Friday, July 06, 2012

Malaysia non start

I saw her at my step father's funeral a couple of years ago. Her clothes were stunning. Her hair was expensively cut and coloured. I wondered who she was. Was she the neighbour? We took Mother home after the funeral and I her saw again out of Mother's lounge room window, walking her dog. Ok, she is mother's neighbour. I really did not know her at all.

When Mother moved to her house where she has lived for the last 35 years, her immediate neighbours were Des and Joan. Both were kind to Mother and helped often enough to get my siblings to to school or for medical appointments. Then Step Father came along and all got along well until Des and Joan separated. Des got stayed on and got himself a Filipina mail order bride. He chose well. They had a successful marriage and produced a high achieving daughter and all was good until he died.

As time went on after Step Father died, the widow next door and the newly widowed Mother became closer. After the break in, they became ever closer, checking on each other, looking for anything unusual but not being really friends. Why not friends? My mother is very old Australian. She was brought up with the words dago, Eyetalian and foreigner. Hang on, no that was me. But you get the gist. But whatever the racial differences, they were both widowed woman living next door to each other and supported each other.

Once home from our holiday I called Sister. Bone Doctor answered. After a brief chat, she said can I get your sister to call you back at a more convenient time? Ok, yes, 6.30 is a bad time to call, but I don't know their organisation and that dinner prep is underway. Bone Doctor only knows learned empathy. It is not natural to her.

Little Jo called back and then handed the phone over to Sister. R was on the receiving end and I noted something serious had happened.

R told me and then I spoke to Sister, but of course I had to call Mother and it was one hour conversation. Normally when talking to Mother the phone batteries go flat after twenty minutes, or the door bell rings, or someone calls on the other phone (I have a gesticulation to R to call me to make an audible phone ring). This time she and I needed to talk.

Mother's neighbour suicided in the bath.

She is Philippines born, a mail order bride, has a great daughter and son in law, still connected with her old Aussie style late husband's family, a working person at the very big south eastern hospital, not poor, has rich local Filipino friends and family back in the Philippines. She left a note. We don't know the contents. I met her a couple of times and I had one nice chat with her. But I knew her better because Mother often talked about her. I took her bins out for collections a couple of times because Mother suggested it

Essentially she was a successful person who took her life at the age of 63 and we don't know why. We are feeling a bit devastated about someone who we did not know well, but was such an integral associated part of our family history.

Later edit: I don't know if she was a mail order bride or she and her late husband met through some other avenue.

From the funeral, Mother learnt that she had a masters in teaching, was a chorister and theatre actor and later a fine karaoke performer.  She loved her dog, who Mother is giving love to. She kept her house well. There were two hundred people at her funeral. Mother and ABI brother attended and became teary. She was not really religious but it was a Catholic funeral.

Her daughter spoke a eulogy and remained composed until the very end. Her son in law was a mess.

If you are a seemingly well and functioning person, topping yourself is one of the cruellest things you can do to your family and friends.


  1. This is so sad, Andrew.

    I read about suicide clusters in the newspaper this morning. It set me thinking yet again how devastating suicide is to those left behind, which includes all of us.

    There's a great quote in Kate Grenville's book, The Idea of Perfection where a wife reflects back on her husband who killed himself with a radial arm saw as I recall. Horrible death:
    ‘All at once she saw that when someone took their own life, they took other people’s too. They knew that, but they went ahead and planned it, and then did it anyway. They were condemning the ones they left behind to a life sentence of self reproach.’

  2. When I was silly 17 - I thought I was in love...he was married - I didn't know so when it all went belly up I sat my self on a cliff above Merewether beach in Newcastle...1971...and was going to jump - then it hit me (thank you somebody) that mum had just list dad and loved me and what the bloody hell was I doing - I didn't..can't tell you the last name of the man I thought I loved...
    so sad about your Mum's neighbour maybe a moment's thought, a bit of help from somewhere or a knock on the door may have changed things - Most do not want to kill themselves seriously...they just get so stuck or so down they have no other way to handle it...most if they survived the suicide would tell you 10 years on... unless there is a mental illness that they are really glad it didn't work or as with me it didn't sad for the family.

  3. Oh that's so very sad :(
    You never really know what is going on in someone's head. I hope that she's found peace.

  4. This is so sad, that she couldn't ask for help with whatever problem she had. Sad for her daughter and son-in-law, left to cope and ask "why?"

    This is something I would never, ever do.

  5. Oh, crap, how sad and lonely she must have felt :(
    How devastating for her family and your mum xxx

  6. As someone who tried it once and felt similarly miserable two years later, all I can say is that 'success' doesn't necessarily equal happiness.

    And Kate Grenville's lines quoted by Elisabeth above suggest that those 'planning' suicide are aware of the consequences of their actions. I disagree completely. I had absolutely no concept of the worry or grief my own passing would have caused. Instead I was so exhausted and deluded that I honestly felt that my loved ones would be better off without me.

    That sounds so shallow and stupid writing it down seven years later, but not one single day goes by where I don't stop for a moment and wonder, 'Why on earth did I believe that?'

    I'm so sorry for her family and everyone who knew her and is shocked and saddened. Shame, confusion, misery and the heavy chains of depression can devour up all forms of reason.

  7. Poor Mary Hardy killed herself in a bathtub as well. using a shotgun. Only hospital admission is any hope for these people.
    Ect has a bad image due to its portrayel in popular entertainment but the effect in relieving clinical depression is dramatic.

  8. That's ECT. Sorry.
    Electro convulsive therapy.

  9. Very sad. Who knows what demons she harboured, how long they troubled her and whether in reality they weren't solvable.

  10. Such a sad story Andrew, and very scary at the same do you know what people are thinking when they give no outward sign of unhappiness..there just has to be signs surely!!

  11. Elisabeth, it is a very selfish act but I suppose people aren't rational.

    MC, teen suicide is the worst. Problems can be just larger than life for teens.

    Sad and a waste Fen.

    River, I guess you have to be in the situation to really understand. I can never imagine doing it.

    Jayne, her son in law is showing grief worse than her daughter.

    Thanks for your honesty Kath. We all need to know more about what drives people.

    I remember it vividly RH. Poor Mary. I have no doubts about the benefit of ECT.

    Victor, we may find out the cause. The only thing I can think of is she received some sort of medical diagnosis.

    Grace, absolutely no outward sign at all that my mother noticed or can recall now.

  12. When you write "If you are a seemingly well and functioning person, topping yourself is one of the cruellest things you can do to your family and friends," you are absolutely correct.

    And yet, those who successfully manage to commit suicide can't see that; they really truly can't. All they see - in amongst the hideous mess that is their mind - is that their loved ones would be better off without them.

  13. Kath, from what you wrote earlier, I now understand that. While I know enough who have suicided or tried, including my ABI Brother who tried and R's brother who succeeded, you've given me a better understanding. While it appears to be selfish, those who arrive at the situation obviously aren't in a rational state. Btw, ABI Brother doesn't really have a memory of anything that happened for a period before he rode his bike from a side street straight across Princes Highway. Well, he didn't quite get across.

  14. Some thought-disordered women unfortunately decide that their children would be better off dead.

  15. Go Kath. There's nothing shallow about what you have written. Thank you [and others] for your honesty.

    When people are truly suicidal they really do believe everyone will be better off without them. On a good day, of course they know that suicide has consequences for everyone else. That they have reached a point where they can go against this belief that it's morally wrong and believe that others would be better off without them is an indication of just how low their mood has sunk. I'm sure many of them have even said at some earlier point in their lives that they could never do it.

    Suicidal people often appear bubbly and normal and happy and in control. The last thing they want to do is worry people and become an even greater burden than they believe they are while they battle the urge to end it all. They often 'put their affairs in order' first to try and minimise the consequences for others.

    "He could have talked to someone" is one of the most trite and ridiculous things I've ever heard, but I hear it all the time. If suicidal people thought they could talk to someone they would not want to kill themselves. Phone help-lines? Yeah, right.

    There are lots of 'explanations' around, just one of them is from Stephanie Dowrick who says suicidal people do not want to kill their body, they just want the pain to stop.

    I'm not saying that it isn't dreadful for everyone left behind and a total tragedy for the suicide themselves. Kate Grenville is quite right about the consequences for others.

    Pity governments don't give a rats' about funding mental health services. How enlightened of us to shut down psychiatric hospitals and release all those poor people incarcerated by a 500 year old tradition of just locking people away if they are inconvenient.


    RH: Unfortunately, some thought deluded men think it's okay to toss little children off a bridge just to get revenge. Pity they don't realise the world would be better without them.