elderly 65+

In the nick of time

I was rudely interrupted by an angel while arranging my suicide.

There I was in September 2019, getting my preferred equipment ready, with a very serious intention to do the job cleanly and successfully. I had had enough, there was no doubt in my mind, it was time to go.

At exactly 11 o’clock the angel called me from my room to a pre-arranged appointment that I had forgotten. I didn’t want to disappoint her and waste her time in coming to see me, so I packed up my stuff quickly and hurried up to my room, thinking that I would tell her that I was doing fine and thanks for caring.

Her first words were “Hello Clare, how are you doing?”

And I knew that I was faced with the ultimate choice. Should I reply “Fine thank you! Everything is good. Bless you for asking, but you don’t have to worry about me” and then continue my preparations to die?

I didn’t want to be interrupted. I was sorely tempted to get rid of her as quickly as I could, in case she stopped me from escaping.

Or was it time to finally fess up, to come clean, to be honest.

In the past I have always denied my feelings, pretended to be tough (that’s what men are supposed to do). Mostly to keep my angel happy, so she wouldn’t have to deal with anything nasty.

But this time, I took the risk of telling her what I had been doing, risking being honest. I told her exactly what I was planning, and tried to explain why I needed to suicide. She listened, made a short phone call, then asked “Will you come with me to a hospital?”

At that moment I had a sudden realisation that my suicide was the most grotesque, horrible, awful thing.  How to describe the depth of feeling? Complete horror. Absolute failure. Immense betrayal.

Betrayal of my children’s trust, more than anything else. I’m blessed to be the only responsible parent of seven bright and beautiful young offspring and three (at last count) sweet grandchildren. I had convinced myself that when the youngest of the seven turned eighteen, they would be mature enough to cope with my suicide.

Some time ago, a wise man told me that my kids would eventually forgive me for almost anything, but if I took my own life, they would never forgive themselves. They would forever believe that they were to blame. That they hadn’t been pretty enough, smart enough, loving enough to keep me wanting to live.

That thought has kept me from suicide for forty years. Until that day.

I burst into tears, and agreed to go with her. I trusted her, and I knew that the opportunity to end my life would still be there afterwards if nothing changed.

So I packed my stuff quickly, walked out of the building through a small gathering of residents and staff. They asked me if I was leaving, but I couldn’t speak.  We drove away, at that moment I didn’t know or care where.

They were waiting for us in South Ward of Peter James. I was taken to a room to settle in, stayed there for two weeks, and received the most amazing care, advice and encouragement. Again, my life was saved.

I now want to stay alive for as long as I am able, to love myself and my children, to smell the flowers that are growing in my garden and to do the work I’m passionate about.

I’m not a religious believer, and I try not be afraid of Hell as a punishment for suicide. But I have experienced the horror of those final moments and I now understand what an awful thing it is to contemplate the deliberate end of life. My passion is to speak to as many people as I can to try to convey that horror, and to persuade them to reach out for help if they ever get close to desperation.

Clare Headland

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