I heard a story the other day that made my heart ache.
The 12 year old granddaughter of a friend of a friend swallowed a whole bottle of Tylenol.
As we blithely discussed what could be so bad that a child would try to take her own life, the young girl lay in the hospital exhausted and most likely even more unhappy than she was a few hours before. Tests would tell if she did herself any permanent harm.
When I hear stories like that I have flashbacks of the days when I felt so much emotional pain, dying seemed to be the only way out. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say even though it is a generalization, people who attempt suicide don't want to die - they just want to end the pain. Their worlds have gone dark. They are lost in the tunnel with no light at the end to guide them home. I've been in that tunnel where the false things I believed about myself trumped reality. I felt worthless, ashamed, lonely, unlovable.
It took a trip to the hospital, having my stomach pumped, and years of therapy to convince me that none of those things I thought about myself was true. I was 30 something years old. I'd had lots of time to screw up my life. What, pray tell, does a 12 year old know of living and dying? Too much, I'm sad to say, too much.
A few months ago I met with a woman whose son died last fall. She never used the word "suicide." For reasons none of us will ever know, the life of Brian Childers, son, brother, uncle, professional skateboarder, and sneakerhead, ended. Brian left behind a lot of people with a lot of questions. Brian's mom wanted me to make bears out of Brian's favorite T-shirts, knit hats and ball caps. As I've found with other memorial bear projects, Brian's clothes said a lot about who he was and what he loved. Skateboarder, Coca Cola bottle and turtle charms were to be attached to the bear in some way. Each of the 6 bears said, "remember me and how I lived, not how I died."
I can't stop thinking about that young girl. I'd like to make her a bear. A memorial bear. Because I hope that the pain that child felt, died the day she swallowed all those pills. And I pray that when she is on the other side of healing, she will bear witness to the power of love.
In the words of Sue Bender in her book, Plain and Simple, "Miracles come after a lot of hard work."
I believe that.
P.S. If you want to see the bears I made for Brian's friends and family, go to my FB page, www.facebook.com/memorybearsbyME