life after suicide: it’s been four years

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👇🏿 ain’t got no time for that? press play for the radical radio recording ✨


i am brave. i send out the invite. it’s days before the four year anniversary of my dads suicide death, i am brave and invite the women who live here to join me around a late afternoon fire, in remembering and celebrating those we love who have passed.

the days tick by and i calculate how i’ll celebrate my dad, ritchie, this year. do i need more sparklers? will i get fireworks? should i make a buncha food like years passed? the day arrives, february 23rd, 2021.

i am tender. i am tender in my tummy. my chest feels like a semi-automatic tear machine, tightening around my heart, daring me to move wrong and spill some salty tears from my eyes. my tenderness is a surprise. it’s been four years, isn’t it supposed to feel different by now?

i gather supplies from around my place: sparklers, fire bombs, lighter, matches just in case, a portable speaker, and a poem to read. in my remembering i pull the folded cardboard collage of my dad out from the chest in the kitchen. i open each flap with ease and there he is, back again and peppering the floral wrap cardboard cutout with his cheeky grins, proud papa smiles, and a spirit that carries lots of childlike play. i can hardly look, my chest tightens, further closing this lump in my throat.

i am tender. i take myself outside and drive to the edge of a lake to stare and ponder.

my wondering crosses the lake and crests the snowy mountain ranges at its rim. i crouch in this perch and take pictures. the wind whips through my hair as i hide lamely behind these naked branches. my feet press in muddy blue boots, laces tied together in many places, ridges worn steady at their edges. i stop, spontaneously like he would, at the coffee shop for a hot chai, and return home ready-not-ready to be seen in a circle of remembering and celebrating.

everyone’s invited to bring a thing, like a picture, a poem, or a song, any item that they’d like to share. it’s striking how tender i am all of a sudden; both weary and nervous for the sharing, the talking, any poking or prodding. i am not ready.

this is all my idea, this remembering and celebrating today, all my brilliant, brave idea indeed. 😣

i am ready-not-ready. i do not want to remember the ways in which i hurt, and am hurting, today. the ways in which i look to the clock today and count at which hour-minute did we find him? or, is it this time and day four years ago, when me and mother sit pressed hip-to-hip on the couch, watching the two rcmp puppets go on about something or other, and the victim services mannequin flail about his lack of pamphlets from the back of his black suv that could be helpful for exactly us. or is now the moment we make the call to my brother, one achingly distant, province away.

today, the minute-hours pass and parts of me remembers myself back into that day from four years ago. i watch from beside myself, above myself, and outside myself. that is all i can do now, watch as this day unfolds over again and there i am: witness to a waking dream nightmare.

it still stings, the remembering of events from that day four years ago, the remembering with my senses: the dogs bark and bark and bark, begging to be let out; the crunch of gravel under me and mothers feet; the wails, her wails, echoing in the room around me, her, and ritchie; the taste of my swallowed horror; the three button-beeps from the cordless phone.

it’s all still there. mostly.

all deaths are unique to each dying individual, to those who lose them, and the multitude of circumstances that surround every one of them. my experience of ritchie’s death is unique to me. his death will always be: he killed himself. my experience of it will always be: i found him. perhaps this is why today feels so heavy handed in my remembering; it is the most traumatic day of my adult life.

i load my supplies into a wrinkly, brown paper bag, and set out for the late afternoon fire circle of death remembering. i am tender, i leave the pictures at home. i am tender, i forget to bring the poem. all of the fire and circle supplies are loaded into my gold rav4 and i’m off down the shortest drive, to the back of the property. the fire bombs and dried kindle are a sure start. i’m nervous and tender and am carrying this lump lodged here in my throat. the music of ritchie’s playlist bumps over my tender lumps as i light and build our fire.

my tender nerves retreat to doubt. the voices of my family are a racket in my head:

“it’s too much remembering.”
“why are you doing all of this?!”
“we’re worried about you.”
“you shouldn’t be remembering, you should be letting go, moving on.”

are they right? is it too much remembering? should i not be celebrating, or remembering? he’s my dad though. despite their faint, familiar, frantic protests waging in my head, i go on.

the fire grows with ease and i thank the goddess for her blessing. the wind dies down and the clouds fly away, and i thank the goddess for her blessing. the women show up and are sweet when asking about a picture of ritchie, i retreat home to bring back my floral collage of him, and i thank the goddess for her blessing.

in circle we share. my tears fall as they do, straight down my burning cheeks and soak into my scarf. no matter how many tears continue to fall, i feel embarrassed at their arrival and relieved for their freedom. i am reminded at the many ways we die, grieve, and continue to live on. i am reminded that we all have unique death stories. i am reminded that we all need a safe place to talk and share about our losses, our loved ones, our lives now. it’s this sort of sacred salve that we offer each other: sitting in silence to listen as one shares about their loved one, about their pain in the loss, about the memories that continue to swell on.

today may continue to hold my own sort of sacred pain that swells each year when i set down to remembering and celebrating my dad ritchie. it’s no matter, i will continue to remember-celebrate-circle-share each year in my own way. right now, this for me, is ok.

i am brave and i am tender.

i love you,

xxo ~k ❤️

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