In the first chapter of my true cancer survival book, “Crossing the Chemo Room,” I tell about the Christmas when I was 4 years old, and my father shot himself in front of me and my mother after he had been drinking.
Twenty years later, my mother died just after Christmas, from an accidental, lethal combination of Valium and wine. My only brother disappeared into the wilderness the next year, never to be found. Suicide can run in families like ripples from a rock thrown into a lake, and it is not easily forgotten.
Although the suicide rate is not highest during the winter holidays, it happens because people can drink too much or take drugs to feel less depressed over lack of family or gifts. If you see someone who is hurting, talk to him. Learn about suicide. Offer help. This Christmas, light a candle against the darkness of suicide.
“Crossing the Chemo Room”
“When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the LORD will take care of me.”
I always wanted a normal life. You know, the kind with two parents and lots of siblings in a wooden house. You could even add a white picket fence. I would grow up in that same house, near cousins and aunts and uncles, in my secure, familiar American town. I would go to school and church down the street. I would marry the boy next door, have kids, and live near my parents and the rest of our large, happy family.
I always wanted to live in the mountains. Most of my life I have lived in lowlands, deserts, or valleys. But for a short time, when I was nine years old, I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
My brother Kerry and I would explore upward paths bordered by blackberries and overshadowed by pines. We would find high meadows and streams flowing between gray boulders. Tadpoles swam in still pools carved into the granite. Kerry and I would catch the slippery creatures, admire their small legs, then let them go. We would climb as high as we could, sit on the edge of a cliff, and watch the sunset change distant peaks from misty blue to gold so bright we could hardly look at it.
I wondered how a person could cross the chasm between the clifftop and those peaks. Continue reading