30 June 2012
The incidence of suicide has increased dramatically. Every suicide is a tragedy. Every suicide is an indictment on the rest of us.
On Tuesday evening I travelled down south and, upon arrival at the station, listened to a 10 minute taxi driver’s complaint that because of two fatalities on the railway line, one that evening and the other, earlier in the week, the London train had been cancelled and so “I’ve been sitting here on the rank for 3 hours with no work, reading the newspaper. I might as well go home. It’s a waste of my time. These people should think about all the hassle they cause for the rest of us.”
That was not a pleasant taxi ride.
Yesterday, I scattered my father’s ashes, in a very private place. It was peaceful and moving. I put down my sister’s quietness obviously to the occasion, even though this was something only Mum and me did.
On return home to Liverpool late last night I chatted with my sister on the phone and we talked about how well Mum was bearing up and I mentioned Mum’s own observation about her daughter’s quietness.
Earlier that day, my sister and brother in law had called to collect the ashes from the Chapel of Rest and where, over the last 7 months we have received nothing but incredible support, guidance and love from the directors, Neville and Andrew. Neville has that way with him that engages a person, lifts the soul and enables every family to get through the day and the ensuing weeks.
“I wasn’t going to tell you this until you’re down again next week. But as you’ve mentioned it, I’d better. We were both in something of a state of shock when we carried the ashes to the car. We’d asked for Neville but met Neville’s brother. Neville committed suicide.
“A few weeks earlier his business partner Andrew had also committed suicide. Neville’s daughter was just sitting her examinations in May.”
Both Neville and Andrew had conducted my father's funeral, so this always establishes a deep relationship.
Life of course goes on. As is echoed in those most beautiful words that apply to both civilian and military, collective and individual, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
In my service I have seen the results of suicide, I have tried to stop a suicide by drowning, unsuccessfully, though to this day I can remember that lovely lady and her expression as she really did think no one had cared about her, hauling her from the lake. Even her smile. And as a very young policeman it still shocked me when the sergeant later took me aside and said to be strong and accept that sometimes these things happen. “You did your best and more, always remember that. And never flinch to do it again at any time in your life.”
I’m eternally grateful to him for that advice, for it has become a bedrock of this topsy-turvy life. For it helped too in administering estates as a lawyer, where the cause of death was suicide.
My greatest sadness is the tendency to selfish thinking when a suicide puts us out, causes us to take a longer route round town while the road is blocked off, causes us to miss our connection, our flight even.
Yes, these are legitimate worries and concerns. But it is a very, very sad reflection upon a so-called advanced society, that for whatever reason, a person feels driven to take his or her own life.
For the people I've mentioned in this Dispatch, who are no longer with us, whoever they are, I echo again those words and live by them, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.