve found a meaning in this experience. Whether the Universe sent the man to me to teach me this lesson, I don’t know. But if the Universe is saying something to me here, this is what I think it is: Don’t do that suicide shit, because someone is going to have to find you, and why would you wish that on anyone?
Point taken, Universe. Point taken.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline’s website (http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#) says,
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, [as well as] prevention and crisis resources…
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On the website, folks can click on the phone number in blue to Skype or on the word “CHAT” on the top left of the page to instant message with someone. I added the phone number to the contacts in my phone.