Forty-nine years ago on this date, I lost my beloved aunt, my father's sister. She was like a granny to me and to my sisters. She never married or lived away from her childhood home. She was a devoted daughter who took care of her mother who died when I was very young and then her father who died when I was sixteen.
She loved us girls. Every Friday we walked through the field and along the road over to her house that was maybe a mile from where we lived to spend the night with her. She nearly always had hot dogs for supper when we were there. That was a major treat for us and not something my dad liked so Mom never bought them. We had to make do at home with the beef and pork we raised on the farm. So when you're a kid and rarely get to eat them, hot dogs are a treat. She didn't get too extravagant. She didn't buy buns. We ate the hot dogs on light bread, but that was okay. They were still good.
We not only got those wieners, but she also bought soft drinks. We could drink one each time we visited. I loved those neat orange crush bottles with all the ridges. Sometimes we got to make black cows - that is, ice cream in coke. I didn't like it all that much, but it sure was fun to make. And she had Wrigley peppermint or spearmint or Juicy Fruit gum.
She would tell me I was a pretty child. Something I needed to hear when I was young. I loved her so much.
Sadly, she suffered from periodic episodes of depression. After my grandfather died, she fell into depression again. Meanwhile I had gotten married and for a few months my husband and I lived in one of her upstairs rooms. She was so good to me then, but her depression worsened. So my parents moved in with her to help her and we moved over to their house until she got better.
Then tragedy struck. She waited until she was alone one day and killed herself. Even now, all these years later, the very thought of that day makes me tremendously sad. I wish I had done so many things differently. And I'm sure the rest of the family felt the same. We had signs. She let the dogcatcher take the little dog she loved. She burned all her journals. Afterwards, I couldn't keep from wondering if I had stayed there with her, she might have believed I needed her and waited. She might have started feeling better.
She left us a note. She told us how much she loved us. But she was supposed to go to the doctor the next week and the doctor had talked about shock treatments. That's how they treated chronic depression in those days. She could not face that and she was not thinking clearly enough to realize she could refuse that treatment.
I wrote a little about this once before here back in 2010. My aunt had two peony bushes in her yard and I loved those flowers. They were in bloom when she died and so peonies always make me think of her. You can read about why on this post.
Suicide is a hard death - for the person who is so desperate he or she no longer wants to live and for the family that person leaves behind. Unfortunately, it's way too common. Several of the facts below describe my aunt's death. Suicide seems to be something we don't like to talk about, but maybe we need to.
1. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year.
2. In the U.S., suicide rates are highest during the spring.
3. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds.
4. On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
5. Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people.
6. About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number 1 cause of suicide.
7. There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempted suicides.
8. Males make up 79% of all suicides, while women are more prone to having suicidal thoughts.
9. 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.
10. There are 2 times as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
11. Over 50% of all suicides are completed with a firearm.
If your family has ever been touched by the tragedy of suicide, you know that some memories are hard. And regrets are many. Hoping the good memories of your loved one can push aside the sorrow. As I wrote back in 2010, I don't want to dwell on that sad day, but I do want to remember my aunt who loved me well.