Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows Eve . . . One (Dearly Missed) Soul's Night

I had a grand total of three trick-or-treaters tonight. For the last few years, I have not had anyone. It's the neighborhood. Asheboro's "Mountain" is not what I would call a neighborhood . . . at least in the sense that the neighbors are involved in each other's day-to-day lives . . . or really care about one another. The way some of my "neighbors" treated me is proof enough of that. It's just a bunch of big houses.

The three goblins that did show up at my front door were rewarded with an entire bucket of (real good) candy. I don't give out cheap stuff.

I always carve a pumpkin. This year, my boyfriend brought a really big one over. It turned out well.

I'm looking for a black cat . . . a girl cat to be a companion to TJ. I thought about getting one this week. But then I remembered that the shelters (wisely) restrict adoptions of black cats immediately prior to Halloween.

I love this time of year and enjoy the Halloween festivities. I appreciate the history and don't buy into all of the dark stuff. Two years ago, Tim and I visited Salem, Massacheusetts. We stayed at a B&B. We saw lots of witches and pagans and other bizzarro things. It was WAY cool. The trip deserves a post of its own. I'm not up to it tonight.

This day is always bittersweet. Sixteen years ago today, during my last year of medical school, a close cousin (only one year younger than I) died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head . . . after a long battle with mental illness. Bill Jones was a physically beautiful, and very creative/talented . . . albeit tormented . . . soul. His presence could lighten . . . or darken . . . a room instantly. His death and its horrific aftermath was one of the defining events of my young adult life. Everything you believe - or think you believe - is turned upside down and inside out. And it's something one never completely gets over. The best you can negotiate with a memory like that is an uneasy peace. Bill doesn't hurt anymore. And the Savior I believe in rescues every sick/lost lamb.

A number of years, therapy sessions, and religious notions later (only to come back to where I started . . . with minor modifications), I came to realize that suicide is a choice. No one else makes the choice. No one else is at fault. And it's a WAY-bad choice. Nothing taught me that more than watching his Mother fall sobbing and howling (I will never forget that sound . . . one of raw, white-hot grief) into my Mother's arms when we arrived at my Aunt & Uncle's farm . . . after his family had to make the decision to take him off life support. No parent should have to do that. No loved one should have to watch.

You could say that Bill saved my life. No matter how "visible" the darkness may be or how much of a hole you think you're in: Put one foot in front of the other and choose another day.

I call his sainted Mother every year on this night. And we talk about the man-boy we both loved.

It's one of the reasons (apart from simple human decency and common courtesy) that I despise people calling other people names like "nutcase", "whack-job" and "batshit crazy".

Years ago, as I fought to come to terms with his death, I wrote a poem about my cousin. Apart from his Mother, I have not shared it with anyone. It feels like a good night to change that:

Someone I knew

and loved once

wrote poetry.

Generally not particularly

good poetry,

in a futile attempt

to drive the demons

out of his tormented soul.

Separated by distance

and circumstance,

I wanted to understand . . .

to help ease his pain.

But he would not let me in.

He should have known better

than to be ashamed.

The darkness won,

as it often does,

and he left this life of his own accord . . .

leaving those who loved him

behind . . .

to fight the good fight . . .


Unanswered questions,

and a certain amount of guilt

follow me still.

I wished more for him,

he deserved so much more . . .

than to be a picture on my mantle,

a ring on my finger,

a bad poem.
I love you Billbo. And I will always remember :)

Now go say Hi to your Mama in her dreams.

*November 6 Addendum: Mom and I just got back from a visit to my Aunt & Uncle's bucolic Virginia farm. This post has been edited slightly to accomodate musings born of a weekend freed from advanced technology. Thanks for "visitation", Bill;) Your Mama told me I could keep the bulb.


Billy Jones said...

I am truly touched by this poem, I wish you would pen more.

Dr. Mary Johnson said...

Thank you, Billy. I appreciate that coming from you.

Alas, it is not my forte.

Cara Michele said...

"You could say that Bill saved my life. No matter how "visible" the darkness may be or how much of a hole you think you're in: Put one foot in front of the other and choose another day."

Amen. Thanks so much for sharing this post and poem.