“I’ve been dreading and yearning for this day for nearly a year. It has been 340 days since you made The Decision. I am sure you had no idea it would result in this… me sitting here watching the flicker of candlelight battle between casting shadows and illuminating two small bottles with silver lids while I try, unsuccessfully, to pray. We are in an ancient church. The statues that line the stone walls proclaim it to be Catholic. It cost me 4 dollars to buy those candles and now here I sit, at the feet of Mother Mary–one of many with a heavy heart.
The last time I was in this city, I kidnapped my daughter from the hospital, fled to the airport, and in complete and utter panic, used three credit cards to purchase three one-way tickets back to the United States. For three years, I have refused to even watch a movie based in Paris. In making The Decision, I bet you didn’t know it would force me back here, to a magical place I equally loathe and love.
But here we are. Today, I fulfill my promise to you. Are you ready, Kara?
I zip up my leather coat and wind my scarf around and around my neck. Appropriately, I am dressed in black, black for what I am about to do, black for Paris. I grab my sunglasses and head out the door. Two bottles are clinking in my purse. As small as they may be, they eat up all the room, resulting in my decision to leave my wallet in the apartment. We are currently in the 14th arrondissement so I will have to take the metro to the seventh, where the Eiffel Tower lives.
As I push my way onto the metro, I keep a sullen b*tch look frozen on my face. No one here knows I am an imposter, a nonParisian. There was a time in my life when I used to smile on the metro, but not anymore. Grown men with cell phones and baguettes, who cared not at all to knock over a mother with two babies in order to claim the open metro seat, beat the smile out of me long ago. At the surge of the unwanted memories, I summon my elbows to sharpen. No one will get close enough to make me eat dirt and chance breaking these bottles.
As the metro jigs and jags along, I begin to reminisce and think of our times in Seattle, my life in Paris, my time with your mother during the Out of the Darkness overnight suicide walk in June.
An abrupt ‘pardon moi, Madame’ interrupts my thoughts. In my anger and solitude, I realize I have become the epitome of the attitude that darkens all of Paris. At this moment I am, quite unnecessarily, blocking the walkway. I move to the side, mutter ‘desole’ without actually feeling sorry and head back towards my memories…
…when a chubby little hand pats me on the leg.
‘Mommy, are we almost there?’ The softness I’ve refused to allow into my heart since arriving in Paris rushes at me with one smile from my little girl, my baby. She is four now and although she used to live in this city, she has no firsthand memories of it. Of course, I have implanted them for her with pretty tales of our Parisian life and numerous pictures. Because Mommy has yearned for Paris despite not wanting to, my baby idolizes the Eiffel Tower and has been asking to go there since arriving in this country a week ago. In her childhood innocence, she has no idea what Mommy carries in her purse because, well, I haven’t quite figured out how to explain cremation in a way that won’t frighten her even though she is very well versed in what ‘suicide’ means.
Very recently, I spilled my coffee all over myself and upon hearing the string of epithets I muttered under my breath she, in all her four-year-old wisdom said, ‘Remember, mommy, no matter how difficult life gets, you never give up. You never kill yourself.’ Her knowledge of things I want to protect her from slaps me in the face often. She followed that act while we were shopping for a new coloring book and crayons in Target. ‘Mommy, why did Kara kill herself? Didn’t she want to see her Mommy anymore? Mommy, are you going to die? Oh, Mommy, I don’t want you to die!’
I know we must all face our own mortality at one point or another in this life, but at four? Did you know The Decision would impact her as well, my sweet cousin?
My son is a different story. Where my daughter is bold and unflinching, he is thoughtful and sensitive. He needs time to reflect, to try and make sense of this world. He knows all about what Mommy has in her purse, but today he has very little to say about it. His reaction and questions will come later, perhaps in a week or so, before bedtime, while he lays both small and large in his superhero sheets, a mix of the man he will become and the sweet little boy he is.
In a computerized female voice, the metro announces our arrival. We pour out of the underground train in a jumble of foreign languages, cameras, and excited tourists. We have arrived.
It is time.
I follow Stephane’s lead as we navigate our way through traffic towards the Tower. Carousels assault us on all fronts, and we peel our children from them with promises that soon they can have a turn. Just a little longer.
We wind in and out, back and forth, until we arrive at the base of the Tower. Here is where we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday and here is where we will say our final farewell to you. We lift those lovely simple silver lidded bottles up for a picture. I don’t know whether this photograph will make it onto the walls of our living room, but surely your parents need one.
After our brief stint as the paparazzi, we make our way to a fenced-off pond with a single stunning tree just next to one of the Tower’s legs. There are ducks lounging on the bank of the pond and a badger close by. This tree looks strong and powerful, the roots a tangled mass of strength. I can only imagine how long this tree has been here, what sort of memories it has witnessed over the years.
And now it will witness another.
I stand there for a moment, clutching those two bottles in each hand, silver lids removed. I remember and begin to recite the ‘from dust you came and to dust you will return’ speech. I want to say it is from a funeral I dutifully attended, but more likely it is from a movie I watched. Thanks, Hollywood.
With a sweet nod from Stephane, I begin to overturn those bottles when anxiety rears its ugly head. I retract the lidless bottles, still full, and clutch them close to my heart. I’m angry. I’m sad. ‘Why did you do this, Kara? Why?’ I think about your beautiful newborn niece who will know you only through stories and 2D images. I think about the baby Cassie is carrying. ‘How could you choose to leave us? How could you sentence us, banish them, to a life lived without you?’
When I fumble for words, Stephane takes over. He is amazingly wonderful like that. He is powerful when I am not, strong when I am weak. He is my Yang. He verbalizes the memories we both carry of you, and then, very unlike him, he prays.
And as he prays, my eyes focus on the Tower before me, the one you so desperately wanted to see. In the beautiful lull that is his voice so full of hope for your spirit, my vision travels up up up the length of it to the top, which forms an arrow of sorts, an arrow that points towards the heavens. As I continue to follow the length of the arrow, I arrive at the sky, which is so blue on this day, it makes my heart ache. As I take a moment to breathe and watch the clouds pass overhead, I feel a new sensation: the peace and comfort of those that have gone before me. Our grandparents. My father.
And finally, you.
And inadvertently my hands begin to tilt. The contents of the bottles begin to pour out, decorating the roots of the tree.
Paris lights up and sparkles.
The burden in my heart begins to lift.
I need you to know I am no longer angry at you. I need you to know I no longer feel any guilt for the woulda shoulda coulda. I need you to know I love you. I need you to know I will remember you always. I need you to know I will ensure my children remember you as well. I also need you to know, as devastating as The Decision has been for all of us, in the darkness tiny seeds of beauty, few and far between, have been discovered. Our family has gotten closer.
I need anyone reading this who may be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts to know death by your own hand is not The Answer. It is a Choice. The Decision. The Dead-End Decision which will have far-reaching consequences on the people who love you, as well as on the people who love the people who love you. It will lead to Consequences you cannot even fathom. Please, for all of us, don’t do it.
I wish I could have shared a few more things with you, tidbits of wisdom my eight years give me on you, important things such as you don’t have to fit in to belong. But since you are no longer in a position to heed my advice, I will heed my own.
As my children recall every time they feel scared, the good guys always win. I believe there is truth in that. Good always conquers evil and therefore, I must never be on the wrong side of right. But even more than that, I want to be a giver of light, a spreader of love.
And so, on the way back to the 14th, I will smile. I promise I will smile. I will smile until my cheeks hurt and tears flow down my face. I will move out of the way before being asked. I will make eye contact with those who pass by. This behavior will not make me fit in, but somehow, I will still belong here in Paris. The city of light. The city of love. The city you will now forever be a part of.
As the sands, which once formed a girl we all loved, join with the ancient soil of this great place, I hear a song Cassie once said you loved playing on repeat in my head. I’m letting you go, Kara. For all of us, I am fulfilling my promise. For all of us, you are set free.
And, with all those thoughts, feelings and emotions, my bottles are empty. My heart is full.
Goodbye, beautiful girl. And until we meet again, sois en paix.”
[[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jaci Ohayon of Colorado. Follow her on Instagram here. and visit her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories from Jaci here:
‘If you do this, Kara, you will not be able to undo it. It will be permanent, forever.’: Woman writes letter after cousin’s suicide, ‘You must not know the impact it’s going to have on the rest of us’
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