You know how sometimes you can’t sleep so you wake up late and grouchy but you make yourself go jogging anyway. And the jog is more of a slog because the sun is blazing down on you and your allergies are in full dress rehearsal for Peer Gynt or something. But you get home and find cold watermelon that’s already been cut up for you in the fridge. And you smile.
That was me this morning. In addition to the cold watermelon, good coffee, and the company of my two sweet cats, I came across a post by Anne Lamott lamenting the end of summer and the loss of Robin Williams. In her own inimitable, sliding down a hillside kind of prose, she was also reminding her readers to live and to be and to do. She said this: “How did that change us, his death? Did it lead to an awakening for you, about the preciousness and precariousness and brevity of life? Did you stop hitting the snooze button?” and this: “How did Robin’s passing help us commit to tearing down the stigma of mental illness? How many of us actually went to an advocacy site for the mental ill, and got educated, or offered to help, or just told the truth about the people in our families suffering; or ourselves? Not me, baby. But a closest friend’s son killed himself two weeks ago, ten miles away. Beautiful boy. Today I am going to spend some time at Glenn Closes’s site:http://bringchange2mind.org. I’m going to donate in the name of my friend’s son. We do what we can. We do what’s possible.”
Doing what’s possible and mental illness are subjects that I’ve been consciously pushing away for the last month. You see, while we were in Italy soaking up the sunshine, scenery, and Vino Nobile, a dear friend lost his battle with depression and committed suicide. We were (and still are) bewildered and heartbroken, but we were also on vacation and could avoid fully processing our grief. We entered plenty of churches to admire frescoes, architecture, artwork of all kinds, and I said a little prayer in each and every one. It was comforting to me. My husband transferred some money into an account set up for our friend’s three small children. It was something that he could do, and he really needed to feel like he was doing something. We couldn’t attend the memorial because we were out of the country, and we didn’t talk much about our friend because Tom was too sad, and I was too pissed-off at the dearly departed to want to talk about it.
But we need to talk about it. Tom is helping plan a local memorial for his pledge-brother and scuba-diving buddy. I will probably make cookies or pasta salad or some sort of comfort food. We will share stories about our formerly free-wheeling friend, and we will laugh, we will be sad, and we will live and be and do. Before that gathering, I will try to educate myself on mental health advocacy and ways to help–including helping myself to be less angry.
As a side note, I need to write to our friend’s widow, and I found these words to be helpful.