At three in the morning on January 25th of this year, my aunt Raydell cut the screen out of her apartment window and jumped out of it, falling to her death. The utility knife she used to cut the screen was still lying innocently there, several days later, along with its packaging, near her kitchen counter.
It must have been very cold that night. I wonder how long it took her to cut the screen, how long she had planned this suicide. We never found a receipt for the utility knife, so we don't know when she bought it.
Her apartment was very neat; her type of OCD wasn't the hoarding kind. In her stereo was a copy of the Beatle's greatest hits. Inside her fridge, a couple pints of Haagen Dazs.
I didn't know Raydell that well. She was my father's half sister. Raydell had a whole side of her family that none of us knew. My grandfather (her father) and Raydell's mother weren't married very long. It wasn't until Raydell was older that she and my grandfather developed a relationship. She wasn't an easy person to know. Her OCD made normal conversations somewhat difficult. On the other hand, I know I didn't try very hard either.
Suicide always feels like a failure. The day she died, my mother came into my room in the afternoon and told me that Raydell had committed suicide. I sat on the edge of my bed and wept. "I'm so angry," I choked out. And I was. I wanted to throw something, or break something. I thought of what this would do to my father and grandfather, the aftermath of her decision to end her life. It wasn't fair. I knew it was childish, but I didn't care.
My father came home later and my mom and I had already opened a bottle of wine - even though I hadn't been drinking for the month of January. We cried, felt numb, and then cried again. All three of us got drunk. When there was no more wine, I switched to gin.
Near midnight, with nothing left to say to each other, we turned on a netflix program about deep sea creatures. We watched the parade of tubby ghoulish fish with massive underbites and long, frightening teeth march across our big screen tv. I felt like on of those fish. Numb, watery-eyed. Emotionless.
Eventually we nearly all fell asleep in our chairs in the tv room, amid crumbs of tortilla chips and empty glasses of booze - fading to blackness along with the dragon fish and the coffin fish.
The next day at my grandparent's house, my parents, grandparents and my sister Ana and I began the process of planning the funeral. As we started to think about what Raydell would have wanted to have at her funeral, it became clear that there were a lot of things we didn't know about her life.
The snowstorm that weekend postponed Raydell's funeral for a month. But finally, yesterday I went to my grandmother's church on Division street to meet with family for Raydell's funeral. I had processed Raydell's death and hadn't cried about her suicide or dwelled on her death for several weeks, but walking into the church and seeing the cardboard display set up on the table by the door, made it real all over again. I was reminded that I would never see Raydell again. I would never be able to ask her about her childhood, her OCD, her relationship to my grandfather and my father and my aunt and uncle. It was gone. All of that, all those emotions and thoughts, her life - it was gone forever. And she ended it.
The service started. I sat down next to my grandparents. We had decided to play the Beatles, Raydell's favorite, at her funeral. As the first notes of "The Long and Winding Road" played over the church stereo, my grandfather shook with crying. I often turn up my nose at pop songs, cheesy as they are, but this was the first time I had seen my grandfather cry over Raydell's death. I heard sniffing and sobbing throughout the crowd.
Music allows us to access our emotions when we can't do it on our own. "Hey Jude," played after the service was nearly over and I too cried again. Not out of anger this time, but out of grief.
The pastor read First Corinthians, Raydell's favorite scripture. : Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered ;it keeps no record of wrongs; Love does not delight in evil;but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
There is no real moral to this story. Raydell had people in her life that cared about her. Love wasn't enough for her, in this life anyway. She was in a lot of pain, and for whatever reason decided to kill herself, something that she had tried several times before. The reverberations from her death, will play out in my life and in ways as yet undetermined, in my family's life and relationships.
It's five thirty on a Sunday evening and I have friends coming over for dinner. Tonight I am going to play some Beatles in her honor. And I am going to email a link to this blog to my uncle, Raydell's youngest brother, whom I hardly ever see.
Thanks for reading.