Firstly, and Martin will get on my case for this
I'm agnostic. My mother was an atheist, but I have no set belief on what happens to us after death. I have no idea. I was not baptized, had no bat mitzvah, etc. I have no organized religion that I belong to, or I can't say, "I am a Lutheran" or "I am a Muslim" or "I am a Jew."
A very close friend of mine, whom I'd known for 25 years, took her mother's life and her own, last December. I was the last person to hear from her, as far as it is known, in a perfectly "normal, cheerful" email dated 12/8/04. They were found by the police on 12/15/04 -- a week later. No one is actually clear when the deaths took place. Probably on Thursday the 9th through Saturday the 11th.
There was supposed to be a Memorial that was very hard to set up (because of the circumstances) in her Catholic Church where she was very active and a lifelong member of the congregaion. She also led the childrens' bell choir. Apparently taking one's own life is worse than taking another's. She had done both.
There was also a great need to avoid media hoopla. I've never realized how horrible the media are. They sensationalized and actually gave misinformation about what actually happened, particularly information regarding her mother's death.
It was a caregiver homicide-suicide (very common). I hate those words,. And though what she did would seem so unthinkable and illogical, in finding out more and more about this, by talking with her cousins (who are picking up the pieces logistically) and talking with her friends, this was very logical. Also, what I know of her personally. The problems, fears and frustrations she had, that I wish we'd have talked about. She didn't like talking about "negative" things.
I see why she did what she did. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for her. None. Again I see why she
saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Those of us left see how we could have helped. But she didn't want to go on.
In a three page letter she left on the floor of the garage, she asked to be buried with her mother. She wrote at one point, "Anne [that is not her real name] is so sad and ashamed."
Now, there's dissociation for you, she didn't say "I" she said "Anne" as if she were already gone. That truly strikes me. Takes me aback.
The letter didn't really explain anything. It said whom to contact when she and her mother were found, who should receive some things, where there were repairs needed in the house, etc. "There is some glass under the stove that needs to be cleaned up and I don't want anyone injured."
I have not seen the whole letter, but know more and more about the contents. The original is in police custody as "evidence" and a few cousins have copies.
The Memorial for her and her mother, scheduled for 1/24/05, that would have been wholly dedicated to both of them, was snowed out. So many friends and family were in town.
People need closure. A ritual of closure. This was a horrific end to anyone's life, hers and her mother's, and all of us needed to be together to acknowledge that she and her mother are gone. I, though I'm an agnostic, needed the ritual of a church, the comfort of a church (or a synagogue with a rabbi, or a mosque), to help put them to rest. Both "Anne" and her mother were cremated, and have still not been interred either.
The cancellation of this ritual, for those of us who are of a particular faith, and those who are not, was very hard. I can't explain it. I haven't been able to cry. Only little bits at a time, or I feel "pressure behind my eyes", a need to cry. A deep lonliness. Anger.
A ritual like that, helps people purge themselves of all sorts of feelings. Anger and grief. It also lets people share good memories and good times.
Well now, there will be regular Mass on 4/10/05 where their names will be mentioned. Afterwards there will be cake and coffee for family and friends. It's over Spring Break, and another of my best friends who was one of "Anne's" best friends can't come.
We won't have the ritual.
I have not dreamed much about "Anne" at all. As I have not been able to cry about her. I was initially in total shock, and I have attended a "Survivors of Suicide" group, where I once have been able to cry a bit, but it is trapped inside me. Locked inside. I can't really cry about much at all. I know there is a lot to cry about, but I can't go there now.
This is apparently very normal. People mourn these things in VERY different ways.
At any rate, I have been very stressed out and tired this week. Today, I literally slept all day, and dreamed and dreamed. My usual anxiety dreams and crap that I always dream. Nothing new.
But the last part of my dreaming before I woke up, I received a phone call from "Anne", she was talking in a very happy way about a friend at work or something. They were having fun. She was laughing. She sounded happy to me." In the dream I thought, "Why is she so happy? She has no job. She only takes care of her mother. She is all alone."
I then saw my old cat who died about 3 years ago. In real life he was old and and very ill and we put him to sleep. He died in my arms. I cried for 2 days solid. And mourned him for a very long time.
In my dream, he came towards me. It was as if he had run away, and I hadn't seen him and was worried about him. He looked so old and frail. And he did a cat stretch, yawned and came over to me.
I picked him up and held him, and I thought, it sounds so selfish, but I should put him to sleep as he is only suffering, but moreso, I won't see him again if he ran away again like that. I wanted to be with him when he died, to say goodbye.
Well, I see what this means to me. I see why "Anne" "put herself to sleep, and her mother as well" or I understand it more and more. No one ever will completely understand all of this, except "Anne". No one on this earth know what went through her head for months and days before.
But I wish I had done one thing, pushed her to get help. I suspected there were problems, but not this dramatic. Never in a million years.
But I also want closure. I want the Church service we now won't have. All of us can't come together as a group -- the congregation, her cousins, her friends -- to say goodbye. Some of us will be at an impersonal Mass, a regular Mass, where the Priest will mention their passing.
That isn't enough. And here is where I see the need for at minimum an official "organized" ritual. When someone dies, whether someone is a THEIST or not, whether someone believes in God or not, there is the need for ritual. And it is missing here.
I cried when I wrote down my dream. But again had to stop. Many others have said they are feeling the same way.
I don't know why, but I just had to write this all down.
Religion and that means RITUAL, organized RITUAL, serves a purpose, marking the milestones of birth, rites of passage, marriage, and death. Somehow it is very necessary -- even if one does not believe in God.
I have tried to explain this is all. Or try to understand what I'm feeling.
And so dreamt the agnostic.