I could spend a lot of energy second-guessing myself. Did I miss all the signs pointing to Jolene’s decision to kill herself?
The day Jolene (probably) died, I spoke with her in the morning—a month ago today. She was happy; we made plans to celebrate her birthday on Sunday. She told me what kind of cake she wanted—chocolate bottom layer with a white top layer, with pink and blue flowers. Eventually, we threw away the cake. We couldn't bear to look at it.
“I don’t want to go to a movie this year, Mom. I want to do something outside.” She seemed to like my idea of going to Lookout Mountain.
She gave me no hint that anything was wrong.
By that afternoon, she had deteriorated to the point where she called a friend for help. “I wish I could just die,” she reportedly said.
The friend rushed to her apartment, with the police. The friend left—her boyfriend left—the police left. They must have believed she was not suicidal; otherwise, they would have taken her to a hospital.
Sometime during the following 24 hours, Jolene took her life.
No, I don’t think anyone failed her during those final hours.
But when I look back over the past few months, I see possible signs.
Jolene returned several of the most personal gifts I had given her. I was heartbroken when she returned a personalized cross stitch picture I had made for her. She also only displayed pictures of her father, and none of me. Hurt and maybe angry, but not worried, I told myself that she needed to separate from me, that it was a temporary stage.
Some time ago, she gave away half of her porcelain dolls. She had accumulated a beautiful collection, enough to fill a china cabinet and more. The week before she died, she gave away the remaining dolls.
Again—I was dismayed, but I told myself that she was saying, “I’m no longer a child.”
She discarded most of the artwork, her own creations, which she had used to adorn her walls. Again—I figured she was leaving childhood behind, trying to figure out who she was becoming.
I took those actions as her attempt to move forward, extreme, yes, but that was natural given the nature of her illness.
Maybe I was wrong. I don’t know, and even if I was wrong—I can’t go back and fix it.
But someone else mentioned “giving things away” as an indicator of suicide. Maybe—someone who reads this blog will see a loved one going to the extremes that Jolene did. Maybe, someone will seek help that will save a life.
A month ago we had our last conversation. I miss you, Jolene.