Tag Archives: Suicide

What Dreams May Come

Fortune Teller2

When I was all of seventeen I accompanied some friends to a carnival in Santa Ana. One of the girls in our little troop insisted that we each pay to have our fortunes read by a Gypsy fortuneteller that accompanied the carnies. Well, I never put much cotton in the idea that a person could predict the future and resisted but was finally pushed inside as the last of our group, all of which had previously exited her tent with smiles on their faces.

Inside the dark, yet colorful, tent I was encouraged to sit and offer my palm. The dark woman took one look at it and any vestige of mirth that might have been on her face immediately disappeared and was replaced by a look that might have been called horror. She then proceeded to consult the cards I selected from a Tarot deck and then some runes with peculiar markings that she had me warm inside my cupped hands and then release as if I was throwing dice. None of this brought a smile to her face but in the end she told me that she was sorry but I was going to die before my twenty-first birthday.

Now I often wondered if one of my so-called friends at the time slipped her ten or twenty dollars and said: “When Sam comes in you tell him he’s going to die soon.” I cornered them with that accusation and they all swore “cross my heart” they didn’t. Okay, if they didn’t then why would a Gypsy woman who made a living giving people good news would tell me I would be dead within the next three years? It didn’t make sense to me and after a period of what might be called grief or depression I decided I wasn’t going to let her fortune change my life, which is not to say it didn’t cross my mind a lot over the next several years.

I recently went to an Asian restaurant with my wife and two youngest children (21 and 19) and when we opened our fortune cookies my little slip of paper was blank on both sides. On our previous visit I had opened my fortune cookie only to discover that it was empty. Both of those incidents took me back to that Gypsy fortuneteller from so long ago and this past Sunday my wife and I had lunch at the Canton Palace and when I went to open my fortune cookie it was with hesitant trepidation. I opened the cookie, found a fortune, and read: “You will be healthy and wealthy in your old age.” That was so much better then no future at all.

In A Course in Miracles we are told that we are living in a dream and none of what we perceive is real. My friend Jerrie, who is in his eighties and refers to himself as a recovering Catholic, says that we are really lying on a grassy bank beside a river in Heaven having a dream about not being an eternal spirit. At sixty I have been thinking more about the end that is inevitable and, like Hamlet, I wonder if we will still be able to dream when the heart and brain stop functioning but the analytical side of my intelligence says no while the hopeful side wonders maybe. Then there is that other self who worries that what happens after death is exactly what we believe will happen. That’s just too frightening but would make a good story in the vein of The Lathe of Heaven.

In the Course we are told that Death has no power unless we choose to identify with it and that Death is not real. Yet, I look around me and I know that it is oh so real and oh so inevitable. Thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, the thirteenth of December, my cousin and best friend Carol took her own life and some seven years before that my dear friend Marsha had had enough of life and at sixteen she stepped in front of a truck to end the pain.

Are they dreaming now?

Always Their Best

We follow a path that we often wish was not quite so strewn with rubble and pocked with hidden adversity.  Sometimes we look back from where we started out and are amazed that we made it as far as we have without suffering the ultimate calamity and wonder why so many we loved along the way did.

 When I was thirteen I greatly admired the daughter of one of my father’s friends.  She was several years older than me, sixteen at the time, and I thought she had everything going for her.  She was not only one of the more popular girls at her high school but was intelligent, beautiful, felicitous, and sophisticated.  In other words, she was a role model for this confused and angry boy who was trying to make sense out of the painful world he was born into.  With the myriad of questions boiling out of my heart some might have seen me as a pest but Marsha never treated me as a nuisance and answered my questions about the years to come the best she could.

 We continued on our different paths and occasionally shared the same lane for a few moments now and again when our families came together.  On one of her forks she stumbled into a deep pit when her family fell into hard times and I watched a once happy friend, mentor, and teacher grow sadder and more despondent with each passing day and, I thought at the time, it was to be expected.  The family lost their income and their house. She lost her identity along with the material and continued to fall deeper into despair.  I remember going for a walk with her one day and about all she would do was stare at the sidewalk.  I had no questions for her that day and she had no answers.  That Sunday afternoon walk of silence was to be the last time I saw her alive because the very next week, on her walk to the high school, she stepped off the curb and into the path of a bobtail truck.

 I did not understand her desperation at the time and here, nearly a half-century later; I still don’t fully grasp it.   I’ve heard people say that suicide is that ultimate measure of cowardice but I don’t believe it for a moment.  Being one who has contemplated it, but unable to follow through, it seems so much more the opposite.

 Some years ago a very wise man told me: ‘If you accept the fact that everyone you meet is doing the absolute best that they can with what they know and have at the time then their actions won’t seem so disagreeable.’

 That one bit of advice has served me well over the years.  No, it doesn’t stop the tears that come along with the memory, or the image, of an old friend no longer here, but it helps me to understand that she, like the rest of us, was doing her very best at the time.  It also doesn’t keep me from wishing that someone could have seen through her pain and offered her that little extra to keep her going on – but then, all the others were doing their best at the time with what they had.

 Sometimes our best is not good enough and sometimes we look back upon the past with perhaps a little guilt, a little shame, and maybe even a little what if.  Well guilt, shame, and what ifs do not change the past but can hamper our progress and cloud all of our right now’s where everyone is always doing their best, everyone is always giving their best, and everyone is always their best.