Thursday, September 13, 2012

When It's Too Painful To Talk About

My sister Lindy got up at 7 a.m., like she does every day. She walked into the living room and opened the curtains then slowly made her way to the dining room to open those curtains.

A pair of doves nest in a fern my sister has hanging on her balcony. A bright green and beautifully lush fern. Twice a year the female lays eggs in it. She sits on them and waits for the male to return with food. If the male thinks she's in any danger, he flies quickly to the balcony railing to stand guard. I've seen him come zooming in from out of the blue if I stare too long up at the nest. They know my sister. They don't know me.

The doves have been coming to her balcony for many, many years. Lindy thinks they bring her good luck and is always excited when they finally appear. One year they didn't come, they'd gone to a nearby apartment instead. Lindy spent that year waiting for bad luck to strike. It didn't. But she held vigil anyway. The doves always have two or three babies and they hop around the balcony before they finally take flight as young adults.

The doves aren't perturbed by my sister watering her plants. They even tolerate her dog Yoshi, who is so fat he'd have a hard time lifting his head to locate them.

When Lindy opened the dining room curtains on Friday morning she saw a man lying on the terrace outside her third floor condo and thought, “How weird that Mel is trying to get some sun this early in the morning.”

And then she saw the blood.

She was in such shock she called the front desk instead of 911.

They called 911.

Mel had thrown himself off his 10th floor balcony and landed in front of Lindy's dining room windows.

Two days before National Suicide Prevention Week.

Lindy cried and cried and when the police came, and spent four hours at the scene, they suggested tenants talk to counselors. Others, as it turned out, also saw Mel lying on the terrace.

This happened last Friday. I didn’t hear about it until yesterday. My sister is like my late father, and my mother. They are not divulgers of painful feelings. For them, it happens and then you move on. For me, it happens and then you dwell on it for years.

A therapist who lives in her building opened her doors to all the residents. Lindy went. The therapist diagnosed her with PTSD. A tenant gave her some Klonopin. She's been on it since the suicide.

Lindy told me this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. That she discovered the body of a friend who died violently. I believe her.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”
"Mel wasn't liked in the building. He made trouble for the condo association. They called him a dissident. I liked him and everyone knew that."

Lindy likes everyone.

“People are avoiding me; I ended up not wanting to tell everyone else.”
“I’m not everyone else. I’m your sister.”


Like I said, everyone in my family leans towards taciturn in events of the heart.

Mel left a suicide note. He was bipolar. He was 77. He was divorced. His wife lived in the same building, but in a different apartment.

The day that Mel jumped the doves left their nest. Three days went by and they didn’t return. Lindy anxiously checked the fern for signs of their slim grey tail feathers, which stuck out from the fern when they were in residence.


On Tuesday Lindy got up on a stool to look inside the nest. That's how convinced she was they were still there. There was a lone egg in the fern. Cracked open. The baby dove lay in the jaws of the broken shell.



  1. Oh man, that just sucks. I'm sorry.

  2. Anonymous10:07 AM

    What a powerful telling of your sister's connection to the doves and the doves' connection to Mel's fatal flight. I wonder if he "dove" from his balcony (sorry). Long ago I heard of a med student who dove head first from her second floor balcony to kill herself; I have never forgotten that story. Condolences to your sister.

  3. Today is my 6 year blogoversary and I'm so over blogging I completely forgot about it.

  4. Shocking.

    No matter how many times I read about a suicide, the hairs stand up on my arm.

    It's such a curveball thrown to the universe. I know that somehow, even if we don't feel that dark energy rift, the universe must.

    Nature must.

    Beautifully, beautifully written, Suzy.

  5. Anonymous4:04 PM

    Oh, Suzy. I am so sorry. For Mel, for Lindy, for the doves, for people everywhere who can't or won't or don't know to make a call for help.

  6. I came to work on Suicide Prevention Day and glanced at the 'Assigned Units' screen to see what was going on. There were 12-14 seperate units, captains, police, and coroners listed and the incident code was the same for every one: DEADB. Code for a dead body. Almost simultaneously we had a 17 year old married father of 1 who decided he couldn't handle the separation from his 17 year old wife and hung himself in the picnic gazebo at his elementary school. The other one was a 24 year old heroin overdose. If I could have a superpower it'd be to be able to know when people I encounter are starting to feel like this life is not worth having.

  7. Damn, I was hoping there was a miracle ending! I hope your sister feels better soon. That is a lot of trauma to go through in one week or for a year.

  8. that is not what I expected..and so sad.

  9. Anonymous7:26 PM

    So sorry. What a terrible thing. Love to you and your sister. Molly

  10. So sad. I hope Lindy is ok. At least you know now and can be there for her.

  11. So sad. These are bad times. For everyone.

  12. If there is truly a way to beautifully write such a tragic story, you did. What a horrible thing to have happen. Suicide is such a crushing loss in so many ways.

  13. Oh, god. The whole thing.

  14. Anonymous5:15 PM

    I didn't think it was beautifully written at all.
    I think it stunk.
    Not only that, I don't believe a word of it.
    It reminds me of something on another blog by Pmpor 48.

  15. This is devastating and Anonymous can suck it.

  16. To everyone who thinks anonymous is a plant. He (because a woman would not waste her time being stupid)is. His comment could not be deleted; I tried. If anyone named anonymous comments further, and assholey, I will change the settings on the comment page.

  17. believeinlove1:07 AM

    Your post, dear Suzy, IS beautifully written!

    Some years ago I had a friend, roommate who called me on her way to work from a payphone in the subway. She was shaken up because a man had run past her and jumped on the tracks in front of a train and was decapitated.

    I so many countries, such horror, violence, death (though perhaps not so much self inflicted) is an everyday occurence for adults and children. And even in the rich places, where celebrities who outwardly have it all take their lives by their own will, and damage others like your sister who witness the outward results of inner pain.

    I had a friend who took her life. I was going to call her that morning. I had invited her to go somewhere with another friend. I was worried about her before I left for the weekend with my now ex, who said she "was an adult and can take care of herself…"

    I went to church that morning and prayed for her and I remember sitting in a chair in my dad's living room thinking "should I call her at her mom's house?" "Should I ask again if she want's to go or wait until she calls me?"

    I didn't call, on purpose. For some reason I thought it was the better thing to do, to wait 'til she calls herself.

    She was hanging herself in her mother's garage around the same time I was sitting in the chair.

    I will never not call or reach out to someone like that again. No matter how many frustrating times they brush off your attempts to help.

    Nor will I listen to people who say to let them take care of themselves.

    … my comfort is to look to and submit to the one who submitted to let His life be taken for mine, for ours in order that He overcome pain (both external and internal) and death.

    And has risen. And baby birds will too then, to chirp and eat until their bellies are full and they grow and fly off into the beautiful blue sky.

  18. Anonymous5:03 PM


  19. Such a sad story. It's awful when people who want to take their lives involve others. Something similar happened to my daughter and I know she will never forget it.

  20. Oh how awful, I hope your sister continues to recover as the days go on. I'm glad she finally talked to you but that has to be hard when people close to you keep it all inside. My brother is the same and I always wonder why he would rather keep things in rather than turn to me when things are tough.

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