How Death Grows

When you’re suffering, suicidal ideation is as good an escape as any you’ll find at the bottom of a tequila bottle. Death grows on you. Standing on its cusp shows you that your despair can have an end. If you’ve ever stood at the end of a cliff and imagined flying off it, you know a little about the draw of suicide. It makes all your horrors seem finite, and if you’ll just keep your toes one centimetre from the edge, you can fly forever without even jumping.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking there are angels on the other side, though. The angels are right here on this side. Those are your friends, your lovers, your family. Hell, you could find seven angels on your way around the block if you tried. They’re everywhere, and suicide removes all hope of finding them.

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Death’s voice is loud, and it will call you for as long as you let it. For me, it can become an addiction. Every time life turned into a hall of horrors, death became my solution. I put no work into making myself functional because the cliff could fix it. I didn’t need life, I told myself. I had death on my side and the balls to choose it.

My mother was diagnosed with fourth stage cancer five years ago. There is no coming back from that cliff. Her struggle was not the dream of suicide, but the reality of an ending she couldn’t control. She decided to stretch it out as long as she could, so she fought like a motherfucker. She did chemo, radiation, and Herceptin, and so I watched her turn from life-like to grey in the space of hours, week after week, hooked up to her Kool-Aid-red drip. Then we would go walking.

I could never understand where she found the strength, but for all two years after her diagnosis, we walked. We walked the bird sanctuary where we flew eagles. We hiked the dams. We walked around the block. When that became more than she could manage, we walked around the garden.

She outlived her prognosis so well that I thought she might survive, but then the cancer got into her spine. She lost her ability to walk, and so she let go. Within three days, she died.

Death has taught me more about life than life ever could. It’s taught me how much joy can be found in a simple walk in the garden, how much meaning can be discovered in an eagle’s flight. In dying, my mother taught me how to live: by immersing myself in every passing second and noticing how exquisite the sand feels under my feet. Sometimes I understand why I used to use suicide to escape. Most of the time, I just celebrate the sky.

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