This is for everyone out there who is currently hearing the whispers of desperation, the call of the void reaching out to them, even in the places we hide.
My name is Robert and I have something to say. I live in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, a place of great natural beauty surrounded by the trappings of humanity. (Yes, parts of Niagara are ridiculously tacky, but on the plus side, Rob Ford isn’t our mayor and we’re not bankrupt like Detroit.) Every day we welcome strangers to our home; everyone is greeted with a smile and the hand of friendship. We never turn anyone away and regardless of how these strangers feel when they leave, one thing is certain: No one is unaffected by the unimaginable power of the Falls themselves.
The rushing waters are a symbol of purity and power and as they fall to the earth below they represent the cycle of rebirth; I like to think the waters themselves are transformed by their descent and head out to their destination irrevocably changed.
But for a number of you the Falls represent an ending, a conclusion to your cycle of pain and confusion. We don’t talk about it, but the citizens of this city know the truth: Niagara is a temporary home to millions who have come to appreciate its beauty, but there are also those among the teeming masses who have come here to die.
Over the years many of them have succeeded in their quest.
Some of them were our own brothers and sisters, fellow citizens who lost their way.
Even now, as I sit here surrounded by the stillness of a Monday morning there are those of you who are lonely among us. You have tried to live a life of joy and fulfillment, only to find the path to happiness blocked by obstacles both man-made and seemingly-ordained by fate.
There was once a man who lost his wife and children to circumstances he felt were beyond his control. They remained among the living but were no longer an integral part of his daily life. And so he donned a suit, loaded a briefcase with a notebook containing his final thoughts, and headed out in the darkness to his final earthly destination.
He stood at the literal brink and after a few moments of solitary reflection he lashed out at those souls who toil in the midnight hour who had happened upon him while living out their own lives. They reached out to the authorities but no one could stop his crusade. No words were sufficient.
He was someone’s son. He was a father, a husband, a friend. He was a lost soul like many of you, with a history and a place in this world, though, simply put, he could no longer perceive it and so he felt orphaned, shut out of his very existence.
And in one swift motion, he gathered the last of his waning strength and clamored over a guardrail. He ignored the screams resonating behind him and he gave himself over to the forces of gravity.
I cannot say with absolute certainty what his final thoughts were as he descended to the waters below but I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would have chosen to live. But the die was cast. His form struck the rapids and the void welcomed him as it does everyone.
In one horrible, irrevocable instant, he was gone, everything he was and ever could be, was erased by the waters.
But you, my friends, are still here. I know you are hurting. Some of you have hidden that pain well and walk among us smiling and seemingly-connected to this world. But you are not filled with joy when the world grows quiet. We cannot hide in the darkness when our tainted thoughts are all we have to reflect upon.
The holiday season is in motion and ironically, this time of celebration serves as a cruel reminder to those of you who are isolated by your pain. We’ve been raised to associate Christmas with family and commercialism. The lesson most children draw from the holiday season is this: If you love someone the most appropriate way to display that love is to purchase expensive, shiny gifts wrapped in gaudy packaging and if you have no one to love, then you, my friend have failed at the game of life.
Personally, I’ve always felt Christmas should serve as a new beginning. Jesus was born to save the world and so the world as it existed before his birth vanished with his first cries and it would never be the same again. Of course, he inspired the masses, but his followers could not save him from an unjust end and as his story concluded, he died questioning his father’s wisdom… and you know what? I really think I’m losing my way here.
I want to reach out to those among you who have lost hope. I want to ensure you don’t visit my city with the intention of ending your existence. I want to give you a reason to go on, to make sure sure the darkness doesn’t overwhelm you.
But ultimately, I cannot help you. I’m a simple man, a bellman who fancies himself a writer. Once upon a time, however, I was a lonely high school boy who, while carrying the load of a childhood trauma, self-righteously believed his failure to secure a date meant his life was a complete and utter failure. One fateful night I took up a position at the brink and with tears in my eyes I prepared myself to jump.
(Not to be a spoilsport, but as you’ve probably realized, the void failed to entice me fully and so my life continued, resulting in my ultimate fate as a smart-ass hospitality worker and blogger.)
As a grown man looking back at his life I cannot help but feel ashamed at my tunnel vision. If I had dove to my end that night my daughter wouldn’t be here today and my child is one of this world’s brightest lights.
Trust in this, my friends: Regardless of how much you’re hurting, no matter how much misery infects your soul, there is always hope. Life is warmth and laughter. The void is cold and quiet.
Life is bacon cheeseburgers, milkshakes, superhero movies and orgasms. The void doesn’t have any of these and should be avoided at all costs.
Living is hard its true, but nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.
Dying is easy. Any cheese-eating high school boy can climb a railing and fall forward. A coward chooses death. Not that cowardice is anything to be ashamed of; acknowledging that I was afraid of living gave me sufficient strength to carry on.
I hope I’ve struck a nerve with you. “Coward” is a heartless, ugly word when applied to suicide, but I hope it causes you to feel… well, something. Quite frankly, I’d rather you feel anger that causes you to lash out and connect with the world rather than apathy that drives you further away. Please bear in mind that my intentions are good.
I hope you see yourself reflected in the tale of the wayward father who believed that tomorrow had no place for him. My heart goes out to him, but my heart bleeds for the children he left behind, the children who will no doubt spend the rest of their lives questioning their role in his suicide.
Life is hard. Living takes courage.
Do whatever you have to, my friends, but find that courage. I don’t want to have to write a post like this ever again.
POSTSCRIPT: One of my blogging allies, Twindaddy, has made his own contribution to this cause. Click here or on the image below to be enlightened and touched by his words.