By Teresa G. D’vall
This is a story about the time depression killed my mother and not one you should read if you’re in a good mood. Chances are, you’re not aware that suicide can be committed by neglect. I made this discovery three years ago, on a chilly gray morning drenched in November Rain.
September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, so this tale is belated but remains pertinent, even though it’s October, the month we’re supposed to be aware of Domestic Violence, Breast Cancer and Bullying Prevention.
Shortly after 7am, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2014, I threw my favorite red coat and Coach purse onto a hospital floor without hesitation.
My ex niece-in-law offered the purse in lieu of rent when I let her stay with us. I could barely afford to feed my 6 kids, let alone hers, but I was 21 with a baby once too, so it seemed like the right thing to do.
She actually gave me two Coach purses, and a great pair of Crocs that I still wear, three summers later.
My ex sister-in-law would have a fit if she knew because those things were hers, and she never liked me.
I leave the purse in my car when I go to the food pantry but it shouldn’t matter to strangers how I acquired it.
That morning, it didn’t matter where I threw it. A short stretch of hallway was the last obstacle impeding my destination. I had just violated the speed limit and multiple traffic lights; littering the floor with my purse and coat was an afterthought.
The ICU corridor was lined with solemn personnel in surgical scrubs. Their silence was deafening; somber gazes of pity revealed the grim reality I already knew. My mother was moments away from death.
Waking to an early morning phone call with bad news at the other end is a moment we all dread.
The doctor said she was very, very sick and suggested I get there as soon as possible.
It was just after dawn and only my teenage daughter was awake. She looked on helplessly as I ran out the front door with the phone in hand screaming:
“I’m coming right now! Don’t turn off any machines! Please!! I’m her oldest child and I do not give you permission to stop life support!!”
I made the 45 minute drive in 30, during a torrential downpour, and was the only one of three siblings to arrive before it was too late.
Her head was so enlarged I could barely recognize the first face my eyes ever beheld.
Fluids injected to prolong life had caused swelling and a purple discoloration of her skin. Images of her that morning have lingered in my mind much longer than I want them there.
I sat on the gurney & said
“Mom, I’m here. I’m here mom.”
A doctor, probably the one who caused the cardiac arrest by moving her out of the ER said,
“She can’t hear you.”
“Yes she can.” I asserted, not really caring to whom.
Instinctively, I began to stroke her forehead, the same way she did mine during early childhood.
I held her hand and said,
“I love you. You were a good mom.”
The nurse who’d been pumping air through a tube into her mouth stopped making compressions. My gaze turned to a beeping monitor and I watched until the line went flat.
Our relationship ended as it began
with just her and I,
my head on her chest;
in a hospital bed.
My mother spent so much of her life unhappy that when she drew her last breathe, my first thoughts were that she was finally getting what she wanted. Death isn’t a popular gift but it’s what she requested most during the last decade of her life.
Septic shock, preceded by a urinary tract infection that went untreated had caused heart failure. She acquired it by not taking care of herself, because she was depressed.
Too depressed to shower.
Too depressed to leave the house. Too depressed to ask for help.
Or want any.
Depression is spoken about freely now, but September wasn’t Suicide Prevention Month when my mom grew up. I didn’t realize my mother suffered from depression until after she died. I thought she was just a negative person. A complainer. Someone who was bitter because life hadn’t turned out the way she planned.
I never knew how severe her depression was until I stumbled upon the picture that accompanies this story. Tucked away in a portfolio of drawings I never knew she made; I recognized the face immediately as my mother’s.
Depression is suicide’s silent accomplice, and the most sinister.
It masquerades as apathy, anger, and other behaviors that we wouldn’t immediately associate with sadness.
It took 69 years; but depression caused my mother’s death.
Suicide Prevention Awareness shouldn’t be confined to a month. Be aware, every day, that depression has many faces.
Stop, look, and listen. You may save someone’s life.