Of Loneliness and Connection and Hope

A young man, 22, hanged himself from a tree behind our church the other day.

My friend, who lives across the street, woke up to police cars all down her street. When she walked to the end of her driveway, she saw him, still hanging from the tree.  He used a rope and a lawn chair. The tree was surprisingly small, but on a slight hill. One branch with a few big knots was strong enough and high enough.

They had to leave him hanging for quite a while waiting for the crime scene people. That lack of dignity and respect hurts my heart.

Our ministers and some of his friends and people from the neighborhood gathered by the tree later to honor and pray for him. Someone put a cross and some flowers on the tree.

My friend and I spent the next few days working on a fundraiser for the non-profit where she works and I’m on the Board of Directors. People host parties all over town, collect donations, and then gather at one big dessert finale with a band at the local coliseum complex.

Our non-profit provides case-management and prevention services for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Every May for the last 26 years, this Dining for Friends fundraiser has provided a big piece of the agency’s budget. The majority of the donations are $100 or less. That’s a whole lot of people who care. Still.

I watched people from all parts of town come together for this event. The mayor came and so did some of the clients. Young people came (they wear short skirts these days!) and so did some with grey hair. A lesbian couple brought their 5-year-old daughter. There were brown people and white people and people with neon hair. We had desserts donated by many fine restaurants and bakeries, more than anyone could eat, really.

I watched all these people come together to bring money and dance and smile, to celebrate and to help people they will probably never meet. My heart started to heal.

I can’t imagine the loneliness and despair that leads to suicide.

I can’t imagine the loneliness and despair of being told you are HIV positive.

I’ve seen what connection to others, concrete help with disease management, and a safe place to be honest and not hide can do for those who are HIV positive.

I know nothing about the young man who committed suicide–his problems, his life, his circumstances. Not even his name. I know he was one of God’s children who hurt too much to go on. And that is just so sad.

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Published in: on May 20, 2015 at 11:08 am  Comments (3)  
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Bah (Halloween) Humbug!

I trick-or-treated alone the year I was 11.  I knew it would be my last year.  I was supposed meet up with some other girls, but I never found them.

Did they ditch me on purpose?  Did I misunderstand the plan?  Or did they not even think of me at all?

I tried to go to people’s doors with other kids so I didn’t look like some weird kid who was too old to be trick-or-treating.  I don’t remember what costume I wore–something homemade, I’m sure.  I remember holding back tears.  I don’t remember if I told my parents what happened.

I’ve never liked Halloween.  My kids’ elementary school let students come in costume on October 31.  I painted one girl’s face green for a witch outfit and made a punk-rocker (pink hair, lots of eye makeup, and lots of necklaces) out of the other girl.  All by 7:30 am.  How did the teachers put up with that all day??

My kids call me the “Sugar Nazi.”  I rarely let them have sugar.  They got wired and I don’t like noise and commotion.  I’m ashamed to admit that we got rid of all the candy they didn’t eat the night of Halloween.  (We told them we would.)  We ate some after they went to bed.  The rest went in the trash.  Sugar Nazi, indeed

Every October, they remind me how mean I was.  (They are now in their 30’s.)

I still don’t like Halloween.  I don’t understand all the decorations–orange lights on trees?  And I don’t want to dress up in a costume.  The last time we went to a party (and that was only because it was at my daughter’s new in-laws’ house) we went as Black-Eyed Peas.  We wore white t-shirts with a big black “P” pinned to the front and lots of dark gray and purple eye-shadow all around our eyes.  Get it?  We thought it was hilarious.  Other guests wore rented elaborate costumes.  They were stunning.  I was humbled.

I’d be fine leaving the porch light off and hiding out in the back of the house.  The doorbell always makes the dog bark and before she died we shut our black cat in the basement so no one could mess with her.  The retired man I live with delights in all the cuteness of the little trick-or-treaters.  He goes to the door while I sit in the den and eat enough miniature candy bars to make myself sick.

I want to be silly.  I want to play well with others.  I don’t want to be a Halloween Scrooge.

I regret my meanness.  I hope my daughters let their kids have candy in November.

Maybe I’ll take a turn answering the door this year.  There might be an 11-year-old girl standing on the porch alone trying not to cry.

Published in: on October 26, 2012 at 11:51 am  Comments (5)  
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