Mark’s blog triggered a memory that I would just as soon forget, but it haunts me to this day. Maybe writing about it will help to expunge the demon.
My grandmother, “Grammy,” died when I was in the forth grade. She had an aneurism burst. It was totally unexpected and we mourned her passing for years. That was the first time I experienced death.
Two years latter, my Granddad remarried. He married a woman who was one year younger than my aunt. Needless to say it did not go over well. But at the ripe old age of 12, I was the peacemaker of the family. So I did the best I could to make her feel comfortable. I visited my Granddad about once month and after the 2nd or 3rd visit we felt comfortable being around each other.
Now Garnett was a strange bird. She never seemed to be quite *there*. She could carry on a conversation, but you never really got the feeling she cared about anything. What I did not know at the time was that she was taking some pretty heavy duty anti-psychotic drugs. I would later learn that she was a really vivacious outgoing person before she had a mental breakdown. As long as she took the meds, she was lucid. But like too many people who take meds find, there is neither joy nor pain while taking anti-psychotic drugs.
One fall visit I noticed that she was especially joyful and we connected like never before. What I and the rest of the family did not know was that she had stopped taking her medications.
In November of that year, the demons came back. She went into a tailspin and attempted an overdose of sleeping pills. My Grandfather found her in time and they pumped her stomach. A couple of days later, he brought her to Thanksgiving dinner. OMG. It was extremely awkward and no one new quite what to say. My mom asked my Grandfather what was going on. He just said she had a bad spell, but she was OK now. He said she was on medicine and she would be fine.
Three weeks later, right before Christmas week, she tried again. This time my mother intervened and spoke with the doctor. Turns out she had a long history of Manic Depression and Schizophrenia. My mother recommended that my Grandfather have her committed and annul the marriage. He insisted that he could fix her and he would stand by her, making sure she took her meds.
We had little hope that she would get better. But for about a month, things did seem to go well. She was distant again, but otherwise she was *normal.*
It was January. I came home. Mom was in the living room. Something was definitely wrong.
Garnett had gone into another psychotic episode. She was convinced that she was a witch and that she was the cause of the Iranian hostage crisis. The only way to resolve the crisis was for her to be burned alive. She went to my Grandfather’s shed, dowsed herself with lawnmower gas and set herself on fire. She was burned over 80% of her body. She apparently called the paramedics herself. My Grandfather would later tell me that the phone had melted in her hand.
She survived the attempt. She was rushed to the Denver General Burn unit. My Grandfather steadfastly insisted that he would take her home and she would be OK.
3 weeks later, I went to 6th grade Outdoor Lab. Mid week my teacher got the call. She had passed away.
All of this took place in the span of 9 months. Even though she was only a member of our family for a short time, it left a huge gapping hole. I think all hope of me remaining a Pentecostal ended when she died. The pastor while giving words of encouragement to the family was quite adamant that she was spending eternity without God. I can honestly say I had never doubted got before that day. The whole meaning of life was in question. And for the first time in my life, I started struggling with depression. My faith disintegrated. What God would make someone crazy and then send them to hell for killing themselves? It was the beginning of a big faith paradigm shift.
To this day, I do not know what to make of the situation. I had and have mixed emotions. I felt terrible that she died, but at the same time I was relieved. That caused guilt that took a long time to overcome. I cannot imagine what it would be like for the family of someone who was dearly loved. Just having it happen to a *new* member of the family was devastating.
I wish there was a way to tie all this blog together…give some sage advice…but nothing good comes from suicide. It just leaves a huge gapping wound that never quite heals.