Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Time Turning Anger to Pity

When Liz's father killed himself, just days after Simon was born, I was overcome with anger.

Liz has depression and was already at high risk for post-partum depression. I was furious that he'd be such a selfish ass to put her through the grief of his death, especially at such a delicate time.

I was furious at what I saw as his enormous selfishness. He didn't seem to care how his death would impact either of his kids.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that when he successfully killed himself (just a week or so after a failed attempt), I had thoughts like "good riddance."

After all, his death made my mother-in-law's life much easier. They were in the process of a divorce, and he'd been doing everything possible to intimate her, screw her out of a fair settlement, and bully her. Estate, after all, is much easier to deal with than divorce, and my mother-in-law's collection of life insurance ensured that she would retire with some financial security.

As more time passes, the anger fades and is replaced, mostly, by pity and shame that I was so angry.

Rick was an unhappy man most of his life. He had an awful childhood. He had chronic health problems (degenerative disc disease and menier's disease) that caused him pain most of his waking moments, deprived him of 70% of his hearing, and kept him from sleeping properly. He was bipolar and unable(/unwilling?) to aggressively treat this mental illness.

He had been diagnosed with an "organic brain disease" some time earlier and kept this information from his family. If he had been willing to pursue it, he might have been able to slow the progression and hang on to more of his rational mind (he was an engineer and a history buff with a very active intellect).

More and I more, I find myself thinking about how miserable and hopeless he must have felt in order to be able to do what he did. He had to have filled all his prescriptions, bought a bunch of over-the-counter pills, acquired a large amount of water with which to wash the pills down, and swallowed fistful after fistful in a methodical manner.

More and I more, I find myself thinking that the right to decide when to die may be the ultimate civil liberty, and I should respect his tragic choice.

More and more, I think about my anger towards Rick as a part of wanting to develop more mindfully charitable thinking towards others.

I still feel anger over the grief he put my family through at the worst of possible times, but that anger seems more appropriately proportionate now- once facet of more complex feelings about a man, for all his faults, co-created my Liz. I do believe that he loved Liz as well as he could, given his under-treated mental illnesses. When Liz has moments or days of sadness when thinking about her father, a scowl doesn't appear on my face or in my heart. Sympathy does. Pity does.

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