Tag: Death

The silence of the dead is deafening

When I was twelve years old I rode my bike twenty miles to sit at my brother’s grave. I talked to him through the earth. I asked him if he could hear me.

He was my older brother, twenty-four when he died on the side of the road, his head cradled in the arms of his best friend. His best friend had been driving the car and took a bend in the road too fast.

I have never received an answer from my brother.

When I was in my forties I sat on a balcony in Miami and asked my son (a Star Trek fan) to send me a signal from space, a sign that he was aware in some unknown dimension or otherworld or æthereal state of wave-being.

He was twenty-three when he swallowed enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

I have never received a signal from my son.

Now I am in my seventies and I sit in an armchair in the living room—now known as the dead room—of my bungalow on County Road 9 and pray to my wife to send me a sign that she can hear me, anything will do I tell her, the slightest hint, the briefest sensation, the merest brush of some sort of presence of her spirit.

For a day and a night I sat at her bedside in Intensive Care and held her hand in mine. She was deeply unconscious but her hand was warm in mine. I took that as a sign of life, of hope. I sat there for hours. Her hand grew cold.

I am still in the dead room, praying for a sign from my wife, a glimmer of hope that she is aware in some empyrean sphere.

My hope-beyond-hope spiritual longings appear to be hopeless. I conclude from these futile attempts to commune with the dead that if you wait long enough, nothing happens.

‘Nothin’ lasts forever Even cold November rain’

SAVED BY A GREEN-EYED GIRL FROM DETROIT

When a son dies it rips your heart out. When a son kills himself it rips you all to pieces.

Grief has been joined by anger and guilt. Anger because a young man of twenty would throw away the gift of life. Guilt because you didn’t pick up that last phone call.

It was late, you were in bed with your second wife Susan. The phone was in another room.

“Do you want me to get that?” Susan asked. “It might be Will.”

Will was your son from your first disastrous marriage. He lived in Toronto with his mother. You lived in Miami with Susan.

“I just talked to him earlier for two hours, he wore me out,” you said to her.

You had talked to him several times that week, each time for one or two hours. He was confused, lonely, totally fucked up. In the last call you told him you were exhausted and that you’d call him the next day and talk about his situation some more.

You felt like you were on a not-so-merry fucking merry-go-round. His mother had said in a separate phone call that you were “coddling him,” that he’d never make it on his own in life if you kept doing that. She told you it was time to use some “tough love.”

You let that last call go to voicemail.

The next morning you checked the phone. There was no message.

You were sitting down to breakfast with Susan when the phone rang. It was your ex-wife. She said: “Prepare yourself for a shock.” She told you outright. “Will is dead.”

There was no immediate shockwave. Only a surreal numbness in the mind. You got the details. Enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

You hung up the phone and that’s when you cried. You wailed, you screamed. Susan held you tight.

The anguish was replaced in the next days by “arrangements.” You took a plane to Toronto. Your older brother was one of the pallbearers. A beautiful voice inside the church sang ‘Ave Maria.’ There was a lonely ceremony on a hill outside Toronto. You took a plane back to Miami. 

That’s when the horror set in. You woke every morning to the same nightmare. Your son was dead. Your son killed himself. “I could have saved him,” you said over and over to Susan.  

You kept hearing the phone ringing, ringing, that last call, you didn’t pick up. You didn’t pick up. You told Susan you were going to kill yourself. She held you firm and told you straight: “You can’t do that to the rest of your family, you can’t do that to me.”

The nightmare went on for a year. The only reason you survived is Susan kept you alive. She saved your life.

The two of you went on and had a life together, thirty years. You travelled—to Europe, Australia, Canada, all over America. It was a turbulent marriage, great and grisly, but always steadfast. 

Now it is many years later. The rest of your family is dead. Susan is dead. The love of your life.

You live alone in a bungalow with ghosts. You drink a lot. You live the 80-proof life. You smoke purple haze.

On this night, two days before Thanksgiving, your first without Susan, a voice in your head says, “Do you know why you’re still here?”

“No, I don’t,” you answer. It’s a question you have asked yourself many times.

“To honor your son and your two brothers and your mother and your father, and most of all to honor Susan for giving you the strength to go on.”

With thanks to Renata and Outosego.

-30-

Dead son dreams of calling his father

What do you expect, being born on Friday the 13th? That was my fate without me knowing it and the madness that followed, followed the madness that followed the madness.

The shrinks had their own name for it but I called it a babbling hell of diabolical voices. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. They put me on Chlorpromazine and a bunch of other mindbuckers, but I had the last laugh. I took enough Amobarbital and Secobarbital to kill myself three times over.

The first time hadn’t worked and I wanted to be sure the next time. I was “determined that there should be as little imprecision as possible,” as my dad’s favorite writer William Saroyan wrote in ‘The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.’

I hated doing it to my crazy father, and I wondered as I spun off into oblivion what would happen to him. I didn’t know if my death would do him in or not, but I suspected he would survive. He told me when he visited me in Ward 3C after my first suicide attempt, “I hope you don’t try this again, Will, because I don’t know if I can survive another one — and I’m into survival.”

My sparse response at the time was, “It’s good that you know about yourself.”

After some rocky years when I was a kid when my dad and my mother got divorced, we had a pretty good relationship at the end. Eccentric was the shrink’s word for it. Fragile was another. But despite our past differences and difficulties, we made contact on several occasions in the last couple of years. Times when we really understood one another and wrote many letters back and forth signed with the big L.

I kept all of the letters he wrote to me, and now he has them again, and I know he kept mine, although I don’t know if he can bring himself to read them. He’s a very emotional guy.

There were many times when we would drive each other crazy, but finally, now, in retrospect, I loved him and I know he loved me.

My suicide was a shock to all concerned, even though I tried it once before when I was diagnosed with this goddamned mental illness. 

At the end I gave everyone a false sense of security, to throw them off the track, to prevent them from stopping me. I had just one thought and that was to take those barbiturates I had bought on the street with my last hundred bucks and to get the hell out of this world. I was on “the wrong earth,” to quote Saroyan again.

You know what I’d love to do? I’d love to be able to tap into the Internet or into the phone lines or whatever and call my dad. As in life, I’d have to make it a collect call.

I know it can’t be done, but man, I’d love to do that. I’d tell him I’m sorry for hurting him by killing myself but I could see no other way to escape the voices, and I’d tell him that I’m at peace now and that I’ll love him through all eternity.

Even if I could figure out a way to do that, I couldn’t really do it. I mean, when he picked up the phone and heard my voice, he’d think he had gone mad. Who wouldn’t in a similar situation?