Man Utd 3 Aresenal 1, that was the final score in the match on Saturday evening, 2nd December. It was hailed as the most exhilarating game of the season so far. I’ll not forget it.
Prior to the result, I had just entered my local pub after gaining a free pass-out for all my chores around the house earlier that day and was sitting chatting and sipping a pint, happy as a pig in the proverbial. Shortly before the game started I received a message from an old friend. A very old friend, not old in reference to his age, but in reference to our friendship. We don’t see each other a great deal, in fact about only once in the last 10 years but nevertheless, a friendship that once kindled it is hard to blow out.
His message wasn’t about the game or football or even a quick hello but to let me know that his sister, Rebecca, had taken her own life earlier that day. She was around the same age of my own sister who died of a cancer related illness recently. Having experienced the loss of my own sister my heart sank on reading his text message. But suicide is different and the ‘what ifs’ are much more poignant in that they can never be answered.
Cancer is a diagnosis with the unfortunate recipient being present. Family, relatives and friends can gather round an offer succour and comfort. There is a prognosis, rarely benign and more commonly malignant, but a prognosis on a way forward to stave of the eventual terminal effect of it. A path that offers hope, perhaps false hope, and provides answers to difficult questions. A path that doesn’t throw up horrible surprises but only the inevitable, no matter how painful. But it's never immediate.
Suicide, on the other hand offers none of the above and it is immediate. Like cancer though, it is horrible and extremely unwelcome news to receive. It can break families apart, gradually wear them down and leave them no answer to the numerous ‘whys’.
What it has become in this materialistic and commodity driven society is much more common and frequent. It is very rarely something decided and acted upon in an instant with the obvious exceptions being substance overdoses by addicts.
From my own experience of having lost people, some very good friends and some work acquaintances, it tends to be a resolution determined by the individual, suffering from severe mental anguish, as the only alternative path to their predicament.
As we are generally not psychiatrists nor psychologists, and as most times engrossed in our own lives, we fail to spot the signs. There is no blame to lay at the door of the living and no blame to lay at the deceased, for the turmoil they unconsciously leave behind.
Mourn them as you would mourn a sister who died of cancer, for irrespective of how they met their untimely demise you’ll miss them dearly.
So sorry for your loss.
Sean Mallory is a TPQ columnist