January 3, 2020
The above is a print that was created by artist Bruce Lowney. I bought this print in Santa Fe in 1983 — he was hot on the scene then. But he was not an artist that focused on the Southwest, except for maybe some of his landscapes in which he placed his “subjects”. For instance, the above reminds me of the many pecan orchards in New Mexico that grow along the Rio Grande in the southern part of the state. They are perfectly in order, and create beautiful lines, as you see above. I always laughed at the humor in this piece — a dark humor. I never thought it would become significant to me.
You see, my son committed suicide in December, just weeks after I am writing this.
This was not what “Truths Part 3” was supposed to be about. It was meant to lead into my mom’s battle with mental illness, and her experience of forcibly being subject to ECT treatment for six weeks in Galveston, Texas in the 1960s, and the result it had on her life, then and now.
Instead, I am grieving the death of my own son due to chronic severe depression. I wasn’t even aware that he had gone through identical treatments, although much more humane than those that took place in the ’60s, until after his death. We were disconnected for too long.
It was exactly 6:00pm Mountain Standard Time on Monday, December 10, 2019 that we would all learn of his fate at the same time via an email message scheduled to be sent in advance. The notes were all standardized, but a bit of each one was personalized. My daughter and I received the identical notes.
“I’ve been in too much pain for too long, the last year being the worst of it. And it just makes sense for me to opt out now. It’s what I want for myself. I’ve done everything I wanted to do in this life. I don’t know what else to say. Now, I just hope for your own happiness in your life, because I’ll be fine”.
Opt out? What??? And this is just the first paragraph. “…I scheduled this email for a few days in the future so you would receive it once I am no longer alive.”
“This society is brutal and I needed out and I know others do too and it’s ridiculous it’s illegal to peacefully exit ourselves, yet it’s compassionate to show that to animals. Totally absurd. But it all does end. Thank God. At least that’s how I see it, for me.”
By this time, the phone started ringing. We became frantically involved with the Laramie and Albany County, Wyoming, Sheriff’s departments, as well as the police forces in both Cheyenne and Laramie. While all parties said the outlook was grim, it was believed they were in a wilderness area called the Vedauwoo on the Albany/Laramie county line. It was bitterly cold and the snow was already deep from a recent storm. We got no further news on that Monday. All we had was what had already been written. It left us little hope.
The car they used was located Tuesday on which they had attached a big note with a phone number that proved to be made up. They didn’t want to be found. But it was at that point from which the sheriff’s began their search with cadaver dogs. We were just left waiting for the “grim” news. That news came through later that evening, when the pair (I’ll explain later) were discovered in a tent in an area that was not a campground. Alex and his companion were found — dead — in that tent, hand in hand. My little boy was gone.
This day was full of fielding calls and planning logistics to get to Wyoming. We had to have one landing from Portland, one from Chicago, and me from Albuquerque convening in Denver at about the same time so that we could make the drive up to Wyoming together.
Fortunately the weather cooperated, and this odd family of three was reunited for the first time since 2011. We drove north on US 287 with the wind blowing and kicking up snow. The antelope were thick. We stopped at the “Welcome to Wyoming” sign and screamed into the wilderness. In just an hour or so, we would see Alex for the last time. In advance of our visit, we stopped and had a late afternoon snack at Taco Bell in Laramie, one of Alex’s favorites. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) An older man tried a pick up line on Shoshi. She simply said, “we’re here because my brother killed himself”. And that was the end of that.
The Funeral Home
At 4:00pm, Alex was ready for viewing. With trepidation, the three of us went into the room one at a time. Alex looked just like Alex — the harsh Wyoming cold had preserved him well. It is thought that their last day on this earth may have been 12/6/2019, but we are waiting for the final toxicology report. Initially, their cause of death was suicide by means of lethal intake of pentobarbital — a drug used to put animals to sleep. The initial report was that they took about 10x what is the lethal dose for a human.
I hugged him — tried to make him warm. I ran my hands through his healthy swarth of hair. I kissed his forehead repeatedly. I just wanted him to come alive again, as he looked so close to life. We each took turns, individually and collectively, for the next three hours with him.
Then it was on to the business side of dying. Our mortician was a true sweetheart, and explained everything to us. Alex would be cremated on Friday, with his ashes available to pick up on Saturday. I’ve never felt more like a grown up than I did in those moments.
After our final goodbyes, the three of us left for Cheyenne, where we would, on Saturday, meet Damien’s family. To be continued…