26 May

I just finished reading the book “Thirteen Reasons Why” because my daughter had read it and I wanted to talk about it with her. Between the book, and it being Memorial Day weekend, I find myself awash with memories and with emotions.

The premise of the book is that a junior in high school has killed herself. Before she died, she recorded 13 stories that ultimately led to her suicide, and she sent the tapes to folks involved so that they might listen and learn.

Things sometimes converge in interesting ways. Twenty-five years ago, when I was a junior in high school, I was seriously depressed and became suicidal. I was lucky: unlike the girl in the book, I reached out for help and got it. I was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for teenagers for over six weeks. At my request, when I first went in, my sister circulated a rumor that I had mono. But when I got back to school I was honest with everyone who asked. It hurt too much to try to lie.

Twenty-five years ago, on Memorial Day weekend, I broke my hand in what is called a “boxer’s break” after I punched a concrete wall. It was the day before I was to be released from the hospital. I was scared. A friend of mine had gone out with his parents on a day-pass and they had gone to Washington, DC for some of the Memorial Day ceremonies. Tim came back from his day out and he was so angry – angry that those of us still inside had spent all day without a thought to the sacrifices that our veterans make so that we might have freedom. Angry that young men had died for what he felt was a country that was going to hell in a hand-basket. Angry, too, to cover up his fear and concern for his dad, because like a notably large number of us in the hospital, he came from a military family. He lost it.

I remember calling out to him through the ventilation system after lights out: It will be okay. Hang in there. Don’t do anything dangerous. It will be okay.

It wasn’t okay. He got “bagged” – put into restraints and then into the solitary room. In frustration and not able to handle my own overwhelming emotions, I punched a wall and broke my hand. I spent the night before I was to go home in pain and confusion and fear – wanting desperately to get out but not knowing if I would make it. Depression doesn’t just go away.

I did go home the next day. Memorial Day, 1988. And forever after, on Memorial Day, I remember. At least for a few minutes during the weekend, I pause and I remember. I remembering wanting it all to end. I remember Tim, and the hospital. I rub my hand where the break was and remember summer school Calculus class with a cast on my right hand. I think about how thankful I am to have gotten the help that I needed. The slow road back to health that felt like it had more steps back than forward. I am in awe at how wonderful my life has turned out – I never would have believed it.

And I pause and I remember what made Tim so frustrated. I think about all those who sacrificed so much that we might be here today. I think about their families, and my heart hurts for them. I think about the men and women who come back wounded in body and spirit and the high rate of suicide among returning soldiers. And if, on Memorial Day, I am in the pulpit, I summon my sorrow and my gratitude and I preach it.

How could I not?

2 Responses to “remembering.”

  1. Del Ramey May 27, 2013 at 9:11 am #


    Wow! Depression is not something I associate with you.

    Glad you feel comfortable/safe enough with everyone to share this.

    The Sunday service already had plenty of “punch”. This adds some depth to the emotions felt on both sides of the pulpit.


    • Rev. Dawn May 27, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks, Del. I figured the timing was right to share this, and it was a good medium. I still struggle with depression very occasionally (every 5-7 years or so), but I recognize the signs and get help very quickly. That makes a huge difference.

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