“Man, what is this all about? We are just leaving class to go to lunch mainline!” I say speaking up for the both of us. Disapproval spewing from every syllable that I enunciate.
As my back and forth bantering with the C.O’s is just getting warmed up, there is a break from the action long enough to hear through the static of their synchronized radios what all of this is about.
There is a deceased inmate hanging from the very place we just left.
And, they don’t know if it was a homicide or a suicide.
It was my pained and misunderstood classmate from earlier who gave me the packet I now have stuffed in my coat pocket.
While the officers stood by watching, dazed and confused. It was otherinmates who took down his hanging lifeless body. It was other inmates who tried to resuscitate him with no success.
In fact, the lead attempted rescuer was a man who is in prison for taking a life himself and that now has a life sentence set to die in prison, it was this man who was doing all he could to save this life.
Coincidentally, me and my friend were the only two that decided to leave at this particular movement. We were eventually excused from the allegations that we had anything to do with the event.
What was he going through that was so bad? What pushed him over the edge? Was there anything I could of said or done to have prevented this ill-fate? How could it be that we were around each other all of this time and I just now recognized him for the first time?
Again, all of my questions go unanswered.
Why one would commit suicide is not the question here.
But rather what more could I have done? What more could society have done? Could more have been done to show this person that no matter how bad our temporary afflictions may seem, LIFE IS WORTH LIVING?
Suicide is still a taboo subject that often gets swept under the rug. And although one who is suicidal may believe the world would be better place without them but that is not the case.
There is a light within all of us even in the darkest places of our lives. And one taking their own life is robbing the world of vital source of light that one day could radiate brighter than the sun.
My life has been shook by this avoidable act on a number of occassions.
The friends I lost to suicide left a void in my life that can never be filled. And it pains me to think they were hurting and I was not there for them when they needed someone. Even if it was just a brief smile or embrace letting them know I am just one of many, who love them.
One can never be too busy to care.
One can never be too busy to do the right thing.
Two years after Monroe, I was at the Washington State Penitentiaries- West Complex and was taking a writing course through Walla Walla Community College.
By this time I have adopted the practice of familiarizing myself with names and faces, along with the mastering of the prison art of reading the emotions of a room.
Being the center of attention. I am in the middle of a group of guys discussing trivial matters such as last nights game, new episodes of the latest t.v. show, even who from “THE TOWN” is on their way to the joint and what they did. Meaningless conversation (that I now keep to a minimum).
Thats when I look up and notice a reserved and talented classmate in the back of the class by himself in the corner.
Trying to look busy.
I excuse myself from the group and make my way towards him and ask if I can sit with him. Amid the sour looks of the group.
Over the next 15 minutes or so I start picking his brain about a moving and inspiring piece he wrote. I told him that he in fact motivated me to continue to work to get better as a writer, and that I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the next assignment.
Which was due two nights later, the next time we had class.
“I might not do it,” he solemnly told me, refering to the assignment.
Jokingly I respond, “you have to so I can learn from the Jedi-master.” (His self-proclaimed title.)
After that next class ends and he has shared a thought provoking piece about “being a ghost”. I am moved when he confided in me that he planned to kill himself the night of our previous encounter.
He had his room packed up to make it easier to move someone else in. But me stopping to talk to him and recognize his gift made him rethink his plan.
That night, I laid in bed wondering how something that seemed so small to me meant the world to him. It was simply a kind word from my mouth that saved his life.
If I could say one last thing to save the life of someone contemplating suicide it would be that “no matter what you may be going through, or how impossible your circumstances may seemingly be. Don’t make a permanent decision to fix a temporary problem.”
Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can hurt more than both, let your words be ones that help heal those who are hurting and who may be hiding in plain sight.
Categories: Cyril D. Walrond
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This is a great piece of heartfelt writing. Thank you for sharing. I spent a number of years teaching mental health education in prisons here where I live and have had several conversations not unlike the ones you describe.
One that come to mind is a guy who was so deeply sad and feeling worthless who had made it all the way to minimum security. What he confided was that he was so scared of going back out into the world that he was thinking he could not go on. He also spoke about not wanting to tell anyone how he felt as he was afraid of being shang hai’d (local term for being returned to Max security) as a risk.
We talked at length about his kids and family and who was supportive and what he could do and who he could speak to on the outside. Those few minutes gave him the calm to continue on towards the future. A future that was full of potential.