People

Suicide and the Secrets We Hold

By Larry Pattison
Published March 31, 2011

Suicide And The Secrets We Hold On the Anniversary of her passing

No More Blue Skies

No More Blue Skies

It was a picturesque, blue-sky, no clouds, sunny Monday morning.

The skies had been bright for the better part of a week. It was the kind of day that if I was dying, I imagine I would think about how I'd miss beautiful days like this. The freshness in the air, the sounds of spring songbirds, the happiness that this time of year brings to the faces on our streets, the curious little noses coming out of winters hibernation; creatures and humans alike. The kind of days when the once sleeping winter world, seemed so alive and free again.

I had noticed the previous night that a friend had sent me a Facebook request, suggesting that I join a group dedicated to helping find someone who had gone missing. These kinds of group invitations happen all too frequently. Not to take away from their importance, but up until that moment, those missing person requests had not been anyone I had known personally.

It wasn't until the next morning that I had a chance to login to read the message. All I had seen on my mobile device the night before was 'MISSING PERSON: PLEASE HELP...'. This time, I knew who the missing person was.

She was more of a friend-of-a-friend sort of acquaintance. I had known her in this manner since high school. I always thought that she was as an attractive, fun, and charming girl. A bit of a rebel, but loved by all who knew her.

I had talked to her briefly in recent months, as we re-connected through Facebook. It was more of a Hi, good to see you on here, how has it been kind of catch up, typical of many Facebook re-acquaintances' between those we never really knew all that well. You browse through some photographs, and laugh in remembrance at the old photos from back in the days when they weaved more frequently in and out of your life.

Fast forward to just a few weeks prior, when this friend added me to Facebook again. I hadn't noticed she had left and I didn't get a chance to say hello again, before I realized I would never get another opportunity.

Fearful woman, drawing by Lawrence Thomas

I started chatting with the creator of the Facebook group that morning, a close friend of the missing woman. I shared a few back-and-forth messages with her, explained how I knew her friend, and that I was thinking of her family and friends during this difficult time.

She was understandably upset, yet optimistic of finding her friend and for her safe return home.

I received a call later that morning, however, informing me that the search was over. This acquaintance had ended her life. Her child, her family, and her friends, were all left with an empty space and a grief I can only begin to imagine. She had not known the happiness and hope that this spring-like Monday morning would offer us.

Close to Home

It makes you think of your own life: how far down you have been or currently are. How close you may have come to something in your own life pushing you over that edge.

You look at groups such as the one dedicated to your friend, browse the old photos posted by friends and family, read the heartfelt messages on the wall, the poetry, the song dedications, and you think to yourself: How does someone surrounded by so much love end up in a mental place that makes them feel like there is no way out, but up? That life is not worth living? That the only ending is an out of body beginning?

The sun is shining brightly. It's warm. My jacket is unbuttoned. No gloves. No toque. No more long, dark, cold winter days. A new season. A new beginning. New inspiration.

For one beautiful yet troubled soul, however, even all of nature's hope was not enough to continue in this life. Humans desire to hide much of their lives, to keep so much of who they are to themselves - their thoughts, their fears, dreams, hopes, heartaches, financial and relationship woes.

I just don't understand it. Not that I am always the most open person, but why do we allow ourselves to feel like we are alone amongst these thoughts?

The Res

What is wrong with acknowledging: My wife and I had a really bad fight last night. I wanted to say it was over. I was so mad, but then I went for a long walk with the dog. When I returned home, the anger was gone, I said I was sorry (even though I wasn't totally convinced that I had done anything wrong), we hugged, and all was good in the world for another day.

Or: I broke up with my girlfriend last night. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I am lost and lonely. I hate this feeling, although a large part of me knows it was the right thing to do. Why does this hurt so much?

How would those words be received by your friends or your readers? How would it feel to someone who was lost in a loneliness similar to yours to know that there was at least one other person in the world, feeling as poignant as they were at that moment?

If you are a fan of the weekly night time drama House, there was one episode where his patient of focus, played by Laura (Jackie) Prepon of That 70's Show fame, was a blogger. Much to her husband's disapproval, there were few aspects of her life (their lives), that weren't open for all the world to read. She felt no reason to hide her life. To her, there was much more to be gained and learned from others and in turn, so much she could offer her readers from her own life's experiences.

As it turned out, it was actually those blog posts that helped House's team of doctors determine what was wrong with her. Yet, it was the one thing she hid about her health that meant the difference between a cancer diagnosis with a few days to live, to some medication and a valve transplant, and the rest of her life ahead of her.

You can understand why bowel movements wouldn't be a topic many of us would jump to share, but it was obviously one thing above everything else that she should have at least communicated with her husband or doctor.

In recent years, I too have found that life is much more rewarding and more fulfilling, when you aren't afraid to share who you truly are deep inside with the world. Good or bad.

Communication has never been my strong suit. I won't beat around the bush, but as I learn to open up and surround myself with souls willing to share all of themselves with me, I have learned so much about myself. Most importantly, I heave learned that I am not alone.

I know my wife and I are not alone in the day-to-day troubles we face as a young family. How many people who seem, from the smiles they paint on each day, to have everything going for them on the outside, are actually in a similar or possibly even worse situation than you or I?

What does hiding the truth about our relationship and financial issues truly gain us? What is so embarrassing about hitting rock bottom? Why do we need to feel like we have failed the ones we love, that there is no way out, that we are alone in the loneliness of our secret lives. Is failure actually losing your house, a broken marriage, or getting fired from your job, or is failure going through these difficult times alone?

What can we teach other, from the hard lessons we have learned? Nothing if we keep our lives a secret.

Saying Goodbye

Dark skies

Standing outside the viewing room door, visitors lined up down the hall. Family, friends, and acquaintances, waiting to pay their respects. On her coffin, flowers and a few photos. Pictures ranging from youth, to more recent photos, including one of her young child. All of them memories of a life no more.

Crying. Laughter. Stories of past times together. Old friends. The old gang. Not the reunion any of them had envisioned.

She was the third person I had personally known to take her own life. One was a family member, and the second one was also a friend of a friend. Both of them had ended their lives in their own homes for their children to discover their lifeless bodies.

If there was ever any consolation to suicide, it could be that at least this last friend went away to end her life. That still doesn't take away from the fact that all of them left children behind. In all their innocence, left with the haunting, lifetime memories, that their mother or father had killed themselves.

That parent would not be there to watch them graduate, see them off to college, walk them down the aisle or cry in the front row when they get married. They will never hold their grandchildren, or be there to enjoy sleepovers with kids you get to give back, or so many of the other firsts that watching a child through a grandparents eyes offers.

These children will never know what it feels like, to share in the moments a child longs to one day enjoy with their parents - especially watching them interact with their own children.

BANG! SNAP! SLICE! Three lives gone.

You are not alone is the message we need to share with one another, desperately. Money, material things, broken romance: there is nothing you cannot get over with the help of a friend, family member, and the admission as a society that it's not only okay to share your dreams and fears with the world around you, but it's the key to a healthier, happier, life more fulfilled.

For my friend, there is no happy ending. Nothing can bring her back, and there should be no feelings of guilt felt by anyone. If there is blame to be dealt, it should be directed at society as a whole: the realization that, with all that we know about life and the world and with all of the technology we have at our disposal to share that knowledge, there are still broken souls out there, lost and alone.

I am afraid. You are not alone.

It is the message we need to send.


This was first published a year ago on Larry's personal website.

Larry Pattison is a local blogger, life-long resident of Hamilton, and father to two amazing girls. Larry is also an elected member of the HWDSB Board of Trustees for Ward 3.

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted March 31, 2011 at 08:58:21

Wow Larry, brilliant article.

It is sadly so true that we hold way too much of our pain inside, afraid to fall apart in front of those who love us for fear that they will leave. How did our society come to this? I am unsure exactly but facebook sure as hell is not helping the situation. We are no longer content to be happy, but we want to be happier than others "seem". We no longer need our families but value our culture of freedom and liberty. We long for deep relationships but settle for superficiality and triviality.

We are all broken.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 31, 2011 at 13:52:23

Thanks very much, Trevor. I agree with you regarding FB. It does have it's redeeming qualities such as catching up with old school mates or networking in general and keeping up to date with what's going on in our cities, but there are certainly many negatives and I am not sure which side of the coin FB falls as to whether it should be dropped as a 'tool', or adjusted in how we use it?

I certainly need my family and my friends. I may not see them for awhile but I know they are always there and hopefully they know I will be there too.

I find in this space or similar type spaces, we aren't so broken. We are free here. We encourage one another here. This place takes out the superficiality and triviality you refer to. For the most part we are only names and words and sometimes not even names but we get to know one another fairly well from our posts, articles, and the way we interact in this space in general. Of course there are bad seeds, but I'd like to think good, positive, things happen here. Change happens here. Dreams come true. People find themsevles - their voice.

Anyone ever check out Sellaband?. It's a great, positive space too. I have met some amazing artists and befriend other believers on that site. If you are a musician looking for a way in, or a music lover looking for something different, check it out. People are litteraly on there to help one another's dreams come true. I think that is pretty amazing. Most of my music collection these days are Indie artists from around the world.

I think there is hope for all of us. I have to. The day I stop believing, I might as well be dead.

I have bad days too. Really bad. The kind you wonder what you are doing it all for, but there is always something that gets me out of the funk eventually. It's different depending on the mood, but sometimes that place I gain new insight into the world is right here. My kids, a walk with the dog, jam night with my band, writing, great conversation ... are all up there too.

Personally, I think the key to being 'unbroken', is to find spaces and places and people that make us feel whole. Surround ourselves with these souls. Sometimes those souls don't need us, or we don't need them, but the energy passed when those two souls share the same space creates moments that make us feel good. We need to document when we are happy and make a point to be in those situations that make us feel this way as often as we can.

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By KR (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2011 at 18:45:21

Beautifully written!

It seems in some respects the more "connected" we are, the more isolated we become. We measure our self worth in how many "friends" we have, even if those "friends" are long lost acquaintances we barely remember from high school and use others' seemingly chipper status updates as a yardstick against which to measure our own lives. We sum up our souls in 140 character sounds bites.

Instead we could be using social media to share our pain and let others know that they are not alone.

"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in".
~ Leonard Cohen

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted April 01, 2011 at 07:06:10

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

Unfortunately for many one thing should never see the light of day, slipping through the cracks a dark shadow breaks away...

Your story is reminiscent of an article in today's paper.

SHIHO FUKADA/New York Times Image

"What the government offers is much less than what we expect," said Sasaki. "It has always been like this. But this time, we’re on the edge."

At least one farmer has been pushed over the edge. The newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported last week that a 64-year-old farmer in Sukagawa, a city in Fukushima, killed himself one day after the government imposed a ban on the sale of cabbages from the prefecture.

The farmer, who was not identified, was reported to have lost his house in the earthquake but had a field of 7,500 organically grown cabbages ready for harvest when the prohibition was announced.

"Vegetables in Fukushima are finished," his son quoted him as saying.

trevorlikesbikes

How did our society come to this?

The question should be now, how are we gonna get outta this mess? Perhaps the shadow knows best.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-04-01 07:07:00

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted April 01, 2011 at 08:09:41

WRCU2. Call me naive if you will but the answer to how are we gonna get outta this mess? is Love.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2011 at 13:34:02 in reply to Comment 61803

Couldn't agree with you more, Trevor.

Checked out your latest blog post and loved it.

This is something you might enjoy following. I am not Jewish or a man of faith, but I appreciate the search for faith as I have been on one myself. Pehraps I am always on one really?

Billie is a friend of mine, a very talented actor, writer, producer, and just an overall creative and passionate guy/film-maker.

Everything this guy touches is amazing and what I appreciate about him most, is that he has chosen to do good things with his talents.

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By my (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2011 at 16:30:58


I received this story in an email the other day. Even though this story is not about suicide it seemed appropriate to enter here. I do not know who sent the original email and I assume the Note at the end of the story is from that person. However, the author of the story is acknowledged. I changed one word in the version I received. The first word in the third line was “gins” and I changed it to “begins“. The email version of this story also looked better. It was in a box with a coloured background, the title was in a larger font and the format was a centre margin not a left one.



The Sandpiper


By Robert Peterson




She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live.
I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world
begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something
And looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

hello," she said.

I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

I'm building," she said.


"I see that. What is it?" I asked, not really caring.


"Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand."


that sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.

A sandpiper glided by.

"That's a joy," the child said.

It's a what?"

"It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."

The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself,

Hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed, my life seemed

Completely out of balance.

"What's your name?" She wouldn't give up.

"Robert," I answered. "I'm Robert Peterson."

"Mine's Wendy... I'm six."

"Hi, Wendy."

She giggled. "You're funny," she said.

In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on.

Her musical giggle followed me.

"Come again, Mr. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day."

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings,

And an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out

Of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat.

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was

Chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

"Hello, Mr. P," she said. "Do you want to play?"

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

"I don't know. You say."

"How about charades?" I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. "I don't know what that is."

"Then let's just walk."

Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face.
"Where do you live?" I asked.

"Over there." She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought, in winter.

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on vacation"

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was
On other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day.
Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no
Mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt
Like demanding she keep her child at home.

"Look, if you don't mind," I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, "I'd
Rather be alone today." She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

"Why?" she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, "Because my mother died!" and thought,
My God, why was I saying this to a little child?

"Oh," she said quietly, "then this is a bad day."

"Yes," I said, "and yesterday and the day before and -- oh, go away!"

"Did it hurt?" she inquired.

"Did what hurt?" I was exasperated with her, with myself.

"When she died?"

"Of course it hurt!" I snapped, misunderstanding,
Wrapped up in myself. I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn't there.
Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up
to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking
young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

"Hello," I said, "I'm Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today
and wondered where she was."

"Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much.
I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance,
please, accept my apologies."

"Not at all --! she's a delightful child." I said, suddenly realizing
that I meant what I had just said.

"Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia
Maybe she didn't tell you."

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

"She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn't say no.
She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days.
But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly..." Her voice faltered, "She left
something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?"

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young
woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with "MR. P" printed in bold
childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues -- a yellow beach,
a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:

A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love
opened wide. I took Wendy's mother in my arms. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry,
I'm so sorry," I uttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little
picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words -- one for each year
of her life -- that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand
-- who taught me the gift of love.




NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson. It happened over 20
years ago and the incident changed his life forever. It serves as a reminder
to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other.
The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas
can make us lose focus about what is truly important
or what is only a momentary setback or crisis.

This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by all means,
take a moment... even if it is only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.

This comes from someone's heart, and is read by many
and now I share it with you..

May God Bless everyone who receives this! There are NO coincidences!

Everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Never brush aside anyone as insignificant. Who knows what they can teach us?

I wish for you, a sandpiper.


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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2011 at 18:18:02 in reply to Comment 61838

Here is some history behind that story as well, My.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-04-03 18:19:46

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By mymy (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2011 at 20:44:56 in reply to Comment 61840

Thanks Lawrence for the background and the true identity of the author. Whenever possible the original author of a piece should receive credit.

It appears I received the 2003 version with the attached coda, i.e. the Note portion which includes the second quote from your next post. I also agree with the sentiments expressed in the Notes section and your comment.

Thank you for your kind words on my inclusion of this story.


P.S. I picked an easy screen name and still managed not to type it correctly the first time. Oh well, c'est la vie.



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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2011 at 18:03:53

Beautiful, My. I for one appreciate you sharing this. I love reading or watching anything that either truly makes me laugh out loud, or actually brings a tear to my eye. This of course was the latter. It certainly fits in nicely with Trevor's setiment:

Call me naive if you will but the answer to how are we gonna get outta this mess? is Love.

This is so true from your post:

The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

I love these stories that reflect on how people inspire us and encourage us to be better people or appreciate life's gifts like we could never before. This one in particular was beautifully written and paints a very vivid image in your mind.

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