In May of 1996, or maybe at that point it was June, someone advised my mom to put in my sister’s obituary that she died of an aneurysm instead of telling the truth, which was that she chose to die.
My mom, perplexed and not wanting to discuss my sister’s death with anyone, agreed to this story and instructed me not to tell anyone. Well, I had already told people. And people find things out. But then I was expected to start lying. Now, I don’t think anyone really thought this decision through or was even clear in the head enough to realize that you can’t mourn a lie. Death, and grief, by suicide is a completely different feeling than having someone die from cancer, an accident, or old age. Having known people who died in these other ways, I can attest. Of course, my sister was the closest person to me that I’ve lost, but I’ve known others who killed themselves and it is definitely a different breed of grief and sorrow. Mind you, I am not saying it is harder, just different.
You cannot grieve a lie. Some people I told the truth and some people I gave the aneurysm story, depending on how well I knew them or how I felt about them. I obviously had to trust them in order to confide then swear them to secrecy. And so it spreads.
Eventually, it came to my mother’s attention that everyone at the beach, where we spend a lot of time in the summer and have many close friends, knew the truth about my sister’s death—well, how she died, anyway. Not necessarily the circumstances surrounding her decision. Apparently some people, okay, one person, who didn’t know my sister speculated a drug problem. My sister, was a nurse, after all, doesn’t that make sense? (NO.) This person was so incredibly wrong, and now she was spreading a rumor. I was furious, and then my mom found out and accused me of telling. “Who’d you tell?” She asked me, angry and accusing, “What did you say?”
Actually, then only person I told at the beach was a close and trusted friend, and one of his best qualities, besides his sense of humor, was that he was discreet. He did not tell, I said, I don’t know who it was, but it wasn’t him, and it wasn’t me. My mom was angry with me. All those people had known and acted like they didn’t. Years later one of them told me, “Your mom obviously didn’t want to talk about it, so we respected that. We love your mom and we loved Lisa.”
I felt horrible and was beating myself up about it when my mom eventually came to me and said she discovered the source of the, leak, shall we say. Lisa’s old roommate and work friend knew someone who knew the local gossip at the beach. I guess the local gossip added the spicy drug-addict part of the story, maybe to make it more interesting.
I believe when you shroud things in mystery, people are going to speculate and try fill in the blanks, especially if they cared for the person. And many, many people cared for my sister.
Generally, dealing with the suicide of a loved one includes quite a bit of anger. I don’t know who my mom lashed out at, probably me, but all I remember is her sitting in the living room, in the dark, listening to Enya day after day. My dad, a respectable and patient man, came home from work one day with knuckles bloody from something other than working on a car engine. He had gotten into a fist-fight at 7-11. Over what? I don’t know. I’ll have to check my diaries to see if the story is there. But it was nothing that would have caused a fight had he not recently lost his eldest daughter.
Me, I tended to yell at everyone. Well, most everyone. (Dear Man-I-Yelled-At-In-Fairfax-Villa: I am sorry. You didn’t deserve that.) Generally it was people I didn’t know. I yelled at my entire music class one night because they were making fun of a suicidal man who had stopped traffic in DC by threatening to jump from a bridge, and that was a couple years after Lisa died. I still blush at the memory, those wide eyes and open mouths of my stunned classmates. And I remember the woman who went outside after me and soothed me and the man who confided that he had lost someone to suicide, too. Then they encouraged me to return to class, which was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
I carried so much sorrow and anger with me for so long, it was like invisible but weighty brown boulders tied around my neck. The guilt, the inability to vent properly, and then when I did explode, the shame at disobeying my mom’s wishes to keep quiet. I changed into someone I didn’t know and didn’t like. I stayed in relationships I should have ended and lost relationships I should have fought for. I was so lost. I felt so alone and abandoned by the one person who promised to never leave me.
Eventually, I talked less about it, but would end up getting drunk and crying, sobbing, lamenting the loss of my sister. It was ugly. To the people who soothed me, bless them for their patience, withholding judgment (or for just not showing it, but maybe I was too drunk and selfish to notice), forgiveness, and soothing words. You know who you are.
To my friend who, when she heard about what happened, dropped everything and flew halfway across the country to be at my side, thank you.
To my dear friends who toasted endless toasts to my sister with me, thank you.
To my friend who stuck by me through all of it: my moods, my grief, my pulling away, then returning, thank you.
To all of the supportive teachers at NOVA and Mason, thank you.
To my husband, who caught me and lifted me up at the end of my downward spiral, thank you and I love you more than I will ever be able to show you.
To my sister’s friends who were unable to be at her funeral because they didn’t know, thank you for being here now.
And to anyone else who thinks they deserve a thank you from me, thank you. I’m sure you do deserve it.
And there it is.
This is just the beginning of a journey for me. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to hurt more that just me, but I’ve got to get it out. I can’t keep parceling out the truth over a period of years and worrying about other people’s stages of grief. I need to put it all in one place where people can see. I believe those who loved her have a right to know. Those who love me have a right to know. I believe those who have had a similar experience might benefit. I know that I will.
Get. The. Truth. Out. Everywhere. And damn your judgments and roadblocks. I survived my sister’s suicide, just barely, and I can survive this: our story. The Glascock Sisters.
I’ve pushed the boulders off, but they are always in the background, threatening to wrap their ropes around my neck again. And I don’t have time for that. My daughter is the most important, and I won’t have her growing up with secrets and lies.
The truth shall set us free.
Prepare yourself. It’s gonna hurt.
***I would like to add a thank you to my parents. It is so natural for me to be thankful for them that I don’t think to mention it. They have always been here for me and for Lisa, and they have always loved us fiercely, if not affectionately (I’m okay with that!). My fear is that they will read this and future pieces, and it will dredge up hurt, and I don’t want to do that to them. They are very private people. But I want to do what I feel I am meant to do, and that is write (whether I become an accomplished writer or not). I can’t let my fear get in the way of what I really want to do (besides make jewelry!). That is why this is all only from my point of view; however, I know if I get any facts wrong, my mom will let me know!
I love you guys.