This is a post that I have purposely been waiting to write. I have needed to take some time to process it all before writing about it. On Monday May 21, I heard the terrible news that a friend and former co-worker had died on Sunday. The shock was just unbelievable. How does someone healthy and in the prime of their life die so suddenly? No one at work could believe it and as the details began to emerge on how she died and the fact that she took her own life, it became even more unbelievable. I have known Leslie since I started working in Homecare. She has always been a positive spirit, a natural caregiver, and a true nurturer. How does she get to that point where that choice is the only option? What tragedy!
This brought out a lot of feelings in me because I have been there to that lowest point, to the darkest of days in which you can't see any light. Without getting too personal, I am just not ready yet to talk about certain things. I have been there to that brink. I would pray to never wake up and that my life could be over. The pain was too much to bear and the hole in my heart too big to ever feel like it could heal. The only way I pulled myself out of that darkness was my family and the thought of how I would hurt them if I ended my own life. How selfish I would be. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think Leslie was selfish. I think she was just in so much pain and suffered so much from her depression that she felt it was the only way. Leslie died of a disease just like those who might die of cancer. Something she had that no one could see externally, but was just as painful.
It is hard to imagine how I didn't know she was hurting so much. Leslie worked for our company in Logan for a long time before transferring down to the Salt Lake office in order to take care of her parents. She took care of her step father until he died and then remained a caregiver to her mother who had Alzheimer's. Leslie had no human children, but she had her babies- her dogs, cats, and all of the animals she loved and cared for. She was always caregiving and taking care of others as a nurse, daughter, wife, mother, friend. I owe the fact that I have my sweet Peaches to Leslie. She is the one who found her for me and insisted a dog would help heal my broken heart. She talked me into getting her and for that I will always be grateful to her because she was right. She loved belly dancing and was really good at it. She loved being a nurse and helping others especially at the end of their life. She was the kind of nurse that would sit for hours with a patient when they were close to dying simply because she didn't want them to be or feel alone when they took their last breath. She always went the extra mile. She loved people and animals. I often think about the last time we spoke. We would chat on facebook every so often and I chatted with her just a few weeks before she died.
I try to replay that conversation in my head and why as a social worker, I didn't notice better that she was struggling and needed help. I still feel a lot of guilt about it wondering if there is something I could have said or done to make a difference. I just hope she knows what a great friend she will always be and will forgive me one day of not helping her more.
I do recognize that many people hide their sadness and Leslie would have been like that. She wanted everyone to be happy and would always speak positively. She didn't want to bring anyone down. She wanted to uplift. Sometimes when the pain is so much, we mask it and hide it and portray that upbeat person so that others won't worry. At least that is what I did for a long time and what I imagine Leslie did. Sadness and pain are so deeply internal no one else can ever possibly understand what we are feeling when we feel it. They can imagine, but they can never know it fully. Just as we can never fully know how they feel. I found this description of depression/ despair that I truly believe describes it as best as it can be explained:
My only hope and prayer now is that Leslie is free from this pain, this sadness, this depression, and this despair and that she is truly happy and at peace. I am lucky I pulled out of it before tragedy in my own life struck. I will forever be grateful to Leslie and those like her who have shown me what true caring and nurturing is. I miss her and love her. She will never be forgotten and will always be in my heart...