I thought about Jane a lot over the next few weeks. I was sorry she’d made the decision to take her life and regretted that I hadn’t gotten to know her. But I was also, even though none of this had anything to do with me, angry at her for the way she’d chosen to kill herself. Judgmental. That mean voice in my head going on and on about what a selfish thing that was for Jane to do. Big Al, at least, had gone out in the woods, been in nature for his final act.
On top of it all, I was mad at myself for being mad at her. I just couldn’t see what she’d done at the end as anything but spiteful until I began to look at it through a different lens. When I was fifteen I went through a serious depression. It was my first term at a boarding school in Pennsylvania and I couldn’t stand being there. I’d been in love the previous summer and when that ended, the world ended. I didn’t want to be anywhere, my fifteen-year-old self down in the deepest dumps because the world had turned and the romance was over. But soon it became evident that my depression was much more than heartache. I didn’t care about anything. If I could have, I would have stayed in bed all day — there was no reason to get up, no reason to go to class, eat meals, interact with others. What was the point of life if one was going to die in the end anyway? That was the question I asked myself over and over, the deadliest question because it led straight to existential despair and to thoughts of putting an end to it all. I remembered that time as I pondered Jane, how I’d flatlined and gone spiritually dead, indifferent to everything that presented itself to me. Over Christmas break that same year, I was in a near fatal car accident, face cut open, veins spilling blood till the life began to drain from me and I went through a tunnel of darkness. At the end of the tunnel, a luminous being waited as I got closer and closer… but I was never able to remember what it said to me, only that I saw it, this remarkable being of light, before I was sent back to my body. And that strange, surreal occurrence snapped me from a fatal despair I never was to experience again.
Was that gray awful indifference and despair what Jane experienced day in, day out from the time of her husband’s death?