Wednesday Vignette – in the eye of the beholder

St Johns Bridge, Portland, OR

I pass over this bridge several times a week. Every time I do, I marvel at how beautiful it is – tall, graceful, and exquisitely elegant. Its gothic towers carry the gentle curve of the main cables, from which its slender deck is suspended. Its spires pierce the sky – a form echoed in the lights lining the rails. About three weeks after I took this photo, on a quiet Sunday morning, a 15-year old boy jumped to his death from its deck. As anyone would, I shuddered at the horrific news, and sent the inevitable generic rays of sympathy to his people. Suicide is such a devastatingly selfish act *), that leaves kinfolks reeling with remorse, excruciating pain, and a tremendous dose of guilt – whether warranted or not. It wasn’t until four days later I learned that the boy actually was someone we all knew.

Stunned, with holes in our guts,  our hearts in our throats, and tears in our eyes, we went to his memorial. Suicide memorials are brutal, because the wounds are so deep and fresh, and laced with endless numbers of “what-ifs” that no one will ever know the answers to. Every fiber of your being wants to comfort the family, and wrap them in a protective, imaginary blanket of love, but it’s impossible. The raw, visceral, throbbing pain is both visible and palpable, and will have to live out its course, at its own rate. If you ever want to see what real pain looks like, look at a parent who has just lost a child to suicide. It is a harrowing experience – mostly because there is absolutely nothing you can do to help.

I’m not normally a praying person, but this week, I’m calling on the forces of the universe to send the family the strength and power it needs to get through this. Dear, sweet Spencer – where you saw a means to an end, I only saw beauty. I hope you found the light you were looking for at the end of the bridge.  And, I promise you, that every time I see your mother, I will hug her long and hard. Nothing anyone can do will ever fill the void you left, but that won’t stop me from trying.

*) After input from several, I feel I need to change my wording here. “Selfish” was not the right word to use. Instead I should probably have said, that although at first it may appear to be a selfish act, it is the result of being overcome with a pain so powerful, that a forced separation from ones body is the only perceived means of escape. I am sorry if my poor wording caused anyone additional pain – it was not intended. Just ignorance on my part.

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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23 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – in the eye of the beholder

  1. hb says:

    What a beautiful bridge, and what a heartbreaking story to go with it. Hugs–what more can be said?

  2. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Devastating. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved Spencer during his all too short life. You and especially his family are in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve and struggle to make sense of this horrible act, and the loss. Like you, I hope that Spencer has found an end to his pain. Love and light to all.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Peter. Yes, his family needs all the love of the universe right now. They are lovely people, and I can’t even fathom the pain they are in right now. Devastating is indeed the perfect word for it…

  3. bergstromskan says:

    Oh Anna, the pain that gave Spencer the courage to jump, the pain his family is left with, and many others….What is the purpose for us? for the Universe? Our pain and confusion making us blind, still our hearts open for compassion and prayer to flow. Thank you for your beautiful sharing

  4. FlowerAlley says:

    Here is the naked truth from cousin of a suicide soul. I get it. There is a darkness and despair in them that most people never feel. Now that we are almost two years out from the horrific day that put a hole in our family, we discuss the unselfishness of his act. He was bipolar. He could not count on himself to be sane. There were dangerous occurrences. There was fear of what would come next. Who would he harm? My parents? My sister? My daughter? He could not risk another manic episode. Mental health TOTALLY let him down. There could have been a lawsuit. Instead my sister contacted everyone she knew to try to fix the many mishaps along his journey.
    I cried when I read this. Another hole in another family. Bless Spencer’s family. Anna you are so real. Keep sharing.

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh Becca – mental illness adds a whole other layer of complexity that to my knowledge was not present here. I am so sorry for you and your family too. Regardless of the circumstances, it is a devastating blow. The worst part with mental health is that help exists – but only if you have insurance and/or can afford it. I lost my best friend to a PTSD induced suicide in 2011. She DID seek help, and was turned away. This thing with Spencer stirred up all kinds of emotions in me. Just so you know, I cried when I read your comment, too. There is so much pain in this world, and all of it seems to just generate MORE pain. It really makes me wonder what our collective priorities as a specie are… We can all do better.

  5. Alison says:

    Anna, this is a sad, sad post. I’ve struggled with depression my whole adult life. I can’t imagine the pain this poor mother has gone through. Thank you for supporting her.

  6. Oh Anna, such a beautiful photo to go along with a tragic story.

  7. Your post brought tears this morning. Suicide is torture for those left behind. My maternal grandmother committed suicide. I’m the one who, at 6 years old, found her. That memory is vivid to this day. I remember the panic when I couldn’t wake her and the anger when my mother didn’t, to my eyes, act quickly enough when I woke her to provide help. I actually refused to go to my grandmother’s funeral, out of anger or denial I can no longer say. But, in time, I came to understand and even accept her action. She saw no way out of her depression – mental health care and anti-depressive meds weren’t as readily available at that time. I know she loved me and I’m sure she didn’t expect me to find her. I forgave myself and the rest of my family for her loss long, long ago. I’ve worn a bracelet that belonged to her ever day for decades and believe in my heart that it keeps her near me. I hope Spencer’s family can find a similar peace.

    • annamadeit says:

      I’m so sorry, Kris! That must have been so traumatic for you… I think it’s a beautiful thing that you managed to find a connection through your grandmother’s bracelet. I hope they will be able to, too…

  8. Pingback: Wednesday Vignette – A Moveable Garden

  9. mmwm says:

    Heart-breaking, and how hard for friends and family to inevitably and viscerally feel this loss all the more each time they take the bridge or see it in the distance. … Your juxtaposition of the images of spires piercing the sky and the holes in your guts associates for me the bridge’s structure with the embodied pain you all feel, as if the bridge is jabbing at tender spots, re-wounding.

    Here is mine, much more mundane:

  10. Evan Bean says:

    I always love the view of that bridge when the hills behind it are draped in clouds. Such a terrible tragedy, though. I want to say more, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing on an open forum. These stories are always painful and unnerving for me.

    It feels strange to share such a trivial photo now, but here’s my WV post (included in my Foliage Follow-up):

  11. christine maciel says:

    Beautiful. You said everything that needs to be said. May we all find comfort in these words.

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