Suicide runs in families, and my family’s first suicide was when my grandfather gassed himself in his office. His two surviving sons were kids, and when they grew up, they both killed themselves, bullet and gas. Robin Williams lived in my town. He was on the same track team as my high school boyfriend. We were in the same high school drama department. Although I didn’t know him as a famous man, I know what depression and a substance problem do to people. He described the issues clearly during many personal interviews.
I saw Robin in my home town two weeks before he left this planet, and had a chance to tell him how much I loved his time with Koko the gorilla on YouTube. Koko was a nickname for Haribiko, which means firecracker, because Koko was born in Japan on the fourth of July. I was also born in Japan on the fourth of July, which started my connection with her, and her marvelous journey with her kittens. I feel I am a gorilla in spirit. I recently watched Robin interact with Koko, and I made multiple connections. I believe my mother was a gorilla spirit, and Mom and I both acted like gorillas sometimes. Recognizing my gorilla heritage allowed me access into my dream life, which led to making powerful gorilla art, which instilled tremendous confidence in me as an artist. I was able to tell Robin about my gorilla connection.
He was the type of man who listened and understood my story. I am grateful Robin listened to me for a minute. He graciously accepted my thanks, and we said goodbye and went separate ways. Our short conversation was probably typical of the conversations he had throughout his life, with people he barely knew.
I was lucky to close my time with Robin in person. When I heard he passed away, I remembered other suicides in my life that didn’t have closure, which is why I’m writing this blog. I didn’t get a goodbye with my grandfather, uncle or my father. No one in my family even left a note. We don’t expect someone we care about to choose leaving by their own hand. We cannot control the option each person has every day.
I understand depression, and I know grief. I know about substances and sorrow. I cannot say why I choose to live through today, but I live. Robin chose not to live after today. He was a good man with a spirit soaring with other suicides out there, although I don’t know what that means. It must take a tremendous pain to choose suicide. Although every culture judges the person who goes that way, I do not feel that I have the right to judge people for such a personal decision.
Survivors must live with a person’s suicide decision every day of their lives, after our people are gone. We also have to live with society’s judgements, and that hurts in unspeakable ways, too. As the girl whose father shot himself in the head, I remember how much I yearned for mercy from other people who knew me, as well as people who didn’t know me and made assumptions about me and my life. It took a long time to recover from shock, shame and sorrow. It was easier to say nothing and pretend like suicide didn’t happen.
Not today. Today I speak of my experience with suicides. I feel compassion for what the Williams family endures right now. Telling the truth is what I offer their family.
People say don’t kill yourself. But who are the people? What gives them the right to tell us that? What do they know about us? After my father shot himself in the head, people judged my father. During the earlier years, people judged my grandfather, my uncle. There was no one I could talk to about my father’s decision. Few people are trustworthy enough to understand my point of view. The whole idea of taking ones life terrifies people. It is a terrible Tabu. We are lucky to find listeners who give us their time and openly talk about the devastating effects from taking one’s life.
I don’t say suicide is wrong. It is a forever life-changing event for all concerned, beyond heartbreaking, and I don’t think a survivor fully recovers from feelings of abandonment. Perhaps it’s our selfishness that makes us want to keep our people on this planet, to be there for us. Who can really say?
When my life hit the skids more than once, I did consider suicide. The thoughts run in my family, of course I would consider it. I chose to face the topic on another level, beyond my own pain. I paused to consider my loved ones, and what my suicide would do to them. Sometimes we have to live through tremendous pain for others, even when we truly don’t want to live at all. I’m not saying suicide is an easy decision. For me, thinking of my kids going through what I endured, reduced thoughts of suicide as an option for just one day. Then I gave it another day. Eventually I did not choose to die. My ancestors chose otherwise. I may choose otherwise tomorrow. Nobody really knows what’s going on with suicide.
Robin made a devastating choice today, and he is in my heart, bigtime. He is part of my family in more than one way now, more than my high school friend. I feel heartbreak for his inconsolable soul, and his family’s struggle from his choice to leave. May peace abide. It’s not easy.