Reflections on a Sunday
Yesterday my Sunday peace was shattered by the sound of sirens. I live one block or so away from the police station, which is very quiet, and safe. Needless to say, I’m located in a safe area of town. That wasn’t the situation yesterday, and first one siren shattered the silence of the peaceful Sunday afternoon.
I noticed that the siren came closer, until I thought that it must be nearby, even on this street. I lowered the shade and looked out, seeing a police car with lights flashing parked on the other side of the street. Then more sirens, and within several minutes, two ambulances were parked there as well. Injury? Domestic violence? I don’t know the people in that house. It was only then, standing and looking at the police car and the two ambulances, that my brain took me back in time to 28 August of 2016. You never get over suicide; you get through it. I sat here at my computer and continued to work on the project I was doing and slowly began to let what was surfacing in my mind out. I had been a part of the disruption to a quiet Sunday that day. I know the police were here, and I know the mortician showed up, but I don’t know what other cars were here. When the nice police officer told me to go inside, I went, and I would not emerge from my home until after 10:00 that evening. I was on autopilot then, doing what I was told to do.
I won’t ask what happened, because I don’t want to know what act of “whatever” shattered my day and sent me back in time. After all this time, stuff still emerges. The peace and forward movement seem to be an illusion that a look in the mirror can shatter in an instant, and yet, if we avoid the mirror, we avoid life.
Lately, and as I continue to age, I’ve discovered that not all “old people” have wisdom. I’m taken back to the lyrics of Neil Diamond’s “I’ve Been This Way Before” and reminded that “Some people never see the light until the day they die.” Now I understand that many people will die clueless about themselves and their lives. When I first heard the words, I thought to myself, I don’t think that is a wise way to live a life. And so, I look in mirrors and I choose to stand rather than run from the images there.
Standing at the mirror is hard work, whereas running from the images will claim our lives in different ways. What? What’s this you say, that if I run from the mirror, doing so will alter my life? Yes, when we face the mirror, we must look hard. What do we like? What aren’t we pleased with? Why? Then we need to explore the reasoning behind the expectations we hold for ourselves. We are faced with new insights such as “I’ll never get into those jeans again because I’ll never be sixteen again and my lifestyle has changed.” How about this one? “I’ll have an older-looking face because I’m older and have lived x number of years.” The recognition that the mirror brings to our lives is good. It calls us to reality.
I know a hospice chaplain who shared with me one of life’s and death’s realities: “How we live may determine how we die. Anger doesn’t make for a peaceful death.” I had not really given it much thought until she said those words. I love my sister, and yet the last fifteen minutes of her life were the most violent she’d ever seen. It is true that she died from liver cancer, and that the cancer was destroying her body, and it is also true she was one angry person. I don’t know for certain that there was a connection there; what I do know is that I’ve known peaceful people to die peaceful deaths. The exceptions would be the violence we can’t control.
Reflecting on all of this takes me back to Jon and his death. He spent a great deal of time with the mirror because he had to sort out the bipolar and the family—and, ultimately, his life. He told me that he’d researched the how so that if he made the decision to end his life, it would be a one-time action.
There is a part of me that will always have wanted to send him off with love, and yet realistically that is something that could never be. I’d be doing jail time.
We may get through a death; we can face the good and the bad realities of a relationship and choose to move forward. We never get over the reality of what happened. We don’t get over it because you don’t get over someone you loved deeply.
If you get through it, what do you do to get beyond what has happened? You look in mirrors. That means you commit to asking some really hard, and sometimes scary, questions. Getting through the bad stuff in life means that we have to commit to deep changes, such as not running from the reality the mirror is showing you. Yesterday, it meant that I lowered the shade, stood at the window, and allowed the peace to be broken and the memory to return. It can make us squirm because of what we must do. It also causes the peace to return when I realize that I can continue to do this hard thing well.