I’m called to the thin places, the holes, the edges. I’m called to those moments where people are at the edges of life and don’t even know it. They are at risk of death, due to overdose, or suicide, or both. They’ve wandered too close to the limit. One more step and they are gone.
It took me a while to see this pattern. I kept meeting people at these edges.
I went walking in downtown Chattanooga with friends many years back at night, and saw a young man, thin, dark hair, alone at a water fountain that had been turned off for the winter. I left my friends and walked up to this stranger and began to talk with him. It was a month later that he admitted to me that he was going to kill himself that night. It was the fact that I started talking to him that distracted him, that turned him away from the edge.
I’ve had several boyfriends who drank too much, not trying to kill themselves but trying to enjoy life more, in their opinion. I was there to keep them alive in those moments when the body starts to react badly to that abuse.
I’ve dated two people who had attempted suicide before I met them.
My father tried to commit suicide when I was two. My great-grandfather, his grandfather, did commit suicide. They say that someone was “successful” at suicide, but is it really a success?
I feel suicide and addiction and overdosing are all related. We walk too far into territory that we don’t know, and it pulls us in with its own gravity, its own magnetism. Before we know it, we are sucked in much further than we meant. We didn’t know where that dark alley led to. We didn’t know – or we thought we were strong enough to walk away. These forces are older than us, and hungrier. They will have what they will have and there is no arguing with them. The only real way to survive is to never get too close.
And that is where I come in. I show up. I happen to be there. I’m called to it. This isn’t something you can schedule. There isn’t an app for this.
I stand in the way, with death behind me, so they can’t see that doorway.
This isn’t something you train for, not really. This isn’t something that people even talk about. We don’t talk about death. We certainly don’t talk about suicide.
(Written 11/8/2015, updated 5/14/20)