Last week, in a work meeting, someone tried to describe a tragedy that had befallen their family: "This is something that happens to other people. Not you." I nodded along. Yes. I understand that feeling very well.
Like everyone else, I went through life reading books about people who committed suicide, watched TV shows or movies in which characters shot themselves in the head, saw news stories of tragic events or crime scenes. A person killing himself by shooting himself in the head is the kind of horrific thing you hear about, or read about, or know about and you just can't imagine it ever touching your life. It's a scene in a movie or the stuff nightmares are made of.
It's removed from your life, because it is too terrible to ever happen to you.
And then it happened to me. My husband shot himself in the head. I came home to a suicide note and a crime scene. Suddenly, life was very, very different. I became those "other people" stuff like that happens to.
I became a survivor, a widow, the bereaved, a woman in the back of an ambulance with a State Trooper's business card and the coroner's words ringing in my ears.
Endless waiting. Mandatory autopsy. And the questions.
"What medications was he taking?"
"Where was the note?"
"Did you see ever see a gun?"
"What funeral home do you want to use?"
My neighbors lined the sidewalks like it was a show while police with shields went into my house. My dad, mom, and brother - all in separate cars - arrived at my side and tried to put me back together while I sat holding oxygen to my face and EMTs attempted to calm me down. They protected my view as Rick left the house in a body bag.
I tried to feel the ground beneath my feet again.
As May 18th nears again, these are the kinds of memories that flood my brain. It buzzes with the images and sounds of that earth-shattering day. The memories threaten to disturb the happiness I've built around myself.
But when that happens, I do something important. I remember the effects of the sun. The sun on May 18th as I walked bravely back into my house after the police and EMTS left, to begin the evening and my new life. The sun coming strongly in through the window as Rick's brother and I taped old photos to poster boards on my living room floor in the days before the funeral. The sun outside as I left the funeral home to head to Hotel Bethlehem for a luncheon where a ton of people who love me gathered in one room together for the first time since my wedding. The sun just days after the funeral when my friend Daniele and I walked with her dog Tango at Paradise Valley. The sun pouring into Jennifer and Matthew's porch where we ate dinner just days after that. The sun in Branford, CT right on the beach with Libes. The sun on my long, thought-provoking runs. The sun...the sun...the sun...
It nourishes the parts of the soul that are hurting the most, even in the times of greatest darkness. It always fills me back up with light again.
The sun hits all the parts of me...from every angle. The sun illuminates the parts of my memories that hold the hope. The sun shows me what's right in front of me, so good and special, and lets the past lie where it was left.
The sun is my spotlight in the best photographs, splashing life onto emotion onto body onto heart.
The sun is what whispers, "You are alive." A soft caress of warmth, an oppressive heat, a dawning light - no matter how the sun presents itself, it makes itself known and just in case you forgot, whispers again, "You are alive."