Thursday, September 10, 2015

From Numb to Stunned

While out of town recently, I was feeling numb about Noah, as if detached from my loss and traveling incognito. I was underground; no one knew I was a suicide loss survivor. Actually, most people I talked to did, though only a couple expressed condolences. If people feel unsure of what to say in the immediate wake of suicide loss, how much more awkward it is after time has passed. To speak or not to speak? I propose a new rule of etiquette: if you haven't seen the bereaved person since their loss, no matter how much time has gone by, murmur a few words. It's not a painful reminder; we are reminded every day. It's a caring, respectful acknowledgement of the enormous hole in our lives.

Only one moment on my trip broke through the haze. In a small museum, I turned a corner and looked down on this plaster scale model of  the bronze Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial--the grief within suddenly embodied, filling a gallery.

The long, lean young man, weightless in the encircling arms of the angel. The strong angle of the neck with the soft fall of the head. The feet suspended above the earth, just out of the fire. The surrender to a force poised to carry him away. The readiness of the wings, the knowing gaze.

The streamlined 39-foot monument is "unusual in its intense verticality," I read--as was Noah at 6'4". Larger than life--as was Noah in his prime.

There is a Jewish tradition that every blade of grass has a companion angel urging it to grow. I used to scoff at such things. If only there had been a wise, calm companion that Noah had trusted to bear him through the fire to a healing place.

Today, September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, I pray that those at risk for suicide can stop scoffing long enough to recognize the angels in their midst--and that more people can reach out to those in crisis with compassion and informed support.


  1. I have never heard about each blade of grass having an angel urging it to grow. Beautiful imagery and idea. These are hard days, I wish you strength as you make your journey.

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