falling slowly, my new chapbook from erbacce press is a posthumous gift to the singular best friend I’ve ever had. It might read rather weighty with drama, since one assumes others always to have plenty of friends, or if not, at least a close circle of friends. In my case over a lifetime, I’ve made a few close friends, yet never had the privilege of a ‘best friend’. Andrea G was just such an unexpected gift from life and the universe.
I wrote falling slowly for her and for myself, as a way to face the enormity of losing her; of losing a piece of my soul to the brutal realisation of not knowing how to save a life… her life.
It will haunt me forever and that will always remain my private hell. We shared writing and a love of language and she was a superbly gifted writer.
Her life was a journey of unreachable pain. In the last week of her life, I was in London on a business trip. I felt her presence surge within me. I knew I should call her, yet hesitated. I delayed throughout the week, not wanting to upset her, following a falling out we’d had. I decided to call her the Saturday morning when a friend called and told me she’d hung herself… just three days after her son’s 11th birthday.
The agony is indescribable. The rage the panic, the gutting of one’s stomach. It’s a blow to the head that left me reeling from breath to breath for days. I would rage with anger at myself for having let her down in so many ways… and ultimately I’d fall into despair unforgiving of all I had let down of myself.
We’d been part of the same social circle: there was no way I could step out into that world. It felt like my skin had been turned inside out: raw and perilous.
I became a recluse for more than three years and as I inched my way back to the surface of the living, I knew the only remaining grace I had being her friend, was to write a collection which could raise awareness and possibly funds and so be useful to others who suffer the same tragedy.
There are days it stills knocks the air out of me. Perhaps I can bring something useful to others by doing the planned lecture and reading tour for falling slowly scheduled for Spring 2011.
We tend to overlook suicide the way we over look the homeless, as we sidestep their invisible yet devoutly human existence aside us at street level.
We deny our humanity each time we pretend it’s about their being weak…. it’s just plain easier that way. Were we to consider it might be anything other than their individual weakness or their failure at living… we might be forced to face our own hypocrisies in the mirror and we’d far prefer to sell out our humanity than have to do that any day of the week.
Suicide is not a weakness nor it is a character flaw. Nor is it a cop out. It is the deepest possible degree of self rejection a human mind and heart is capable of, short of losing their mind entirely; and it is our failing that we live in a culture that refuses to understand what that means.
We all are falling slowly and we do so because we refuse to give credence to any other state of mind, than the grand gesture which should seek nothing but pre-packaged success.
We feed off the disaster of others like vultures, yet we refuse to even admit our own complicity in the basic social hypocrisy that feeds the frenzy defining failure by all the parameters other than what it really is.
We rush to save lives, to spread humanitarian precepts, yet a teen is gleefully egged on to kill himself online … and the audience denies complicity or guilt in any crime.
We plaster our minds with childhood abuse.. yet how abusive are we of those who are really different to ourselves?
We commit moral suicide every day, yet lack what it takes when the pain becomes just far too much for the mind and soul to bear, to have the heart it takes, in all its shatteredness, to take one’s own life.
That’s not to say I wasn’t mad as hell at Andrea for putting her son through a living hell.. and those who loved her. Yet what she taught me is not to judge but to seek an understanding of the unfathomable…
and so the why of Falling Slowly, for all its seeding in a profound personal loss, is my sharing something of the lessons she taught me of how to thrive between loss and living….