Recently, a beloved former councilman, Miguel Silva, age 55, committed suicide here in Las Cruces. What a shock to us all because Silva was known for his outgoing personality and fun-loving ways. He wore outlandish hats, performed magic tricks and had a rowdy laugh.
He often wore a bow tie, to me, a symbol of jauntiness. Accordingly, the community paid tribute to him by commissioning a local artist, Scott Murray, to design a bow tie memorial. They attached the tie to a tree in Klein Park, located in Silva’s former district.
The bow tie belies what Silva must have been feeling. The cravat masked his heartache, which is why we all were so stunned by his death.
Unfortunately, I have had many close-at-hand encounters with suicide. One relative attempted it in my living room. Although he was unsuccessful that day, years later, he succeeded. Another relative’s about-to-be ex-wife alerted us to her husband’s suicide threat, so my husband and brother rushed over, intervened, and brought him home to sleep over. I had a restless night listening to his moves up and down, fantasizing about what he might be doing in the bathroom.
A work acquaintance once called and asked if I would invite him to our next party. I promised to add him to our guest list but nothing was being planned for the next month or two. After I discovered that he committed suicide, I felt mortified.
I would never criticize a person who committed suicide, but I would counsel that it leaves survivors with a lot of guilt. Is that part of the intent?
I had another friend who took his own life. Later, I learned that so had his mother and sister. Was committing suicide genetic? Or was it a learned behavior? Regardless, suicide is a terrible legacy.
Once, of my daughter’s friends arrived at the door and claimed he was suicidal and would we help him commit himself at County General Hospital? We called the hospital that advised us to bring him in Sunday, the next day. Meanwhile, we felt helpless. It was a Saturday night and while my husband, Harold, distracted him in the living room, I went into the den and called the Suicide Prevention Hot Line. Guess what? The line was continuously busy and I never got through.
Decades ago, my insightful four-year-old granddaughter admonished me, “Do you know how another person feels inside?” I had to admit that I didn’t recognize her pain. And that is a life lesson. We never know how another person feels inside regardless of outward demeanor.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who treasures every day of her life, especially now that she is closer to the end of her journey.