Do not go gentle into that good night… a letter to my friend

I have worked hard in my life to open a dialogue between active and former Mormons, mostly because so many of my family remain active the LDS Church, as well as most of my childhood friends. I still live here, it is my culture, and I would like to see people respect each other’s differences.

But again and again I am reminded that this is probably not possible, and will never be possible.

This past week, a friend of mine passed away. That’s the nice way to say it. The truth is, he killed himself. He was only about eight months older than I am, and our fathers grew up together, and have remained best friends. I’ve known him my whole life, and have spent countless hours with the family. Two of his sisters fought to have his funeral done the way my friend would have wanted it. He was not an active Mormon, and had not been inside a Mormon temple in years. But his older sister and her husband came into town, and VOILA, suddenly everything my friend and her other sister had been fighting for was completely disregarded.

Now, he would be buried in his temple clothes, instead of his tux. Now, the brother-in-law, a self-righteous muckety-muck in the Mormon religion, would be speaking, instead of the family members. Now, his friends would not be allowed to get up at the end and share stories, because THAT IS NOT HOW MORMON FUNERALS work.

I am sickened by this charade and mockery of a life. My friend is dead because of intense pressure to be something he was not. He hated conflict so much, he would do or say anything to avoid it. In short, he would tell anyone what they wanted to hear.

The family is blaming his ex-wife, his Mormon friends blaming his “drinking buddies,” his “drinking buddies” (most of whom were not really drinking buddies) blame the society in which he was raised.

I don’t see that it’s really getting anywhere for ANYONE, but I do have some things I would like to say to him. I know he won’t hear them. It’s too late. As I have said more than once, you can’t take back “dead.” Still, to put them on paper will give me some closure.

Dear Charming One,

It is still hard for me to comprehend the shocking news we received at the first of this week. Yes, it was shocking. Somehow, I think to myself I should have seen it in your eyes. I should have felt the pain oozing out of your soul.  You killed yourself. And you left behind hundreds of people asking “why?” Why would you do this? Why didn’t you talk to us? Why didn’t you tell us how badly you were hurting?

I think part of it was that you were living two lives. The one that your parents and Mormon family wanted you to live, and the one  you wanted to live. All of it secret, and hidden. That will tear you apart inside. I guess you already know that. Some of us are able to walk outside that line they drew for us, growing up, and say, “Uh wait a minute. This is crap. Who are you trying to kid here?” But that comes at a cost. We hurt our families and our friends when we tell them we think their belief system is a load of shit. It is easier to stay quiet, and let them believe that we are on the same ship as they are, heading to the same place.

Of course, those two ships–How We Really Feel and How They Feel–are very far apart, with an ocean between them. It wears you out swimming from ship to ship. At some point, especially after so many years swimming the divide, you just decide to quit. It’s too hard. You can’t swim one more foot, let alone one more mile or miles.

It just is easier to let go and drown, because you can’t keep up the pretense. People on both sides have noticed you missing at pivotal times. Times when you were in the water or on the other ship, trying to keep everyone happy.

I know you served a mission, and you didn’t really want to go. Now, certain members are making certain you are being buried in your temple clothes, instead of the tuxedo you adored and wore every chance you got. Those members are also going to speak at your service, and do not feel that it is appropriate to have an open time at the end for people to talk about their memories of you.

That is not what Mormon funerals are about. But this is not a traditional Mormon funeral. This is your goodbye. In your memory.

Why do they think their feelings are so much more important than yours?

This is causing dissension in your family. It is also causing dissension among your many friends. And yet, it made me realize just how sad all of this really is, because YOU didn’t know how many friends you had. You didn’t know how devastated we were all going to be when we heard the news.

I alternate between anger at your decision, and guilt in wishing I had, or could of, done more. We had some good serious talks, Charming One, and you acted like you were listening. But in the end, I guess the pain was just too much.

Now you have left a tornado’s destruction in your passing. Suicide brings a whole new kind of grief to play. Your young children are confused and befuddled–and fatherless. Your mom and dad are devastated, and your sisters the same. They should not have had to pick out a coffin for you. Decide what you would wear in your coffin. Bury you in the cold winter ground. But they DO have to, and it is wreaking havoc on all of them emotionally.

And I miss you. I helped write your eulogy, and I realized that you were hurting so bad inside, you had to think this was your only option. Why else would you do this? Maybe you thought this would finally stop the hurt for your parents and family, without realizing this is the very, very worst kind of hurt.

They will never completely recover.

I’m sorry your pain was that deep. I wish I could have eased it. I miss you, and your funny stories and jokes. Every time I turn around something reminds me of you, and what you did. I know this will ease in time, but for now it’s fresh and raw.

I wish you would have fought. I wish you would have realized you were WORTH fighting for, and loved yourself like we all loved and love you.

I wish you could have had a It’s a Wonderful Life experience, so you could see how different we would all be if you had never been born. But this isn’t the movies, and it doesn’t work that way. You are gone.

Saturday we will bury you. You didn’t rage against the dying of the light. You gave in. I hope you are at peace now. And for those of us left behind, I will share my favorite poem.

Rest in peace, Charming One. RIP.

Love, Natalie

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

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About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
This entry was posted in Everybody wants to be us, Ex-Mormons are the angriest people I know, Mormon Hatemail Bag and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Do not go gentle into that good night… a letter to my friend

  1. Carla says:

    You have my deepest sympathy for your loss. I’ll be holding you and all his friends and family in my heart today.

    Like

  2. Michael Mock says:

    I’m never sure what, if anything, condolences are worth from strangers; but I am very sorry to hear of your loss.

    Like

  3. Carol Luce says:

    Suicide touched our lives this week as well. My granddaughter’s best friend’s father killed himself. The family is devastated and inconsolable. I’m sorry for the loss of your good friend. Maybe a private memorial at another time with the non-Mormon loved ones might be something to consider.

    Like

  4. Paul Winchester says:

    (I edited this comment to remove all references to real people, as this is written by my brother-in-law. Other than that, I have left it as is.)

    Nat, I am sorry for your pain. But, trying to blame this on Charming One’s Mormon upbringing is a bit off base. Remember, I lived this nightmare for many years with my wife. She was sick and after talking with his family, Monday night, it was very obvious that HE was also sick. It has taken me years to get over the guilt and the flash backs of seeing my late wife hanging in our basement. But it wasn’t my fault or the “Church” or her famliy. It was a little bit of everything life gives us. Some people don’t have the coping skills because of their illness. My late wife blamed me for some of her problems and when I took ownership of what was my past “issues” she had a hard time blaming me for her current problems.

    Ultimately, she dropped her therapist and self-medicated herself to the point she only saw one way out. Charming One turned to alcohol as did my late wife. Alcohol is a depressant…as you know it only makes things worse. I haven’t had a drink since her death because I have seen first hand what drinking can do.

    She left the Mormon church and aired her feelings very openly, so I highly doubt that if Charming One would have done that, he would have been healed from his “problems”. She denied her belief in the Mormon faith and she still couldn’t “deal” with life’s pressures. Slamming on the Mormon church does not heal people. It only fuels the pain more. I know this because I have seen it happen first hand. I even did it myself for awhile when I was angry at God for what was happening to her, but soon realized that it is better to focus on things that make me happy.

    Yes, I have a strong belief in the Mormon faith, but I also respect others who do not. I have children, friends, and other relatives who are no longer practicing Mormons, but they do not take the time to slam my beliefs. What is the point? Life is about love. Not hurting the ones you love.

    I am sorry that the Charming One’s family is not doing his funeral the way you think it should be done. Here is the thing, do you think he cares? Do you think he is freaking out because it is not being done the way he would want it done? I honestly don’t think so. I did not bury my late wife in her temple clothes, and I tried to give her the kind of funeral I thought she would want…but I must say, I really don’t think that she would have cared one way or the other…

    You know that I care about, love, and respect you. I am not trying to offend you here…just simply give you some things to think about.

    Like

  5. Kim says:

    Natalie,

    Well said! You have the gift of words and used those eloquently in this blog. Thank you for that. Love ya!

    Like

  6. JulieAnn says:

    People who are unduly religious seem to be the ones most shaken by death. I find that to be ironic, but also a plausible reason for their obsessive need to adhere as closely as they can to their beliefs when someone they love passes.

    I truly liked and enjoyed our friend. The times spent in our home hold extremely fond memories for me. He was a stellar person and there will always be a huge hole in our group now that he’s gone. But right now, his family is terrified. I remember when planning my parent’s funeral, I felt outraged by the hostile take-over displayed by my believing-family members in the process. I felt all personal touches were gone. Then, my then-boyfriend, K, said something I’ll never forget: “Your brothers need to do it this way because they are terrified. Their faith is being shaken. Understand that this is what they need to comfort themselves.”

    From that point on, I was at peace with their “mode of grief” because I felt compassion for them in their fear. I, too am afraid. But I can admit it, say I’m unsure, and it doesn’t shake the very foundations of my belief system.

    Will miss you today.

    Like

  7. Michele cryer says:

    A very moving, tragic and beautiful memorial..I’m very sorry that his funeral has been taken over by people who don’t really appear to have understood him properly.

    Like

  8. Adam says:

    Funerals are for the living, not the dead. Seems like there were no winners in this one.

    Like

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