(Dedicated to SOFREP sister Susan H)
God and I have an understanding: he hates my guts, and I don’t much believe in him.
On more than just a couple of occasions, I have been requested to comment on my mind-state since my attempted suicide near three years back. As I explained in my original essay, once a sincere and valid attempt is made, one that fails, the fact that the act is really a thing remains for the balance of life.
I’m not saying it is a chain with a constant weighty tug at my will inviting me to kindly step in front of a really late bus all day long, but I see it as a portal, a channel, an avenue, or escape route. As I merely pondered it prior to my attempt, I now know it is feasible and can be done. I know how to do it now; it’s an option now. Hey, if one taxi is full, another one will be along soon, one with plenty of room.
Our house, for however long First Daughter and I can keep it, is NOT sanitized: all the cutlery removed, the medications locked up, the firearms rendered safe, my shoelaces removed… no. There is no way to completely rid all measure of means to that end. An AR leans in the corner locked and cocked; Gat-17 on the countertop with one rule: no attempts to suck-start the Glock. But I make the rules, I can break them.
I’m put in mind of one of my stays in asylum where I was sanitized quite nicely: no belt, no shoelaces, no sharp pointy things. We could only have three-inch pencils to write in our journals. Writing with those hurts my hand, and the tips are always dull… but if you ask if you can get your pencil sharpened it’s off to the rubber room in a straight jacket. I hate those; you can’t hold up your pants in one of those.
We were young and soldiers once; we were few and proud… and now here we were in asylum, a sad-sack lot we were, meandering through white halls, holding our pants up with one hand, our shoes flopping back and forth on our feet, and our cramped writing hands.
To the cafeteria lads, for soft bland foods! Nothing with bones in it mind you, and no coffee or sugar was to be found, as it caused some of us to get a little “nuts”… but there would be plenty of jello, you could bet. It always took me two trips to get a tray and unsweetened tea, because I always needed that one hand to hold up my pants.
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl and he called for his soldiers three
“File from the right column right!” said the Sergeant
“I want a three-day pass!” said the Corporal
“Beer, beer, beer!” said the Private
Merry men are we
But none so fair that they can compare with the Airborne Infantry
I admit I acted very suddenly on a totally unforeseen opportunity three years ago. I knew in my heart that it was time and as the dark coach pulled by, a dark horse was ready to roll. I just wanted to be in that coach and nothing else. I’m a military man by background; I know as well as the next brother how serious it is to miss movement.
“Sound off with your first name and middle initial when your last name is called out from the manifest, boys. Grab your kit and fill up the coach from back to front. Next stop: bright light!”
Sad is the news, the news that I did not see any bright light when I flat-lined in the hospital. I didn’t see any tunnel with a bright light at the end that I understood to be a coveted destination. I did not hear any sweet voices beckoning me to a lifetime’s generous reward. I did not see any angels in fluid robes swarming me with warmth and promise… All I saw, heard, felt… was dark.
I hope that Tom Hanks will deliver the eulogy at my eventual demise, one that I write myself:
“I’m that guy”
I was a kind man, that I fancied. I only ever did things to hurt myself. I never did things to adversely affect others. I was the guy that let a car wedge itself in front of me in a traffic jam. I was the guy that picked up the trash that was next to the garbage can when nobody was there to see. I was the guy who held open doors for women AND men. I was the guy who turned my phone’s ringer off at the movie theater.
I was the guy who broke the baby bird’s neck when it fell out of its nest because I knew it had no chances left, and did not want it to die a slow painful death alone; I was that guy.
“Ring around the rosy
a pocket full of posies
we all fall down!”
I was a smart man, that I fancied. I was the guy who didn’t try to drive his car through the flash flood waters only to be swept away and put a Frumentarius life at extreme risk to save my worthless behind. I was the guy who really tied my oversized cargo securely to my pickup truck so it didn’t fly off and slam into someone’s car on the freeway. I was the guy who was not too cool to wear eye protection when mowing the lawn, only to end up with a severely chipped lens from the thrown rock.
I was the guy who kept enough alcohol near, that when paired with a month’s worth of sleeping pills would stop my heart; I was that guy.
“Here lies a man named Lester More
Ended his life with a .44
No less, no more”
I was a brave man, that I fancied. I plunged over 800 times from airplanes thousands of feet in the air despite being horrifically afraid of heights. I swam for miles under the black night sea waters with just a faint glow of compass needle and pressure on my ears to help me navigate. I crouched barely three feet from high explosive cutting charges as they detonated so I could rush into a building for a gunfight.
I was the guy who braved a steering wheel while considerably impaired and dared a street light post to stop me at high speed; I was that guy.
“It’s not that cough
that carries you off
It’s the coffin
they carry you off in”
I was a lost man, that I fully fancied. Due to my blind faith in the ability of spousal love to endure, and my equally blind faith in the innate honesty and goodness of others, I lost my house, my personal possessions, my life savings, my children… I lost my lawn mower, my safety glasses with the chipped lens, my hammer, my tape measure, my tenoning jig, my chamfering bit, my dado cutter, my dovetail jig.
I was the guy who lost his will to live quite suddenly and in the most magnificent and indisputable fashion; I was that guy.
“The earth is full of the dead, … And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased, And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.”
I was a poor man, fancied that I did. I slept on a couch for over two years. I picked up incidental pennies from the ground. I slept in my vehicle night after night. I snuck my young children into buffets so they could eat. I stole away from my daughter to eat in soup kitchens once a day so that we could save food. I ate food that my daughter stole from the restaurant where she waited tables. I worried that I might need to buy shoes again. I went without.
I took packages of Ramen noodles from a junkie who was passed out on the porch of a barber shop that was closed on Sunday. I for certain was that guy; yes, yes I was.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak. It whispers to the o-er fraught heart and bids it break.”
I have two friends that are remarkably suicidal. One has been that way since his teen years. In Iraq, he was in charge of a large contingent of U.S. Army Rangers. Every night of his tenure in Iraq he sat on his bunk with his loaded M-4 carbine, the buttstock on the floor and the barrel in his mouth, his finger on the trigger. He waited for that mystery moment of final resolution. His moment of mesh of utter peace and opportunity has not yet presented itself.
I would not take his carbine from him no, not for a second.
My other friend’s suicidal condition was rendered by a hideous wound acquired during service. He is in excruciating pain and experiences seizures daily. He keeps a rope out in his tool shed in his backyard. From time to time he goes out back to try to see his rope, but at least to feel it, that it is still there on vigil for him should he need it.
I would never take that rope away from him no, not for a second.
The option is often described as the dark passenger. I regard it rather a bright passenger, a reminder that there is a finite depth to which a soul can sink. Not knowing how much worse a situation can become is a true torment, a dread that lingers and will not relent. The option reminds me that there is an exit to a descent of unfathomable depth. It is in its own form a light at the end of an arduous trek.
Here then is the onus of the truth, unsweetened for your pallet. Ask me what it was like then, and what it is like now and I’ll tell you straight up nothing has changed. No, it’s not a wonderful life Mr. Stewart, but it’s not time to yank the plug either. “Everyday above the ground is a good day” yeah, well I’m not the one who came up with that saying.
I have had requests from folks to please talk to so-and-so who is thinking to end it all because I have experience in the matter. First of all, how do they know so-and-so wants to end it all? Because so-and-so told them. So-and-so doesn’t want to end it all and is crying for help. I am one of the worst people to ask to try to talk a body off of a ledge; I would sooner give it a shove because I know what they are feeling.
I was a heartless man, that I did fancy myself, and it took just one single person to make me that way. I stood on the ground and shouted “jump” to the man on the high bridge. I shouted “pull” to the sister with the gun to her head. I offered to open the pill bottle for the man who was struggling with the child-proof cap. I handed a brick to the woman who was trying to drown. I re-tied the faulty noose to the brother who was ready to take his last step. I sealed the cracks in the garage door as it filled with exhaust fumes from the woman’s car.
Suicidal: I became so, and I remain that way to this day. I am that guy.
But for the grace of God, I remain,
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and the author