On All Hallow’s Eve, a shadow stands on the threshold. A familiar spectre, stalking each of us from the first moment we draw breath and open our eyes, until the day we close them for good. The shadow opens the door, beckoning, welcoming you to peer inside, to cast your gaze forward – or back…
At last, “Through Death’s Door” has arrived, from Monnath Books, featuring my story, “The Considerate Man Suicides”. Initially I began writing this as a celebration of the book’s release, but then as I considered my story, and what it all meant, my thoughts on it became a lot more sober. I began to introspect on the topic of suicide, and what I want my story to (hopefully) communicate.
My story follows Gordon, a well-to-do man whose family unit has fractured, leading him to contemplate suicide. He sets his affairs in order and goes to do the deed, only for a surprise interloper to disrupt him – and by doing so, shows Gordon that the sum of his life – and the apparent hopelessness of it – may not be all he thought it to be.
Interesting fact: I wrote the original version of this story about 7-8 years ago. It started out with the same character, same motivations, same interrupting figure (NO SPOILERS!) – but at the time I wrote it as something of a black comedy, or what I thought was a black comedy.
But then, as I dug up the story for this anthology and began reworking it, I realised in hindsight that it wasn’t really a black comedy, and it deserved a more serious treatment. Suicide isn’t funny. It rips families apart, cripples friends and workmates. I’ve lost many friends, family and acquaintances to suicide these past ten years – and in all those situations there was a pervading sense of hopelessness, like whatever was going on in their lives – joblessness, judgement from peers, feeling unloved, among so many other reasons – was permanent, unmoveable.
My character Gordon is no different: his focus has ever been on his career, on appearances. Rather than wanting his kids to be happy, whatever that implies, or saturating his family with uninhibited (and often undignified displays of) love and affection, his preoccupation with how others perceive him – affectations of dignity and such – slowly push his family away. Although in his mind he has always been considerate of their material needs, he has neglected the one that really matters – and upon realising that, he goes to end his life, believing the situation irredeemable.
What I wanted to convey in this very different version of the story was that nothing – well, very few things, anyway – is irredeemable. I truly believe that. Gordon has made mistakes with the people around him, as have we all. Invariably, others do us wrong, too. But it doesn’t mean our lives suddenly, or even by degrees, lose their value. We are all worth something, regardless of what we’re facing. I suffer from depression, and have even contemplated suicide, across my entire life, starting very young. But I am thankful that I realised long ago that whatever darkness I face inside and out, it isn’t permanent. Death, on the other hand, is very permanent. Life’s already short enough without my speeding up the process.
I wish those family, friends and acquaintances who ended their lives so tragically had known how much their lives mattered, how temporary things are, including the bad stuff vexing their hearts and souls. I wish they knew how much they mattered, how loved they were, and how great a void their absence has left behind in the hearts of people who knew and loved them. They may not have realised – as you may not, in your darkest hours – how much people really care. We’re not always great at showing it when the world demands we spread ourselves so thin, when we have our own stuff to deal with. We’re not infallible – and sometimes there’s not even a valid reason. Sometimes we’re just shit friends, lovers and family members, period. Perfect love doesn’t exist – or if it does, we are exceptionally imperfect at it. But it doesn’t mean we’re awful, irredeemable or uncaring; nor, conversely, that no one loves us, or that we are unworthy of love, because we fail.
I know one cannot expect a person suffering to realise all this, and I do not put the onus on people contemplating suicide to reach out. That is the duty of all of us – to look out for each other as much as possible. My hope is that my story can show people suffering and contemplating suicide that it’s never all lost, no matter how bad things seem; reminding us all of the imperative of reaching out, connecting, communicating, showing others they are loved and helping them through the darkness, away from Death’s door. Because life is precious. Because life is just too fucking short.
Be kind to each other. Look out for one another. And when the darkness rises, hang on. Grab hold of something, however small or unlikely – like Gordon at the end of his story – and don’t let go. You are important. You are worth something. You will be missed, and the world will poorer for your loss.
“Through Death’s Door” is available now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Through-Deaths-Door-Short-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07YXGCWYY
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide get help immediately, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 000 if life is in danger.