It is the holidays and I am inviting everyone to slow down, reach out, spread the love. This is my holiday story for you: (reading time: less than 5 minutes)
ANOTHER SUICIDE STORY: A STORY FOR THE HOLIDAYS (please share)
I saw her name on the death announcement while I was running past the cemetary. No photo… only her name written in CAPITAL LETTERS. It wasn’t the first time that I had seen the poster hanging on the stone wall. I had already received the shock several days before while walking by, that time reading her name by chance.
That morning, I didn’t feel like running. I was tired and sad and unmotivated. It was the need to see it again that pushed me to tie up my laces and hit the pavement… her name on the wall, the CAPITAL LETTERS… and, the words ‘49 years old‘ printed just below… to confirm that it was actually true. She was truly gone.
Eva and I did not hang out together. I don’t think you could even consider us friends. We met in the beginning of 1998. I had just moved to Italy 5 months earlier when I walked into the clothing store she managed. We immediately hit it off. She was tall and thin, an eye catcher. I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she used to be a model. She was a unique kind of beauty, striking. She was 29, two years older than I was… I was her opposite, short, average weight, pretty enough, unintimidating. I remember the first time she told me: Ma quanto sei bella! (Look, what a beauty you are!). I was thinking: Are you kidding?… Look at you!
Eva was from Rome. I was from New York. I spoke Italian with a heavy american accent. Everything that came out of her mouth was layed on thick. I was normal, sweet, shy. She was elegant and exaggerated in every way. We liked each other, and so she offered me a job and I accepted.
We never went out together. She was a club-going girl. I preferred to go home and watch a movie, or cuddle up with Andrea and a book. We never met for coffee before or after work. The exchange of the private tidbits of our lives was reserved to store hours only. She saw the beauty in me and I saw it in her. Strip her of her painted on leather pants, her long legs, super kissable mouth, the way she moved and her need to be noticed, she was sensitive, good-hearted and innocent… but like many of us, she was in constant need of love and acceptance.
I worked with Eva for a year and a half. After that, we would bump into each other once in a while. “We should go for coffee sometime”, one of us would always say.. already knowing that that sometime would never come around. And, everytime she would see me, the first thing she would say is “Ma quanto sei bella!” in her own super-sized way.
Through the years, I probably saw her only about a dozen or so times, however I feel as if I had a glimpse of a few of the most fundamental moments of her life. I feel like I knew her without ever really knowing her. I was able to read her soul. Does this sound crazy?
I was in New York visiting my family when she called me to ask if I could return home right away. She had had a car accident coming home from a club late one night and needed someone to take care of the store while she recovered. A few days later I was back in Fano. When I went to see her at her studio appartment in the main square of town, there she was bruised, cut and casted from ankle to knee… yet, elegant as ever. She never told me what happened… offer me any details about the accident. She just continued to smile, surrounded by visitors and the flowers they offered. Could anyone else see the pain?
Eva was the center of attention, eyes were always on her… women, and men, of course. They appreciated her exterior beauty. She enjoyed the attention, or rather, she depended on it… there was a void… this is what I could see.
I remember when she met her ex-husband. The day after, she entered the store already in love. She described their casual encounter at the garbage bin outside her appartment in every detail… what he was wearing, what she was wearing, what he said, what she said, the way they looked at each other. She made throwing out the garbage in the dark sound more romantic than my love story with Andrea on that Caribbean beach. She was glowing. He was younger, simpler… simply adorable. He was her prince on a white horse that would save her from her lonely destiny of club hopping and heartbreak.
I remember meeting her in the center one evening when she was 7 and a half months pregnant… she was as beautiful as the sun, strolling arm in arm with her prince charming. She was the pure light that she carried inside. She seemed at peace. She seemed happy…
A few years passed. Her daughter grew. Eva and her husband grew apart. They divorced. A normal story, no?
When I did run into her on the square or at the beach she would hug me and never fail to say: ‘Ma quanto sei bella’. I would return the compliment and after a few minutes of small talk we were both on our way. Our encounters always left me with a sorrowful feeling inside. She was as stunning and vibrant as ever, a perfect picture on the outside…. and yet….
After the first day that I had read her name on the outside wall of the cemetary, I asked around. Eva did not live in Fano anymore. She moved about 40 minutes up the coast. Her daughter, now 15, lived with her father. I hoped that it was cancer. I prayed that is was a car accident...but I kind of already knew…
As usually happens in relatively small towns, a friend told a friend who told her hairdresser who was a client of a physical therapist who is my friend: Eva jumped out of a window. I don’t know if she left any words behind. Nobody bothered to ask about the details.
The news hit me deep. It seeped within me like poison for days, weeks later. It made me feel angry and sad… angry at all the people that didn’t try hard enough to get to know her (myself included), sad that I never reached out to all the emptiness that I bumped into throughout the years (I am not only speaking about Eva).
At this point, you may be asking yourselves why I am writing all this down. Why am I telling you a story that we hear on a daily basis, on the news, from a friend of a friend of a friend, especially right before Christmas! I am writing this because I need to. I need to because days, weeks, months later I still ache inside… not because Eva was a friend, or someone I knew, someone that had an important impact on the world… a mother that left a beautiful, teenage girl behind the day she decided to end it all. No…
I mourn because Eva is me and you, Eva is my husband and my daughters, my best friend and all the people that I have never met. Eva is a symbol of what this society creates… lonliness, fear, anxiety, and emptiness. Lives that are always missing something and not knowing why. A society that teaches us through marketing and music videos, reality shows and social networks to be attracted to people that live as impostures… that are unhappy and incapable of showing off their true colors… people that are in need of constant love and acceptance just like US.
We believe that the person who decides to take his own life is of a completely different breed. He comes from a bad family, she used drugs, he was mentally ill, insane, problematic, a dark soul who never felt like he belonged to this world. However, this is an erroneous belief (because ultimately, it is the loneliness that kills us)… we use these beliefs to defend ourselves from the horrific thought that one day this person could be someone we love, someone we look up to and respect… it could even be ‘ME’.
The line is extremely fine.
Suicide is no longer a phenonemon; it has become a syndrome just like ADHD, hikikomori*, bullism, rape, 10 year old girls who post nude photos of themselves on WhatsApp, moms killing kids, kids killing moms, violence, blood, war, bombs, terrorism. We hear it day after day. It is on our news. It has invaded our homes. A friend tells a friend who tells a friend. We become immune. It slowly becomes normal.
But, these things aren’t normal, not in a healthy world, a sane world. We keep going on… filling our bodies and minds with prescription drugs to temporarily fix what is broken, filling our world with objects that we don’t need or want… that could never make us feel fulfilled inside... looking down into our smartphones, posting our best sides, ignoring reality… until we can no longer see… or feel anything that is real. Until, we can no longer recognize our true colors… colors that don’t depend on external beauty, fame or wealth.
Last week I wrote about how love can empower us… and it does. However, the lack of love can do just the opposite. It can create killers from zen buddhists, bullies from innocent children, liars from faithful husbands, a felon of oneself from loving mothers. ADHD, rape, bullism, 10 year old girls who lose their innocence… all symptoms of a sindrome called modern society, a society that is so socially connected, that we are growing more and more lonely, fearful, anxious, empty…. missing…
And, when the pain becomes too great to bear. When no one bothers to really know us… when we no longer know our sons or daughters, our partners, ourselves… we jump… and there is no turning back.
One incident, two hundred, three thousand, four million…. it is accepted. Just another normal story, no?
The holiday season has once again arrived. People don’t seem as kind to me as I remember. It isn’t their fault. We live in terror of everything. Some things are difficult to avoid, but we don’t have to be alone, not any of us, if we would just slow down, reach out… share the love.
I would like to end this post with a positive thought: we don’t need to fill our homes with lots of material things this year. Instead, we could color the world that surrounds us with a true gift of LOVE. We could all spread the kindness. It doesn’t have to be just words. We can call someone who might be lonely, write a letter to a friend who is going through a difficult time, be nicer to our parents, invite a stranger to dinner or just offer anyone a hug.
Over 40 years ago, Stevie Wonder sang ‘LOVE’S IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY’. These aren’t just words. Anyone can make a difference. Anyone can stop a moment longer and let the person standing in front of them know that they aren’t alone. Let them know that someone (you) really sees them and really cares.
If I would have through the years maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference (maybe I couldn’t have saved her from herself) but, then agan, maybe it could have.
Today, I am shouting out that I am here… for you and you and you and you and you, and I am doing it in memory of HER.
This post is dedicated to Eva and her daughter, the pure light that she left behind. I am also dedicating it to another felon of oneself, a friend that took his life only two days before Eva did. May they find peace wherever they are.
This song is for them:
If you like this post, please share it, but most of all share the LOVE!
Happy Holidays and a Happy and kind-hearted New Year to all!
The name of the woman in this story has been changed for privacy purposes. I want to thank the person who gave me permission to publish this article.
*Hikikomori is a term used in Japan to describe people who act as recluses and rarely leave their houses, preferring to spend their days and nights usually on the internet.