And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This will be an odd one. And it’s actually more a moment of peace, not happiness.
On October 6, the city of Waukesha was shocked when a woman stepped onto one of our railroad crossings, curled down in a fetal position between the rails, and allowed an oncoming train to take away her life. News sources told us that she was 60 years old, and that her identity wouldn’t be released until her family was notified.
Five days later, they said again that her identity would be released when her family was notified.
And then everything went silent.
I found myself pulled into this story. This woman was a year older than I am. She chose an incredibly fail-proof and instant way to die. I felt for her. I felt for the train conductor. I felt for her family, wherever they were. I felt for all of us, aghast at the story.
A week after this woman, another woman died in Kenosha on train tracks. That story has also gone silent – she was identified, but nothing was said as to what happened. Last February, a 47-year old man made the same decision on a different set of tracks in Waukesha.
A few months ago, a friend’s niece killed herself, and the family wrote the most incredibly beautiful obituary of acceptance and love I ever read.
A couple days ago, my daughter Olivia, turned 19 just today, asked me why a 60-year old would have anything to kill herself over. She said, “I just wonder what an older person could be going through that pushes them to their breaking point.” I felt my heart twist. I wanted to say, “Oh, honey, there’s so much,” but who wants to say that to their starry-eyed, compassionate daughter?
Every time I’ve driven over those railroad tracks since October 6, and I drive over them often, I look at where it happened and I just ache. It bothered me so that she didn’t seem to be known, and that no one seemed to be stepping forward. Why was she alone?
Last night, I contacted a resource and that resource contacted the police department, that said that the family had been found, but they didn’t want the name released. The woman, they said, had a mental illness and the death was a suicide, which, of course, we knew already.
I respect the family’s privacy. But oh, man. I so want them to step forward. To remember her. To honor her. And to celebrate the fact that she made it for 60 years. She fought through whatever challenges she had for 60 years.
60 years is a long time. She did it.
I’ve dealt with chronic depression for my whole life – I’m 59. It didn’t get called that until partway into my 20s, but it was there. My parents, not knowing, not understanding, made me feel ashamed. I was told I should be happy because I had a roof over my head, I had a small tv in my room, my own stereo. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t, and therefore it was because I was selfish and ungrateful. My high school saw red flags and stepped in and got me help, despite the fact that my parents refused to give permission. I consider this an action that saved my life. It led me onto the path that got me to further help when I was in college, away from home, and able to see doctors and therapists without my parents’ knowledge. My parents believed that all emotional help was “psychological mumbo-jumbo” and a way of “taking money from hard-working people.” So I made sure that my psychological mumbo-jumbo never cost them a dime. And it was priceless.
But it is always, always a challenge. There are days I don’t want to get out of bed, but I get up. There are days I don’t want to talk to anyone, but I talk. I remember what I’ve learned, and I do it. And I feel better for it.
My parents said I was ungrateful for what I had. Where am I grateful? That I didn’t end up on the train tracks. I am profoundly grateful for the help I’ve had.
And now there’s this woman. I wonder if she had anyone step out for her, the way I did.
So I will.
I want to honor her for what she lived through, whatever it was. I want to honor her for having the strength to get through 60 years, even if her strength failed her in the end. She’s caused, I’m sure, a tremendous amount of pain, of anguish. But I’m also sure she dealt with a tremendous amount of pain and anguish.
Knowing that she did have family, that someone has recognized her life and her loss, gives me some peace. But here, acknowledging that she lived, that she survived, rather than focusing on her death, gives me even more peace.
I wish I’d known her. Maybe I did. I wish I knew.
But I send prayers. I send understanding. I send love.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.