How to Save a Life

by Kathy on August 8, 2011 · 3 comments

in Change, Decisions, Grief, Healing, Hope, Loss, Love, Memories, Peace, Song Lyrics, Suicide Prevention, Time

We have all lost friends and loved ones throughout our lives. It isn’t easy to let go of those who have meant so much to us. Some relationships come and go because the circumstances of our worlds change (such as our jobs, where we live or the addition of new family members). Some connections seem to fade when our interests and how we choose to spend our time evolves. Other times bonds break when we don’t see eye to eye, when someone does something to offend us or when we ourselves hurt a loved one’s feelings (even if our intentions were good). Another very painful way that we lose friends and loved ones is when they die. There is no way to sugar coat it.

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it’s just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
And you begin to wonder why you came

I have lost more loved ones at the age of 36 than I would have expected, or could have even imagined, as a younger adult. All four of my grandparents (that I felt very close to) have passed away. My daughter Molly was born and died on April 17, 2008 of a rare, severe and fatal combination of congenital heart defects just shy of 30 weeks gestation. I have lost friends and family members to cancer, Alzheimer’s, other diseases and heartbreaking tragedies. Each loss has been very difficult for me to experience, to grieve and to heal from. However, one of the hardest losses that I have lived through in my adult life was when a dear friend chose to take her own life.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

When I think rationally, I understand that there is truly nothing that I could have done to change the outcome of the story of my friend’s life and how it ended (much too soon, in my opinion). However, when I allow myself to step away from clear thinking and reasoning, I wonder if there was something I could have done or said that might have given my friend the will to want to live another day.

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you’ve told him all along
And pray to God, he hears you
And pray to God, he hears you

I realize that many who choose to take their own lives struggle with mental illness (as was the case with my friend). I appreciate that my friend tried to make her life work for many years before ending it prematurely. I try to tell myself that there was nothing anyone (even me, especially me) could have done to stop my friend from taking her own life and yet I wonder… I wonder and I want to know why? Why did my friend do this? Why didn’t my friend reach out to someone (anyone, including me) before taking that last breath?

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

I have thought about my friend many times since I learned of her death. I have grieved this loss differently than when other loved ones have gone before me because I struggle so much with the why and how of my friend’s passing.

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you’ve followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he’ll say he’s just not the same
And you begin to wonder why you came

I wish that I had one more chance to be with my friend in this life. I wish that I could talk with my friend and remind her how very much I cared about her. I wish I knew what my friend was thinking about and how she was feeling during the last moments of her life. I want so much to believe that my friend knew how much she was loved by so many (how much I loved her).

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

I know that can’t go back in time. I can’t change the past or the circumstances of my friend’s death. I have to try to do my best to believe that my friend knew how much I loved and cared about her. I choose to accept that my loved one’s life had become too overwhelming for her to bear anymore. Though I have great trouble understanding why another human being would take their own life, I am learning to make peace with the fact that someone I loved and cared deeply for took hers.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

I realize that it is not my responsibility to save the lives of my friends and family. I can do everything in my power to let them know how much I love, care about and want to protect them in this lifetime, but if and when their time here on Earth is over (for whatever reason), I have to find the wisdom and courage to accept that I did all that I could for my loved ones.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

Even if I could have “stayed up with you all night,” I believe that I still would not have been able to save your life. I hope that wherever you are on the other side that you have found the peace and serenity that eluded you at the end of your life here on Earth. I love you my friend and I miss you. I will never forget you. You will always be in my heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: For those not familiar with the lyrics I shared in brown italics in this post, they are from the song “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. Not long after my friend’s death I heard this song on the radio and it both haunted and inspired me. Ever since then, I think of my friend when I listen to it. After wondering what moved The Fray to write and record this song, one day I researched it and found this Wikipedia entry. I was fascinated to find out the back-story and thought you might be interested too.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 It Is What It Is August 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Sending hugs up and to you and your friend.

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2 HereWeGoAJen August 9, 2011 at 6:54 am

I wonder if you ever have saved a life. It's very possible that you have done something or said something that has and you just don't know about it.

Much love to you.

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3 Lavender Luz August 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Oooh. I really like what Jen said. You never know how you are affecting other people, which makes it so important to be mindful of our interconnectedness.

My family dealt with such an issue 3 years ago next month. The WhatIfs are haunting, if pointless.

You are a good friend.

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