Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turning It All Inside Out

Assuming you had a happy childhood -- and I did -- there is something lovely about living in the same town in which you grew up. All the happies are there. The happy birthday when you were nine, the happy feeling when the boy you wanted to ask you out did, the happy holidays that brought family together.
First day of school

I periodically drive past Glencairn, my old elementary school, when headed to the east side of town. I lived five blocks away during a period where children walked to their neighborhood school. We walked home, too -- my mother would hear me crying because Bobby Burgess was teasing me. Her sage neighbor said, "It's getting louder. Let her come."

And times at Glencairn were happy times. My best friend was Shelley LeVett. She was creative and we could draw together, play Barbies and make things. There were other friends, too. The Loomis twins and their sister, who were from Costa Rica, adopted by their academic parents. There was Bobalee and Susie and Kristin and lots of others. We grew up from class to class, Brownie year to year. 

There was a fireplace in the lobby and Miss Sloan, the principal, would sometimes have us there for a story. Every Easter a large egg tree stood in that hallway. We had "boys day" when the boys brought kites and "girls day" when the girls brought their dolls. Today, sexist. Back then, it was all right.
The Glencairn Brownie Troop

The teachers. Mrs. Ruby, grade five. She was great fun. Miss Lee (grade four) was a bit mean, but looking back, I think she was just doing what a teacher of fourth graders had to do. I still have an ornament on my tree she gave us. 

Mrs. Craddock (grade three) was the best. I think I learned how to spell from her and I still remember making puppets and macaroni cigar boxes in her class. Mrs. Burnett, Mrs. Gregg, Mrs. Quimby, I remember them all, and fondly.

I'm sure there are moments of which I am less fond -- Field Day, for example; being picked last; corrective shoes and math. But overall, I loved grade school and it broke my heart when my parents made the wise decision to move when I was going into sixth grade. Wise, but difficult.

I didn't go into Glencairn school for many years after. Decades. Then I met a guy named with Rick with two boys, Greg and Kevin, who attended the same school. I had the chance to see that school through an adult's eyes. The "tall ceiling" -- not so tall anymore. The chairs, however, seemed very small. The school had been added onto and yet it was much the same and it was very good.
It's not so easy to go by Glencairn anymore. This spring a friend of Greg's since he was a small Glencairn kid himself, decided that his life was too complicated to continue and in the schoolyard where he once played, where Greg said they had been very happy, he took his life. 

I won't go into the myriad of feelings that come to my mind when I pass that playground. I think you can guess what they are. Nor will I dwell on the sense of loss that we all felt when this handsome young man so full of promise when Rick and I saw him just two months before, feels like. You can imagine that, as well, and it is something you never want to experience yourself. And of course, for us, the loss could never be compared to that of his family. Wonderful human beings who did all they could. 

At the funeral, Greg told his mother (and later, me) that after seeing the pain that his friend's parents and brother were experiencing, he was so glad that during his own dark times, times when he had contemplated doing the very worst, that he didn't, for he could never bear to give the people who loved him that much pain.
"Star" by Greg Oberle, age 18

On Thanksgiving Rick, Kevin and his Molly and I gathered for dinner at the duplex in which Rick lives, two blocks away from me. He rents the other side, his tenant a quiet but great guy. Greg couldn't make it, he had a gallery showing in Chicago and was under deadline. After the turkey was in the oven, we all walked to my house where the guys trimmed branches that were scraping my roof, moved a chest in from the garage and then Rick left to base the turkey. I checked the mail and left Kev and Molly watching last minutes of the Lions game.

When I returned home, the police were questioning Rick, asking him when he'd last seen the tenant. As we watched -- and tried not to watch -- the scene unfolded in front of our eyes. His adult children in profound and inconsolable grief, police cars, an ambulance that left empty, rubber gloved policemen entering the house. And later, a body removed, covered with the sheet.
Later, we learned that this charming guy had been deeply depressed for a very long while. 

We had no idea. 
I've been depressed, too. Many times and darkly depressed. But I've always known that for myself what these two wonderful people did was not the way out. 

I implore you, if you have a dark space -- even a very long and hard one -- find another way to get to the light. Get help. Make people listen and if they don't, find someone who will. And when they try to help you, accept their help. If you fall back, seek them out again. And remember, people love you.
And from the outside -- be vigilant. Look around you and make sure the people for whom you care know how much they matter. When they are sad, listen to them. If you must, encourage them to get help. Remember, this six-week holiday season can be very difficult under the best of circumstances. For some, they are nearly unbearable. Be aware. Do everything that you can do -- and know in your heart and soul that you did everything you could.
 I'm so glad Greg wasn't there that day.


Beth McCabe said...

Thank you, Jeanie. I needed this today.

Even with all the love and support that a person can truly enjoy outside of themselves--in spite of their mortal flaws, in direct alignment with their unique character--periods of internal darkness can scour away the promise of a better tomorrow. Realizing that it is only the idea of hope that has temporarily faded and not "hope" itself will forever be my salvation.

Jeanie said...

I am so sorry you had to suffer the loss of Greg's friend and then this horrible Thanksgiving loss of Rick's neighbor. Your words about depression are so important for all of us to think about, especially this time of year.

Joanne Huffman said...

It's a very difficult time of year for many people. You're right about the need of us to be there for others and to ask others to help us when we need it.

Janet said...

This time of year is so hard on people. Thank you for doing this post and talking about depression because it seems there are a lot of people suffering with it.

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh, dear Jeanie, I am so sorry for family members and for you and your family. How difficult to have to go through that ever. Your advice is just right on, thanks for sharing this. My live-in therapist says that this is a very selfish act when they don't realize how it hurts those around them. I know at times I can get down, but just can't imagine taking my own life. There is definitely help if needed, but we each need to know when to yell "Help" and yell sometimes we must. Thanks so much.

The Old Parsonage said...


Your words ring so true. I've a friend battling right now and all we can do is listen and be there for her.

Gentle hugs sweet friend.


Bonnie k said...

So sad to reach such a low. And yes, the survivors suffer forever..

Introverted Art said...

I believe it does... I moved around so many times, that it was always hard to grow roots...

Jenny Woolf said...

Suicide is such a terrible thing. Depression is too. I feel there is nothing really to say to those who have been affected by it. I wonder when we will learn to cure mental illness. Everything about it seems so hard.

Friko said...

In the midst of life and celebrations . . . . . .

I don’t know what else to say, everything would sound trite.

I wish you and your family hope and happiness and the courage to see each day through to the end.

Mary Rose's said...

Jeanie and Rick -
A warm hug to each of you, realizing what kind and good-hearted people you are. Thanks for the reminder to get help, and to give encouragement.
Each of us has a story like this, our own or someone near us.
Maryanne in SC

Barb said...

So very sad, Jeanie. To be hurting so much that life isn't worth the pain anymore. Those who remain must now wonder "why" as they grieve.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

This is such a deep subject and one which I am sorry to say---or maybe not sorry---I have some personal familiarity. I have known a number of people who took their lives---in ALL the cases, people tried to help as much as is humanly possible. I know this: For some people, the pain of living is just more than they can bear---This is not something that any of the people I knew, took lightly. Nor did I. But, sometimes, you do all you can and still, it is not enough. No one can live inside another person and truly "feel" their pain.

I am so sorry for your loss and the loss to all who loved this young man....There is no solace for it, I'm sorry to say.

Arti said...

Thank you Jeanie for this post. I'm sure it must have been hard to write, recounting what you'd gone through that day. But all for the benefits of all who read it. Yes, you're most fortunate indeed to be surrounded by loving support. And you're right, we must be our brothers' keepers. The holidays are indeed hard to go through if one is alone. Thanks for the reminder. And, people often aren't what they seem. I can attest to that. You'll never know, if one day we meet, you might be surprised with what you'll find.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Thank you for a painful, but very important post, Jeanie. It's so important that people know what pain a suicide inflicts on loved ones. So many times, a despondent person doesn't think...just acts to make the pain go away and that is so tragic. It's so important to be vigilant with those we love: if we see someone depressed OR suddenly feeling better after a long depression. There are times when the greatest danger is when the depression begins to lift a little and the person has the energy to go through with a suicide (when he or she might have been immobilized by depression before.) The saying that as long as there is life, there is hope may seem a cliche, but it's so true.

Cheryl said...

That is the awful thing about depression, it seems that taking your life is an easier alternative to putting up with it... I wish they could wait "just one more day" to see if things changed.... *sigh*
big hugs-

shoreacres said...


I hardly can believe this. I just read about the Kansas City Chiefs player who murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide this morning. That's a somewhat different situation, but I was shocked by it, and now I'm shocked anew.

I'm so sorry for your griefs, and can only imagine how horrifying it was to experience the loss of Greg's friend and Rick's tenant. The "if-onlys" can be devastating in a situation like this. Like you, I'm glad Rick wasn't there.

There have been a couple of periods in my life when I contemplated suicide myself, and some of my friends admit to it, too. But for all of us, it was more a coping mechanism than a plan, a way to imagine that there was a way out of difficulty, before finding a more reasonable solution. I hardly can imagine what it must be like for someone who can't find those alternatives.

You're right - the season that has arrived can be difficult, sometimes unbearably so, and we need to pay attention.

Icy BC said...

This time of the year is the worst of all for many people. I understand completely why some gave up and feel their despair. We just have to pray for their souls to find comfort, and pray harder for those who are going through that dark time!

Sally Wessely said...

Oh Jeanie, the news in this post just breaks my heart. This is all just too tragic. I barely know how to respond because all of this is just too close to my own life.

You wrote this post with such beauty and grace. I hear your own heartbreak over how those places that have been so safe, so dear to your heart, have been violated by an act of desperation. I can't imagine what Rick must be dealing with as this man took his life so very close to Rick's living space.

I have spent the last two years trying to make sense of the desperation that leads to suicide. It is something we just can't fully ever understand.

Take care dear friend.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh wow, this post gave me chills and really hit home with me, unfortunately. I lost a cousin to suicide 6 years ago. He was so young and bright and had such a promising future, it was so devastating. It's probably one of the most impactful funerals I have ever been to. At one point, the priest asked everyone in the congregation to stand up if they would have offered my cousin help - every single person in that incredibly packed church rose to their feet. Then the priest said something like, 'look around and let this be a reminder that we are never alone, even when we think we are.' It was a good reminder as I, too, have suffered from depression. After seeing my aunt and uncle and cousins, and my whole extended family grieve over the loss, I knew it was something I would never and could never do.

Great post, Jeanie.

Bella Rum said...

This must be the most difficult kind of loss for the loved ones. I can't imagine the pain. There are times when nothing is enough to stop a person from such a path, but family and friends always second guess themselves. It's so final and only one person has the last word. So very sad.

Pat K. said...

I'm just catching up on your blog, Jeanie, and find this post heart-breaking, in part because this type of situation (suicide) happens far too often. Earlier that week, I had responded to a similar situation in my volunteer position as a victim advocate with the LPD. The other victim advocate on duty and I listened and provided comfort as best we could, but there just isn't much anyone can do to help ease the pain. I hope the man's family will be able to support each other as they learn to cope with this terrible loss.

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