I lost a friend a couple of weeks ago. Her name was Rhonda, and she took her own life.
Rhonda Sellers Elkins and I were high school classmates, and while I certainly remember her name from those days, I cannot say I really remember her. That's a shame, because when we connected through Facebook, I found her to be a truly engaging person with whom I shared a curiosity in a few esoteric subjects. We had several conversations on Facebook that I thoroughly enjoyed, and then it seemed that she simply drifted offline, as people will do when their lives become busy.
She reappeared on Facebook on April 13, 2013, and told the world that her brilliant medical student daughter Kaitlyn had committed suicide two days before. I cannot say with any surety how the rest of her family handled Kaitlyn's death, but Rhonda grieved long and hard and publicly. And in that grief, she told those of us who cared to listen of not only her daughter's long hidden and severe depression, but her own as well.
Rhonda actively used her grief, becoming a prolific blogger and an author to not only deal with her loss but to raise awareness about depression, especially among gifted young people.
Rhonda's agony touched me in a way I don't quite know how to explain. I have been aware , in my own deepest moments of grief, of the edges of a vast pit of unrelenting darkness, a place that it seemed there could be no return from if I fell in. No light. No hope.
And I wondered, momentarily, about simply not being.
And I wonder now, how was I able to turn away from that siren call, when so many like Rhonda and Kaitlyn cannot?
We lionize those who sacrifice themselves that others may live, saying that they gave their lives.
We sympathize with those suffering from cancer and like diseases, whose physical pain is seen, is witnessed, and we do not begrudge them the choice to end their suffering.
We demonize the suicidal, whose anguish is not understood, is not witnessed, saying that they took their lives. We accuse them of being weak, of having a defect of the will, yet how do we know what we would do in their places?
Rhonda called her book what she called her daughter, My Bright Shining Star. Perhaps it should've been My Bright Shining Sun, for it seems that Rhonda was left with only that unrelenting darkness, until she could no longer bear it.
To her husband Allyn and daughter Stephanie, you have my profoundest sympathies. I wish that in the times I talked to Rhonda, I had been able to be of more help.
I miss my friend. I hope that she found her surcease from pain.