Know that we are connected/in ways that are terrifying and beautiful, writes Lynn Ungar in the new poem, “Pandemic.” Know that our lives/are in one another’s hands.
Noah would have been incredulous at the shutdown of everything he adored--travel, parties, movie theaters, cafes—even in his beloved France. He would have scoffed at the restrictions, strained against social distancing that went against his nature. He would have worried about his grandparents in California and his friends in Italy.
Scanning through photos of Noah, landing on this one at age 16 in the Alaskan tundra, I’m reminded of how his teenage hair sprang full and fluffy atop his head like … a corona. How I loved to pat that springy hair; how still today I stroke his head in pictures.
The photo was taken on an extended family trip at a time when Noah scorned smiling for pictures. Was he really as brooding as he looked? Did the tumultuous sky and bleak expanse remind him of an inner state that he was starting to feel and didn’t know how to express? There was no place in his fun guy persona to put that darkness. There’s so much we’ll never know about the wilderness of Noah’s despair, how vast and unnavigable it seemed to him, how it drove him five years later to take his life.
More lines from Ungar’s poem for everyone suffering from fear, anxiety, and isolation in this pandemic:
Reach out all the tendrils/of compassion that move, invisibly/where we cannot touch./Promise this world your love--/for better or for worse,/in sickness and in health,/so long as we all shall live.
Would that Noah and others who died by suicide could have kept the promise.
Would that the tendrils of compassion and self-compassion reach everyone who is struggling with traumatic grief or mental health conditions at this difficult time.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255