“Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?” – Clarence Oddbody, Angel Second Class (AS2), It’s a Wonderful Life
Christmas is a week away and I still haven’t watched many of my holiday movie favorites, one of which is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” My old, live journal blog, was called “Wonderful Life” and I wrote as AS2 which is how the angel, Clarence, refers to himself in the movie, “I haven’t won my wings, yet. That’s why I’m called and Angel Second Class. I have to earn them. And you’ll help me, won’t you?”
In the movie, George had been on a bridge, working up the nerve to jump to his death, when he saw Clarence jump into the icy waters below. And, just as Clarence had predicted, George jumped in to save Clarence. Clarence offers a despairing and suicidal George, “….a great gift. A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”
Imagine if more despairing people were given the gift of a chance to see what the world would be life without them?
One morning, in the April of 1989, I awoke in my bedroom and the light was all wrong. It was brighter than it should be and I instantly knew it was much later than I needed to be up for high school. It was my freshman year. When I descended down the stairs, both my mom and my dad were there and my stomach began to knot. My dad was never there when I awoke for school, having departed very early for his job with the Burlington Northern Railroad. My dad asked me to sit down, which I don’t recall ever having happened, and I stood frozen willing him to tell me what was wrong. He painstakingly found the words to tell me that my half-sister Cathie, his daughter, had died. She’d committed suicide at the age of 24. This wasn’t the first loss I’d experienced by this time - - my grandfather had died years before. But grandparents are supposed to die. That is, after all, the natural order of things. Plus, they are older. But the death of a 24-year old, passing before her dad, and at her own hands is an entirely different scenario. It’s not supposed to happen.
Last Monday, a friend to many, lost their 17-year old nephew. A beloved nephew who was like a son to this family. This friend gives so much of herself to so many, including sharing that her nephew died at his own hands. I wish that I could tell you that my immediate family was just as transparent 28 years ago, but we weren’t. In AA, there’s a saying that I have written about before, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” Maybe if we’d been more open then, we’d have healed sooner, knitted ourselves together a bit more completely, and more importantly, helped others. I use writing as a way to shine a light on the dark parts inside myself. I believe by doing that, I can continue to grow, heal and maybe someone else can too? I've always been pretty vigilant about my own mental health too - - when you witness despair in others closely related to you, you know that's not how you want to feel. And? Help is available.
Today we will show up for our friend and bear witness to her pain and sorrow and to honor a young life cut short. Watching people unite to support her, reminds me of the final scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. “…She told a few people you were in trouble ….. They didn't ask any questions — just said: 'If George is in trouble — count on me.' You never saw anything like it." – Uncle Billy, It’s a Wonderful Life
"You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"
National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255