Stand Up

National Suicide Prevention week for 2019 was Sunday, September 8 to Saturday, September 14. I feel this year is time to tell how suicide has impacted my life. I have had three people in my life choose suicide to end the internal torment they were experiencing. The pain that ran so deep it consumed them. These were people were my friends, I talked to them, I was a person in their lives. Why didn't they come to me? Why didn't they reach out for help?

I have spoken of the darkness that I have felt in the depths of depression, but I have chosen to pull myself from that place and live. My heart breaks thinking about another human being, another life with hope and love, would feel such deep despair. They choose to end the pain by removing themselves from it.

Jennifer Waldrop was my friend, but I didn't know her. I didn't have opportunity to get to know her very well; we only knew each other for a brief 3 months. I really was having fun getting to know Jenn though. She was my roommate, but you could hardly say we were living together. There were no nights of girl talk and doing our hair and nails. I don't remember much of life with Jenn in our apartment. She was my shipmate but drowned in her own darkness.

It was a typical fall day in Philadelphia, PA. October 20, 1993. Nothing exciting about that day. I was more excited to go to work this morning though, because I wanted to get the scoop from Jenn about the kitten she had picked up from the SPCA. We had chatted briefly about a cat, and I thought it was a great idea. I didn't go home the night before, I crashed at my boyfriends after a long night out. When I did get to work that morning, there really wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I was headed to the boathouse to get the day started. I wonder what I'll be painting today. The workday began and I jumped right in. But then I was approached and asked if I knew where Jenn was. Had I seen her that morning? I explained I had not been at the apartment the night before, I had't seen Jenn. Oh no, here comes the lecture on how I should behave. There was no lecture, no comments about me. All the questions were about Jenn. Was Jenn all right? Why didn't she come to work? Was she drinking last night? I was scared.

It was decided that I would go to our apartment to check up on Jenn. Well at least I wasn't sanding and painting the tow reel for the hundredth time. I didn't have to take the trip alone; the new kid was sent with me. The conversation was about the weather as we drove. Who cared about the weather, the sun is shining, big deal? The air is cool, it's almost winter in the Northeast, it's bound to be a cool fall day, duh. I have more important things to talk about. I am worried. The feeling of unrest grew in my stomach. I felt my heart beating fast. If Jenn isn't at the apartment, then I don’t even know where to begin looking for her. When we pulled up to the apartment, I saw Jenn's red Jeep parked out front and we parked beside it. I hopped out of the van and walked up the front path to the door. The new kid stayed in the van, guess he didn't want to come in. I unlocked the door, but it wouldn't open all the way. The safety chain was latched. I peeked in and called Jenn's name, Jenn, Jenn. I heard nothing. I looked in, saw our couch. to the right and a cat box from the SPCA on the floor. The cardboard box was open and laying on its side. Oh cool, Jenn got a cat. 'Hey Jenn, open the door. Where are you?' My calls were unanswered.

I have to get in. Why can't I get in? I laid my shoulder into the door but who was I kidding, I was 105 soaking wet, nothing gonna help here. I closed the door and tried to fling it open, haha. Nothing. The new kid got out of the van and was coming up behind me. I grew anxious, scared, worried. My heart beating fast. JENN OPEN THE DOOR. JENN ANSWER ME. I tried to remain calm, cool and collected. I didn't want to freak out while wrestling with a stupid door. This door couldn't defeat me. I backed up a few steps from the door, raised my right foot, and kick with anger beating in my heart. I could feel the beat in my head. Wow, that wasn't too hard. The door swung open, and I went in. My feet one in front of the other and I wasn't realizing I was walking. Jenn, Jenn. No answer, dead silence. Just that. The stairs were to the right across the Living Room, past the the cardboard cat carrier from the SPCA. Jenn wasn't on the first floor, the kitchen empty. It smelled like grease and toast. OPS normal. Did Jenn make breakfast? Nope, no dirty dishes. 'Jenn, Hello?' Nothing, no words. I started upstairs, my heart beating fast. I realized I was crying. Why are you crying? Your such a girl. 

It felt like each step took me 5 minutes to climb. My feet heavy, each step labored, I couldn't breathe. DON'T GO UP THERE. When I could see past the top step, the bathroom door was open. Jenn wasn't in there. Well at least I didn't have to see Jenn walking out after a bath, naked. That would have been awkward. Don't keep walking up the stairs. Don't look to the left. I looked. The small hallway to my left, leading to the two bedrooms. The door to the linen closet on the right was open, and a wooden dining chair was knocked over on its side in front of the open closet. I saw Jenn's small pedicured toes resting on the brown carpet, with small strands of the plush carpet creeping up around her feet. What are you doing Jenn? Her body was at an awkward 30-degree angle, arms dangling to her side and her head looking down to the left. This wasn't right. It's so wrong. Look away. I couldn't make myself reach forward to help Jenn. I couldn't release her from the choke hold of pain, misery, hurt, anger and despair that brought her to this. It wasn't right. I could feel despair and fear. Run away. No, help Jenn. STAND UP JENN!! I knew she wasn't breathing. I stood there observing; every labored breath I took through my sobs. I am breathing, Jenn can't, her body choked of this breath. I was so scared, helpless. Is that how Jenn had felt? I knew I couldn't help at this point. Jenn's neck was bulging around the rope, held tight in it's choke hold. Run Away. Don't look, You can't help, it's too late. I don't know what to do. Call for help. I am here to help. I was sent to help. I can't pick you up Jenn. Just stand up. My worthlessness made me turn and run. Run down the stairs and out into the cool fall day. The calm breeze touching my face, whispering in my ear. I could now feel the sting of warm tears flooding down my face. No, No, No, NO, NO. Jenn stand up, it will be OK. We will make it OK, I'm here to help. 

As I knelt there, in a crumpled mess on the front grass, a kind neighbor came out and lead me to her living room. Guess it's time to calm down and take control of myself. This is no way a military person should act. I'm here to help. The neighbor's Living Room looked the same. Kitchen off to the left, stairs off to the right, except I bet you there wasn't a dead roommate at the top of the stairs in the small hallway. The sirens grew closer, the new kid sitting awkwardly in the small kitchen nook to the left. Poor guy, he is so new. Hey, welcome to the Coast Guard. The sirens broke the calm air surrounding us and I went from numb to high alert; except I was so tired. I want to be numb. Just sit there, breath. Breath? But I want Jenn to breath, then I wouldn't feel this way. Kinda selfish of me. A cop came up to me, and I looked to my left, up into his strong gaze, and his sad eyes. His uniform spoke of authority and someone to help. He had a 'make everything right' demeanor. He looked down and said, "I'm sorry." No words could come from my mouth. Yeah, I'm sorry too. I'm sorry I can breath and Jenn isn't. Sorry isn't going to fix it. I was nauseous. I had to puke. No, I wasn't going to run upstairs and use the bathroom. I ran out front, and puked right there in the middle of the front lawn. I should have used the bushes. As I stood there, numb from life, I saw the paramedics roll a gurney out. It's Jenn, covered in a white sheet. Covered from head to toe. Breath Jenn let me see the sheet move. The only movement was the cool breeze against the corner of the sheet dangling softly off the side of the gurney. No one looked me in the eye, no one could. Someone please tell me it's going to be OK. 

The minutes of October 20th turned into hours, the hours into days, the days into weeks; and then forever. The years eventually rolled by, but the pain didn't. I'll never put a comforting arm around Jenn. I'm sorry, Jenn. I'm here waiting for you to stand up and breath. Oh, what did you name the kitten? She's such a cute little calico. I miss you. 


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