Posted by: Kate | October 14, 2008

A Table Full of Sad Faces

Dear person,

You died last Wednesday. 

You waited until the kids got on the bus.  You poured a drink, and then another.  You wrote a long note, apologizing to them for your failures and otherwise sort of rambling.  You took pills.  Too many pills.  You called someone.  She called police.  An ambulance arrived.  You didn’t survive the drive.

That’s what we know.

What matters is what we don’t know.  We had a meeting today, attended by anyone who had worked with you in any capacity at all over the years.  We tried to draw a word-portrait of your life, to understand who you were before and try to get a glimpse of who you were on that last day. 

That was one of the hardest meetings I’ve ever sat through in my life.  Therapists, case managers, psychiatrists, office staff gathered and told stories.  No one ever tried to assign, or assume, blame.  We just wanted to understand.  We asked a lot of questions, and no one had answers. 

I heard of your death on Friday, and from Friday until about fifteen minutes ago, I held onto a certain, twisted hope.  I hoped that you had an undiagnosed heart problem, or an overwhelming asthma attack, or an allergy.  Something accidental, something unavoidable.  But then we learned about the note, and that hope evaporated.  You made a choice, and followed through.  We can’t know why. 

We all did our best, and you put on such a convincing front of coping and safety.  We were shocked when you died. It’s so obvious that there’s nothing any one of us could do, because we all did our best and it wasn’t enough.  I consider myself to be a reasonably good judge of character; a skill I may have been born with and that has certainly been honed over the past three years at this job.  After sitting in that meeting today, I don’t think any differently of myself.  I just remember, now, that even when you think you have an understanding of someone, you can’t know her whole heart.  You can’t know what it’s like to be inside her head.  You can’t control, or even predict, the actions of a damaged soul. 

I hurt for you, and I hurt more for your kids and your family. They’re hurting in ways I can’t begin to imagine.

I hope they find a way out of this. I hope this is not an endless cycle. I wish I believed that your pain was all gone now, but all I really believe is that it has been transferred and magnified.

I’m sorry we couldn’t be what you needed. We, all of us who spent time with you, tried.




  1. oh. oh, dear. oh, little ones, what awaits you? if only wishing could make it better, we’d wish it so hard for you.

  2. That’s incredibly sad. I’ve had my moments of depression, but I don’t think I could go that far – especially because of my kids. I hate that she chose that over sticking around for her children. The pain must have been unbearable.

  3. There are no words. As a parent, I want to scream at this person, demanding to know why they couldn’t do what they needed to do to get better, for the kids. As a person, and as a person who has dealt with depression, I want to say, “I know.” But there are no words.

  4. Oh, hell. I’m sorry, Kate.

  5. Oh, Kate. Thinking of you.

  6. That is so awful. I believe what you said
    about the pain being transferred and magnified. I took a course with a very brilliant professor who spent most of his career writing about suicide, and particularly suicide in literature. When he was a student he befriended a troubled man and that man chose to call my professor as he sat in his apartment and killed himself with pills. Of course, my teacher was too far away to do anything, and was tortured with the pain of it for years, and the question of why that man would choose to bring him into this moment of despair.
    It’s cliche to say, but it seem like the most selfish act anyone could committ. I’m sorry you’ve been touched by this.

  7. This may sound callous, bt at least they waited for the children to leave. I know a case where that did not happen and it has really taken its toll of 3 young lives to be there and seen it all unfold-with a gun.
    I hurt for that family too and hope that in some way they can reclaim their lives and move in a lighter direction with this as a shadow in a corner somewhere, never to be forgotten but over burden them.
    I’ll be thinking of you Kate–GREAT BIG HUGS!

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