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September 13, 2012 / bethanyshondark

Seven Years Later

Seven years ago today, my father took his own life. Every year, when this anniversary rears its ugly head in the middle of the Jewish holidays, I never know how I feel.

The year he died, Yom Kippur came a few days later. I went to the dining hall at college and ate everything in sight. It was my revenge to G-d for making me an orphan. My anger towards G-d quickly turned into anger towards my father for choosing to make me an orphan. I remember telling friends and family how angry I was at the funeral and everyone assured me that it would pass and that I would soon move from anger to sadness. That hasn’t happened yet and I’ve long given up the expectation that it will.

These anniversaries I don’t mourn him – I don’t think he deserves it. He made his choice and I don’t respect it. I mourn for myself – I mourn for memories that were never made, the conflicts that were never resolved.

He never lived long enough for me to find my cousin – his brother’s son – after twenty years of separation. I found his beloved nephew years after my father decided there was nothing in his future left to live for. He never saw me marry the love of my life. He will never meet his grandchildren.

After he died I got a tattoo, sort of in his memory. It’s the Hebrew word for “Life” and it’s on my ankle. I got it to remind myself how precious life is, how important it is to take charge of one’s own destiny. My father never lived his life proactively, he never took control of it and made his own future. He coasted along, with a great deal of help from drugs. He never realized nor appreciated the gift that G-d gave us – a singular chance to make our lives something special. He didn’t make his own future, he instead chose to end it. That future had untold promise which he chose not to fulfill.

If I learned nothing else from him and his choice – I learned how to live by squeezing out every last drop, how to appreciate every single blessing, how to look forward to an unknowable future. Those are lessons that every 19-year old should learn, but never the way that I did.

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4 Comments

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  1. Barbara Radunsky / Sep 13 2012 5:21 pm

    Bethany, I am so sorry that this happened in your life. I have experienced this in my extended family, including the anger and guilt. Now, I think a person who commits suicide is suffering from depression, which is a terrible, insidious mental illness with a chemical basis. The person who does this cannot think straight to see anything but a way out of unbearable pain and despair. If you can see him as a sufferer, maybe it will help?

  2. Christopher / Sep 13 2012 11:23 pm

    Perhaps your father suffered from clinical depression. Statistically, it is very likely that he did. The mind of one who suffers from that illness, myself included, is not framed or primed to see the “untold promise” of the future. It is only primed to see hopelessness and misery without end. One of the tricks the depression plays on you is deceiving you that the extreme pain you are in is permanent, and will never abate. I believe that if most depressed people thought that there would be an end to their misery, they would endure it, heroically, for as long as it took to get better. But the disease in its severe form (likely what your father had) doesn’t allow for new hopes. It literally prevents you from seeing them. Someone can describe them to you, and you can hear them and understand them, but your brain will not believe it. At some point your father’s brain, in its misery, told him that he was a burden on other people because of his addictions and failures in life, and that his family and friends would be better off with him dead than having to deal with him and his complaints and suffering. It is not that his choice was selfish or evil from his mind’s perspective–it was actually the right thing to do as he saw it. The tragedy is not that your father was a bad man who never embraced life; the tragedy is that his disease robbed him of the ability to see that his life had positive meaning in the midst of his self-perceived failures. I suggest that you forgive him, even now, for G-d holds him at peace and in a completely healed state. If you forgive him, you might not mourn for yourself, as you say, with such pain.

  3. Kevin Philly / Sep 14 2012 4:51 pm

    I heard This Morning on the Radio a Catholic Pyschologist say someone who is Depressed the best medicine is to VOLUNTEER and HELP someone else. It Changes your Point of refernce. I Guess that Message was for YOU!

  4. Camryn / Sep 16 2012 5:54 pm

    My condolences. I am so sorry for your loss, Bethany, and that you had to go through such a thing. This is the 2nd entry on your blog that I’ve read, the other one being your horrific tale following your mother’s death and the ghastly/greedy aunt. Wow, the things you have shouldered. Just. Wow.

    Suicide is a wretched and selfish thing, and it’s devastating that it robbed you of so many experiences with your dad. I understand your pain and anger. I also hope that one day you can find it in you to forgive him….not because he deserve it, but because you do.

    L’shanah tova!

    Camryn

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