by Sharon M. Kennedy
This Sunday, July 23, would have been my niece’s 56th birthday. There won’t be a celebration because Carol died twenty-one years ago when she didn’t see the point in going on. Like many other young people who have suffered a loss they cannot accept or who are just too tired of the daily struggle, she ended her life. She called no one and left no note. She also left her parents, sister, grandmother, nieces, and nephew asking why she did what she did. Her death was not violent. She slept away and was found the following morning. Other than leaving a few dishes in her sink, her home was neat and tidy. Important papers were left on her kitchen table. Everything was in order. It was a well-planned and executed suicide.
I didn’t know Carol as an adult. We’re not a close family. I didn’t even know she was gone until a friend called me and gave her condolences. I had been at a conference in Lansing and returned on a Sunday afternoon. Nobody knew how to reach me, and it would have made no difference. Our presence won’t bring back a loved one once they’re gone.
The photo of Carol on my lap is one of the few I found in an old album. I wasn’t around much when she and her sister were youngsters. I sent them birthday and Christmas gifts and visited when I came home for a weekend. We hadn’t spoken in years. Her death didn’t touch me as much as it should have. Her mother requested that I not attend her funeral so instead of going to the church, I held my eleven o’clock English Comp class as usual.
And so it goes. We remember birth days and death days—the sweetness of one and the sorrow of the other. Happy Birthday, Carol. I hope you found the peace that evaded you in life.