From The Bumper Book, illustrated by Eulali
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
~ William Wordsworth,
from Ode on Intimations of Immortality... (Tintern Abbey)
Last month, a friend of 28 years committed suicide. She had been plagued with depression most of her life and had a pretty good Cluster B personality disorder set. She was also beautiful, smart, funny, and poignant. She loved cats and Shakespeare and flowers and pink and lace. She loved fairy tales, poetry, classical music, and art. There was her love of The Twilight Zone and the conflicted opinion about the merits of Nathaniel Hawthorne and why Hemingway was horrible but wonderful. She was a great supporter of civil rights and liberalism. We loved so many of the same things. We met in 1988 and would fall out of touch sometimes, but always fell right back in sync when we were in the same geographic place again. I knew she was mentally ill, but I loved her in spite of it. She knew that I knew. Eventually, she told me much about her history and how it all started. Ironically, her history was so much like that of my other friend, the one that committed suicide in 1997, who left me in charge of finding homes for all her pets. Back in 2012, I saw the writing on the wall about how this whole thing was going. It finally went there. Frankly, the circumstances are so freakily similar to those that took my friend, who I called "Cindy" in my post in 2012, that I just can't even.
My friend had a kind and gentle heart and, in her own way, raged against the dying of the light even as she tried to take apart the lamp. I feel, quite unreasonably, as though a world that would let a person like my friend wither in her mental illness until there was nothing left is just a messed up place. But I guess we already know it's messed up, especially for the mentally ill.
My friend trusted me with what was most important to her- her kitties. I found what seems like it will be a wonderful home for two of her cats (together) but had to make the excruciating decision to put the third one to sleep because he was very ill with FIV. He was a sweet kitty, the sibling of the two girlcats and of a lucky one-eyed boycat that I placed with my BFF Gloria, almost five years ago. I'm still wracked with, not exactly guilt, but heartache, over the decision to put Hamlet to sleep. I consulted with a lot of people about the decision, and the only potential shelters I'd found to provide sanctuary would have kept him in a cage. I couldn't be sure if they would really attend to his painful stomatitis. Everyone assured me it was a valid, or even a good or right choice.
On Sunday, I received a box, full of my own books that I had loaned my friend over the years, with what appear to be some of her final messages, scrawled all over on the outside of the box. I say final because that last "please," at the end of the "forgive me- please take care of my cats" just trails off. First and foremost, on the top of the box was her message about Hamlet having FIV. I keep looking at that box, wondering if fulfilling 66% of her wishes was good enough. I'm trying hard not to beat myself up over it. But it's really hard. Preventing suffering seems like the best choice, though. I wish I could have done more. For her, too. She was in so much pain.
So I watch her fish (I also inherited them), and listen to my Blanchard wind chimes. History does repeat itself.
It feels no better the second time around.