Antifreeze

I’ll never understand why he did it.

I’ll never understand how he went out and bought an anniversary card for his wife. Went home and underlined all the sentimental parts that spoke to his heart most – especially the ones about spending the rest of their lives together. Planning an anniversary dinner that would never come.

I’ll never understand what on Earth could possess him to pour himself a cup of antifreeze the following day and write that note. I don’t know how he ever reasoned in his mind that the best gift he could give his wife, after 28 years of marriage, was to take his own life.

I’ll never know how she felt when she awoke in the middle of the night to that thud on the floor and to find him frothing at the mouth in a full seizure, but I can imagine that ambulance ride seemed to take hours. Those 12 hours of not knowing what was happening, almost losing him, watching the doctors revive him…only to be told that he had meant for this to happen…that there was antifreeze in his system and that it wasn’t accidental.

I’ll never forget walking into the waiting room and the way she looked the first time I saw her or walking down the corridor to ICU and seeing him for the first time. His body was completely swollen. He looked like he had been in boxing match. His body was being ravaged. The dialysis machine was exceptionally quiet for the task it was attempting to perform – ridding his body of a poison that would constantly crystalize and expand in his system. His kidneys were failing. He was in a coma. When I heard them say what  he was going  through and what we would experience as his family watching him over the next few days would be horrible… I understood the words, but horrible soon became an understatement. We all took turns sitting with her, sleeping in the waiting room, walking down to the room, holding his hand, talking to him, begging him to fight, trying to stir him to wake up. Eventually, his eyes would open but there was nothing behind the eyes. Then he started to move his entire body with his eyes open, but nobody was home. It was literally like watching the living dead.

I have never felt so many emotions at once in my entire life. Sorrow, hope, anger, confusion, love. I know she felt that way too. I’ll never forget her telling me that she didn’t know how to handle the outcomes. She didn’t know how to handle if he died and she didn’t know how to handle if he lived – because he didn’t want to. He had promised her he wouldn’t ever do this to her after her sister-in-law committed suicide six months ago. He would never put her thorough this pain, but now he had.

We all just couldn’t comprehend it. There just had to be another explanation. It just didn’t make any sense. But all that denial would wash away when she found the note – the explaination that would answer none of the questions we will all have for the rest of our lives. Like how can a man whose whole life was about family and love possibly end with such a contradiction of selfishness and pain? How could he do this to her? Theirs was a love story for the ages – and this – this was the ending? It’s beyond cruel. I know it happened but I still can’t fathom it all – for her.

The doctors explained about as gracefully as one can that the antifreeze has damaged his brain and would continue to damage his brain. The front part of your brain controls your motor functions so that was why he was still moving around and his eyes were open, but his CT scan should considerable dark mass and fluid on the brain. He most likely was blind. He would only further decline. If he did survive he would likely be in a nursing home for the rest of his life. And so it came to this cruel moment…after all of this, she ultimately had to decide whether to discontinue his medical treatment. When dialysis stopped…the antifreeze would further crystalize and his organs would begin to fail. She said she couldn’t hold on to him just to be able to kiss him on the cheek and so…it was time to learn to let go.

He was discharged from the hospital 11 days later to hospice. On his last day, his only granddaughter came to see him and told him that he could let go. His wife crawled into his hospital bed with him and fell asleep with her husband one last time. She woke up in the early morning hours and the nurses told her that he had passed away. This was the most peace she had experienced since this unbelievable nightmare began 17 days ago…the day before their 28th wedding anniversary. It wouldn’t last long.

The coroner arrived and went into investigation mode. This is what happens with a crime and suicide is a crime. Now, this newly widowed woman is being told that her deceased husband’s body is evidence and will be autopsied. She doesn’t have a choice. They need the original suicide note – his last words to her are now evidence. The police show up, there is questioning, she’s exhausted…mentally, physically…emotionally, this is all too much. And then the coroner tells her that the “official toxicology report” will not be complete for six weeks and so the county will not issue a death certificate until that time. This means that any funds she may have been entitled to, after being disqualified for much because of the suicide, as a widow are now in limbo and she has no idea how to pay for the funeral, how she is going to pay her mortgage or other bills. After all – she has been by his side for over two weeks, without pay. And it goes on….

Preparing for the funeral, going through pictures of my Uncle as a little boy with my grandmother, sister and aunt, just broke my heart. As a mother, I could only imagine the pain of losing a child. The thought that I could someday be pouring over pictures for one of my son’s funeral was too much for me to bear. I had to retire for the night. I cried myself to sleep thinking of my grandmother’s loss as a mother and for my Aunt, because as a wife of only 2 years of marriage to my husband – I could not imagine her pain.

The funeral home was filled. Again, the questions…how could a man so beloved arrive at this? Why didn’t he call any one of these people? What was he thinking? When they asked people to stand up and speak you almost wanted to stand up and scream: “THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!”

I’ll never understand. It’s been a month since his funeral and I still think about it everyday. I can’t stop wondering…what if he had gone one more day?

My Uncle had had some medical problems and thus, difficulty working and financial implications. His boss was not an understanding fellow. He had made things increasingly difficult for my Uncle. The day that  my Uncle committed suicide, he was to attend a manager’s meeting with this boss but he couldn’t bear to go. His boss was fired at that meeting, which literally changed A LOT. So, if he had held on one more day …

The only thing I have taken away from this is that you never know what tomorrow will bring. You’re going to have peaks and see valleys in life, but the thing that could change everything could literally be a day away. You have to hold on for one more day – everyday. Keep the faith.

However my Uncle had worked this out in his head – I assure you he would not have wanted it to turn out like this. But that’s how darkness works. It lies and depression is darkness’ greatest tool and when you’re at your darkest place it dangles what seems like the solution in front of you and it turns out to be the biggest departure from who you are and what you wanted to be to your family. My Uncle was a proud man and there was no way he wanted to be in the condition he was in and for my Aunt to suffer the way she is now. He couldn’t know that she would blame herself and wonder if she had done this or if she had done that would there have been a different outcome. Absolutely, never would my Uncle want that. If his note was any indication, he did this to spare her any more hardship – and it had the exact opposite effect.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I realized that this means that I have now seen every possible way to commit suicide attempted and gone completely awry.

It is not the answer. It is just a permanent solution to a temporary problem which just means – don’t do it.

The last time I saw my Uncle he hugged me hello and when I went to pull away to quickly … he pulled me back and he said,

“No, stay here, just let me love you.”

I assure you that whoever you are and wherever you’re at in life – someone loves you enough to meet you there and help you live.

You just have to stay here and let people love you.