“If she loved us, she would have stayed with us, not copped out. God didn’t do it, Mom did.”

She had to die before I could love her. Eleven years ago, I’d thought of us a little more than — what’s that horrible and oh-so-modern phrase — “friends with benefits”. Or the even-more-modern phrase, “fuck buddies”. She’d been easy to seduce because she was broken inside, although I chose not to see it. I liked her. She was perky and she was quick-witted and most importantly she was twenty-nine years old at a time when I was starting down the barrel of my fortieth birthday. We met where and when we could, from my guest bedroom to the model unit of the rental apartments she managed. On a risky whim, we went to see Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour in 2010, standing near the back and listening to the old man warble his incomprehensibilities, both of us suffering from aching knees and light headaches from the vodka. Her hand sought mine in the unlit crowd and while I did not resist, neither did I squeeze back.

In 2012 her husband found out. They always do, you know, the husbands. He called me. Asked me to lay off. Told me that I was standing between them and happiness. I suggested that his OxyContin addiction was probably also an issue. He said he could get help, and that he would sober up. He said he could, and would, look after her. I knew he was a born loser but I also, in my own way, respected the institution of marriage, so I did, in fact, lay off. She and I would occasionally meet for lunch, at the Pizza Hut down the street from the Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio, but we did not touch. “Did you ever love me?” she asked.

“Of course,” I lied.

Five years later, in May of 2017, she and her husband had a big fight. She threatened to kill herself. He’d been sober for a while, and he was filled with the self-righteousness that comes so easily to people who have beaten a percentage, however minor, of their own addictions. “Go ahead and do it, you won’t be missed,” he yelled, and he let the door slam on his way out. She cried for a while — I don’t know how long. Then she took their trio of children across the street to her neighbor’s house. “I need you to look after them until my husband comes home,” she said, and smiled.

Then she opened the faucets on the old plastic tub in the back bathroom of their tired old duplex, and she stripped down just to her underwear, for the sake of decency, and she stepped in. When the water was warm enough, she opened both her wrists, and she died. Shortly afterwards, the neighbor ran into the house, her subconscious having assembled the clues in front of her into their only logical conclusion. The water was still warm, stained with paisley swirls and ethereal tendrils of slowly clotting blood.

Today I read something that I’d like to recommend to you. More than that, I’d like you to share it with others. The article is about how children cope with the suicide of a parent. It may feel awkward for you to share this with the person, or people, who need it most: you can always say that you are concerned about a mutual friend. As tragic as a suicide can be, it is far more so when there are children, particularly young children, involved.

This is a particularly critical message in an era where more and more people are being left behind by outsourcing, right-sizing, plant closings, and the inevitable redundancies of automation. For men in particular, the loss of a job is the most likely trigger of suicide. Don’t be afraid to reach out in these cases. The worst that can happen is that you look like a fool and most of us have run that risk for far less reward in the past.

Why did my friend kill herself? It wasn’t her job, her marriage, or her careless ex-boyfriend. A few years prior to our affair, her younger sister had been violently murdered and she’d been the one to find the body. The two of them had been very close, and she never found a way to accept that loss. On the single night we spent together, she sat right up in the bed around three in the morning and started screaming. After she calmed down, she explained that she’d dreamed about seeing the body all over again. “It happens when I don’t take my pills,” she said, “but the pills make me a zombie and I wanted to be a real person tonight.”

She was always a real person to me. Her death made her more real, although I’m embarrassed to admit it. I did not attend the funeral. Her husband had her cremated, for reasons I’d prefer not to examine too closely. I’ll see her again some day, I think. No time soon.

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

And there’s this, as well:

But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

31 Replies to ““If she loved us, she would have stayed with us, not copped out. God didn’t do it, Mom did.””

  1. AvatarDisinterested-Observer

    I don’t know if you are trying to anonymize the experiences of loved ones. You have at times intentionally donned the cloak of the unreliable narrator. And this story may well be true. But it invites skepticism that you have first hand contact with so much death and weirdness. If I was an Ohio trooper I would throw you in a cell and spray you with a firehose until you confessed to crimes that you may or may not have committed.

    Reply
    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      Not a fair comment.

      As one who’s written some fiction and half-fiction, I understand the problem. There’s privacy; there’s anonymity; there’s the desire to craft a good, or teachable, or impactful story to readers who hopefully have no connection to those involved.

      And yes, every author is the hero of his own tales. And only those suffering from self-loathing will castigate themselves as villains – and it seldom makes good reading.

      Reply
      • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

        The unreliable narrator is a reference to an old story of Baruth’s about meeting a survivor of the Bataan Death March. The firehose is an admittedly oblique reference to “Murder She Wrote” inasmuch as the one thing all those murders had in common was that Angela Lansbury was always around when someone got dead. I am a writer of neither fiction nor non-fiction, so much like the Sith I deal in absolutes.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I wrote the Bataan guy straight but I don’t know that he told it to me straight.

          I actually rolled the drama and oddness down on this one; the reason I know how she died, for example, is because her neighbor had been a bartender at the same strip club at which my former live-in had worked from 2003-2006. And I ended up working for the dead girl’s father during all of 2014.

          Reply
          • AvatarJustPassinThru

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/avoidable-contact-torture-forgiveness-meaning/

            The story is pure Baruth. Opens with a casual encounter with an elderly crippled veteran, and then down the rabbit hole to his memories, his hatreds, how he came to his own peace with the Japanese people – through the products of their auto industry, and the satisfaction the old vet got in repairing them and seeing them used.

            Poignant and open-ended. It was a story for entertainment and some enlightenment…Jack says it was done straight from his end, and there’s no reason to doubt it. Was the lonely old man telling it straight? Did it happen that way?

            Does the Pope play Canasta? Does it matter?

          • Avatar-Nate

            Thank you both ;

            I’m off to read (? re read ?) it now .

            I love my old Japanese Motos….

            My Uncle Bill was nearly killed by the Japanese twice during WWI.

            Another step Uncle flew in the Flying Tigers & got shot down, nearly died in a rice paddy .

            He loved his 1982 (?) Mitsubishi pickup truck .

            -Nate

          • Avatarrnc

            My grandfather was a navigator for B24’s flying out of Alaska, my dad was also in the military and like all kids from that world there is nothing cooler than the military and war and such. So once when I was 7-8 I asked him to tell me a story about the war…

            Mission and pay day were on the same day, so everyone in his barracks (jr. officers so probably 10) put thier pay into a helmet and whoever came back got to split the money, he was the only one who came back, then he started crying. Seeing your distinguished grandad crying is FU…learned to never ask about war again.

            Buick and only Buick for him

  2. AvatarSajivW

    Wow, I’m sorry Jack. Just got burned by falling in love with someone who was pretty broken myself. The thing is you always tend to think that you can fix their problems for them, which almost never happens. In the end, we need partners, not projects I guess.

    Reply
  3. AvatarJohn C.

    Hope the husband is able to find a new wife to help salvage those kids. With luck, she won’t be spitting at him and herself by going off with f buddies.

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      This. So many single opportunities out there that targeting ones in relationships – no mater how flawed – seems like a dick move.

      Reply
      • Avatarhank chinaski

        It would have been someone else. The broken ones are lodestones to, more often than not, other broken ones.

        More than a few parents have taken the kids with them when they go this way.

        Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Well, as someone who has been married or living with someone since 1992, I can tell you that dating single people usually involves a lot more drama than dating other married people. A single woman will snitch you out the minute she thinks you’d roll her way after the divorce.

        Reply
  4. AvatarShortest Circuit

    Had a relative kill herself about 20 years ago, left 2 teenaged kids and a husband behind. She went to therapy, she took the medicine, it still happened. No idea what pushed her over the edge, might’ve been the notion that she might need to stay on the meds for the rest of her life. We never reallly talked about it, partly beacuse of the grief, but back then depression was perceived… markedly different I’d say.
    Thankfully the 2 kids now have their own families and when I see them, the simple fact makes me happy. And rest assured they will react very different to 99% of the population when someone displays suicidal behavior.

    Reply
  5. AvatarComfortablyNumb

    The title is the most heartbreaking thing about this. How do you tactfully tell a kid that Mom loved you more than anything. But that wasn’t Mom that took her life, that was somebody else. That might register with a teenager, but a 3-year-old? Jessica Starr’s kids went to daycare with my 2-year-old daughter…I can’t even imagine that conversation their Dad had to navigate.

    Reply
    • AvatarRobert

      Some loved ones commit suicide very slowly. My first wife nearly died from alcoholism. My boys were 5 and 7 when she had a grand mal seizure and stopped breathing right in front of us. Watching her face turn blue, waiting on the ambulance, with them standing next to me frozen in fear was the second worst moment of my life.

      She survived, but ultimately our marriage did not. Telling the boys that their mother wasn’t coming home from (her third attempt at) rehab was the worst moment of my life. I can’t bear to imagine how much worse that would have been had she died.

      Reply
  6. Avatarrambo furum

    I am never sure whether Mr. Baruth is deliberately penning these stories intending for the reader to take away a stance diametrically opposed to the author’s explicit sympathies, or if this is just a function of respective moral compasses.

    It is quite a feat to make me cheer for a drug addict and not really be concerned about a suicide. I’m not sure if this accomplishment is deliberate either.

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      Yeah. Cheating because he is or alleged to be a drug addict seems like an excuse to justify the infidelity.

      If he had a wood working shop in the basement and spent his free time making reproduction Shaker furniture
      that would be the excuse for infidelity.

      Not, “I like to fuck a lot and I don’t care with whom.”
      The poor dear.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Theres an unfortunate side effect of Oxy addiction that tends to destroy marriages from the inside out, so to speak.

        Reply
        • AvatarJustPassinThru

          Chemical addictions, of any kind, will rot out relationships.

          Doesn’t matter if its oxycontin or alchohol or anywhere in-between, or third tangent. The addiction, the addict, is destroyed in his/her capacity to sustain human interactions in-depth.

          I have had experience with alcohol and how it pickles the home life. And much later…in fact, the past year…I experienced how potent is the physiological addiction to opioids.

          Had neck surgery; was prescribed them, on discharge…didn’t even take them as often as instructed…but saw the effects mitigate in about four days. Warning sign. Then I went cold-turkey off, to avoid problems…and for ten hours, had a screaming headache and mild nausea.

          I couldn’t imagine withdrawl from such a low dosage; it didn’t even occur to me until a couple of hours into it; but there it was.

          I chose NOT to go calling the doc’s after-hours service demanding more. I toughed it out.

          Not everyone can, or knows enough to.

          Reply
          • Avatarrnc

            Been 15 years since I kicked the opiates. Still have dreams about them all the time. Like the quest to destroy the one ring, but I’m trying to find the missing 80 oxy instead, funny and screwed up at the same time.

            My first wife committed a long drawn out suicide, from pills, prescribed. I went left in life, she kept driving down the same road. She was broken, couldn’t deal with feeling life:(

            I like when your stories hit a little close to home Jack. Like the crazy/divorced mom trying to buy a Thunderbird.

  7. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    My brother-in-law was a doctor who was good at his job but I think he would have rather been a stereo salesman. He had a great sound system. He was a gerontologist or geriatrician, whatever they call docs who work with old folks. I guess the job can be depressing. For whatever reason, he developed an addiction to fentanyl.

    Now here’s the truth about docs with drug problems. Unless they get arrested, and even then sometimes, the profession will give them seemingly endless second chances.

    He got caught again at work and I guess going home and telling my sister was less frightening to him than taking a winter dive into the Niagara River upstream from the falls. He left his wallet and his beloved Rolex on the front seat of his car, parked near the bridge.

    Suicide is about the most passive-aggressive thing you can do to people who love you.

    There was a time when communal disapproval meant that Jewish suicides were buried at the edges of cemeteries but nowadays it’s presumed that suicide is due to mental illness so normal procedures are generally followed. As it happened, two years after he went missing, they made a DNA match to his as yet unidentified remains in a morgue, and the cemetery that his family uses as almost full, so he’s in the last row, near the edge.

    Reply
  8. AvatarShocktastic

    Thank you for the post, Jack. It’s hard to think of someone you know taking her or his life. It’s hard to find someone afterward. It’s better to have an akward, crucial conversation than to have regrets later. After working at a busy County General emergency department, this one still rattles around my head:

    “You must think I’m stupid. Trying to kill myself but now I’m scared I’ll die,” sobbed my prescription drug overdose patient in room 36. “No,” I said, “I don’t think you are stupid, but I need you to drink this [activated] charcoal so we can figure this out tomorrow.” Three hours before, my patient really wanted to die and had swallowed a nearly 90 day supply of her elderly mother’s medications plus a few bottles of her own medics. It must take a lot of will to choke down over a measuring cup of pills without vomiting. Now she really wanted to live three hours after her ingestion. She wanted to live for her mother and daughter squished in the corner of the resuscitation room by the head of my patient’s stretcher. She drank two bottles of activated charcoal while grimacing from the cloyingly sweet flavoring. I knew her from past ED visits: suicidal ideation, some alcohol on board, plan was overdose, negative urine drug screen, cooperative, well employed, good eye contact, and family support. Her mother gave her lovely eyes and my patient gave them to her daughter. She usually discharged the next day with a solid safety plan. A couple of times she accepted inpatient admission. Very lovely, she always turned straight & gay heads as she came back from the triage desk. Not tonight. Now she looked dreadful with her reddened eyes, splotchy cheeks, and Goth-girl blackened lips and teeth from the charcoal. Her vital signs became dreadful. She became confused and increasingly restless. We started all of the measures recommended by Poison Control. She was intubated before she could no longer protect her airway. Poison Control wasn’t too optimistic when we called again. Her labs & blood gas became worse. I transported her to the ICU with a portable defibrillator attached for the 300 feet of hallways and four floor elevator ride. The intensivists and consulting toxicologists had cooked up a plan. Shift change came without Code Blue paged from her room. I was off for a few days and tried to forget. I avoided the newspaper for a few weeks. I hoped never seeing her again meant she made it; that things worked out.

    Reply
    • AvatarGuns and Coffee

      Damn . . . I thought I was reading a slightly expanded ER medical report that had an inexplicable impact. I re-read it three times to determine there were maybe three lines from the ER report that went along with this case, while the remainder was the human side of the story . . .

      Reply
  9. Avatarperson with keyboard

    Responding to a commenter above who expressed incredulity as to the truth around Mr Baruth’s stories: it seems people assume everyone else shares the same experiences because they themselves have never been shoved outside the boundaries of a safe and privileged mid-Western cocooned existence.

    In my twenties and early thirties I lost half a dozen close family members and friends to motorcycle accidents. My ex-gf rode her motorcycle off a cliff because she had gotten to age 40 and never overcome the trauma of being forcibly imprisoned for months and systematically abused by a crazed drug dealer when she was a teenager. Another guy I worked closely with for years was be-headed in a taxi accident in China. One evening I was driving home from a camping trip on a remote highway in western Canada and found a friend dead on the road from a motorcycle accident caused by another vehicle that didn’t stop. I wasn’t even aware he was in that part of the country at the time.

    Despite all this, I look like a typical unwrinkled uninteresting middle-aged dork, and speak like one as well. But I’m an immigrant from a shithole country and I’ve supported myself financially from age 12 because my parents were abusive cult members who wanted to raise me as the Christian equivalent of a jihadi. The good and bad stories are endless and unreal: I’ve been marched at gunpoint into a brothel in the Taklamakan Desert by a platoon of Chinese soldiers who thought they were funny boys; Romanian soldiers robbed me at gunpoint in a remote part of Transylvania. I dated someone from a prominent royal family and was offered a cash payment to desist.

    My point in sharing all this is that anyone can experience unbelievable highs and lows, and some people unfortunately get to see way more of both than the average person. There’s “my daddy didn’t support me on swim team” and then there’s “my life has been a total fucking horror show and I am just able to put one foot in front of the other every day”. To diminish someone by saying, “that didn’t really happen because I can’t conceive of it”, is to be closed-minded and petty

    Reply
    • Avatar-Nate

      Thanx P.W.K. ;

      You’re the sort of person who makes a good Citizen more often than not .

      I’ve met quite a few like you on my long and strange road .

      Carry on .

      -Nate

      Reply

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