Witnessing Suicide by Train – Part One

WARNING This is about an actual suicide by freight train I witnessed so please read with caution because it’s sad and gruesome and there’s no silver lining. I’ve changed names, times, and locations to protect the witnesses as well as the suicide victim and his family. I’m also pretty sure this was kept out of the media so as not to encourage others.

Sunday morning and the air is soft like spring, the sun warming our faces. A close friend, I’ll call Jane, and I are walking, coffees in hand as we do most days. We’re Still comfortably ignorant of the life-changing event waiting for us as we trudge along.

We stop to stretch as a freight train goes by and we begin to cross once it’s safe. We start to speed up as we notice another train is rumbling towards us in the distance. Once we’re across the tracks we notice something isn’t right.

What looks to be a man is walking robotically calm toward us along the tracks, train behind him, white shirt leaping out in contrast to the dark coloured Engine and cargo behind him.

Jane and I stand back from the tracks, both straining our eyes to see better and discussing the situation, wondering if we’re both seeing the same thing. As it all draws closer panic begins to set in. He can’t possibly be on the tracks!

As the scene draws ever closer to us it becomes obvious he is on the tracks, freight train bareing down on him and he is unflinchingly, eerily calm. He just continues plodding forward, radiating all I can describe as despair.

The train whistle is blaring, breaks are squealing against tracks, we’re both screaming, watching in suspended horror as he’s hit, thrown up almost casually at a right angle like a ragdoll.

Suspended animation snaps back into real-time and adrenalin combined with crisis instinct kick in for us both. Jane is calling 911 and I am running, slipping on the oversized loose gravel, knees skinning, hands scrapping. If there’s any chance to help I want to be there.

A man, I’ll call him John, who had pulled up to a stop just after the impact is running with me soon, I fall and wave for him to keep going as I stagger to my feet and keep running.

Reaching the tracks I begin running parallel to them, checking quickly under the freight boxes. I’m hoping desperately he’s still walking on the other side. Maybe he dove out of the way and he needs first aid or maybe he’s not dead but needs to hold someone’s hand as the last of life leaks out… maybe. I’m willing him to be alive, begging time not to take him as I stumble forward.

Coming upon John, who’d run faster than me, seconds after he arrives where the majority of the young man has landed, Shaking my hands out I will myself to move forward to take in the scene, I quietly whisper, “he’s dead?” Although I already know the answer in my heart, because it’s breaking.

John is moving in closer, quickly checking for a pulse but soon he’s shaking his head, tears springing to his eyes, “There’s nothing we can do, he’s dead.”

Soon we’re hugging each other tightly, strangers no more. Next I’m staring at the victims chest, hoping he will suddenly start breathing, but I can see every bone in his chest looks broken beneath his bare skin. His white shirt was torn off upon the impact from behind. He will never breathe again.

Stepping back from our embrace, we introduce ourselves. It seems an odd formality given what we’ve just witnessed together. John and I step closer toward the victim and he says softly to the deceased, “I hope you find peace at last.” And there is nothing else to say.

There are things I may never tell about what I saw. It’s too horrible and too graphic to lay at the feet of another, but I will never be able to unsee the carnage. It’s seared in my memory with all the raw harshness of a branding iron.

Sirens begin to sound in the distance, coming towards us from every direction. Soon fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances are crowded round the intersection.

We both wait close to the body as more and more sirens converge at the site. Soon we can see the Engineer, looking broken and defeated, coming towards us with a police officer.

Prior to him seeing the body I tell the Engineer I saw he did everything he could and it wasn’t his fault. I utter how sorry I am and ask if I can give him a hug and I can feel the pain we both feel comingling as we embrace, a dreadful stew of horror, the stuff of nightmares.

I tell the police officer I’m a witness, as does John we and assure him we’ll stick around and give statements. I shuffle through the heavy, rugged, gravel, back to the intersection where a crowd has gathered.

As soon as the First Responders close in on the young man dead on the tracks he is reduced to paperwork and clean up. This is what they do and part of how they cope, I realize they see horror like this and worse every day and I am grateful for their vigilance and sacrifice.

As I reach the crowd I’m swept up in a whirlwind of chaotic emotions of the people who’ve stopped to see if they can help. I appreciate their determination to assist but all I really want is to fall into Jane’s arms so we can cry and mourn together, but that is not to be just yet.

Those in the crowd who weren’t witnesses are soon shooed away by those first responders, no doubt used to getting rid of crowds and securing areas.

Us witnesses stick together, trying desperately to get whatever help we need. When a statement sheet is passed to me I latch onto it like a drowning victim finally clutches a floatation device. Something to do helps.

Taking a deep breath I stare at the empty page and whisper to myself, “OK Kim, you know how to write. Do that.”

So I focus on writing, the feel of pen on paper, the weight of the pen in my hand. This is what must be done right now so I take comfort in the familiar sensations and write. My statement is long and wordy but I don’t care, it made a good distraction.

Eventually, we exchange numbers with John and part ways. An EMS worker drives Jane and me to our separate houses. Soon I’m alone and I break down in the shower, crying, keening, hurting for that young man on the tracks and the horror in my head.

Jane finds out through reliable sources that it was a suicide and not an accident for sure.  Even though we knew this in our hearts and heads

we are overwrought with emotion, hugging and crying the more we find out. I’m not going to give any more detail about who he was or his reasoning because I want to be respectful to his family and friends.

By staying busy my hope is I’ll be able to block the horrible images that plague my mind. When there is space to fill and nothing to fill it with I just see the whole thing over and over on repeat in my mind. I will talk more about this when I discuss PTSD specifically in Part 3.

I hope reading this account hasn’t been too much to bear but we need to talk about Mental Illness and how awful and real and tragic it can be. We cannot keep shoving this shit under the rug because it’s “uncomfortable”. Fuck Uncomfortable! We need to talk about mental illness and death because it happens all the time. Bringing mental illness to the forefront is likely to help prevent this from happening to so many others.

My point was not to shock but to share so that others might know how tragic suicide really is. And I’ve been there, so close to taking my own life. I’m glad I’m still here, still writing and painting and learning to hold space for the deceased in my heart rather than just seeing his final moments.

In parts 2 and 3 I plan to discuss the issues of suicide and PTSD. I will write these as soon as I can but please be patient as I’m struggling with concentration right now and still trying to come to grips with what I’ve seen.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to post in the comments section or, should you have something more private you’d like to share with me feel free to use facebook messenger or my email addy is kim@trefor.ca.

All my love to you dear readers. Hold you’re own loved ones tighter, talk about how you feel, do whatever it takes to not have anyone end up like that poor man on the tracks❤

K

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The Baby Question

“Why haven’t you had kids yet?”

Something I didn’t understand until I got a little bit of age on me is how uncomfortable this type of question can be. Once a woman reaches a certain age (25ish), whether her biological clock ticks or not is moot as, everyone from acquaintances to relatives will make sure she knows she’s born to birth and she best get on with it.

Consider this for a moment; what are women in movies usually haunted by or hallucinating about? I’d say babies. Some chick will start hearing a baby crying or laughing and it’ll turn out her unborn child, or her abortion is haunting her. This is standard narrative for the role of women on film. In books, the second the young mistress doth barfith one knows she’s in a family way. Just food for thought.

In reality there are many barriers to baby-making that are incredibly sensitive and personal such as, careers, fertility problems, general health issues, lack of a partner, marriage problems, genetics and genuinely not wanting children, to name a few. It’s important to be respectful and understand what goes on in another woman’s womb is really none of your freakin’ business.

I once had an older gentleman I barely knew tell me he felt it’s best for women to have babies well before they’re aged 25 or 30 at the latest otherwise, “they’re far too old.” He then asked how old I was and when I said 34 he shook his head doubtfully and said I’d better get on with it because I’d left it way to long.

When I was younger I asked women about babies with nothing but good intent. I meant it as a compliment, as in, you’d be a great Mom. Time has taught me great Mother’s don’t always give birth and some women have given birth and aren’t great Moms.

To me, Mother’s are women who care deeply for others, who nurture talent and encourage without expecting anything in return. Mother’s are role models but not perfect by any means. Being able to laugh at missteps and foibles is an incredibly important trait for a Mother to have. Also, giving advice isn’t as important as listening, further, understanding advice won’t always be followed and mistakes will be made is key. Helping a young woman rise from the ashes is far more important than scolding her for what she did wrong.

My Mom fell into the Great Mother catagory. She died 4 years ago and this profound loss, while often a traumatizing pit of sadness, has taught me I have many Mothers in my life. So many women have stepped in and shown me what strength truly means, offered me guidance and unconditional love. They’re my bonus Mom’s and everyday angels and I’m incredibly lucky to have as many as I do.

My Mother-in-law was kind enough to arrive in a week before my Mom’s funeral. She helped me write endless lists and knock everything off all the while ensuring I took care and rested so as not to cause a pain flare up. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve thanked her enough for this.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a step-Mother-in-law who is a great feminist role model who compliments my intellect and encourages me to move forward even when I’m feeling lost and as though, because of my chronic illnesses, I’ve lost my chance to be anything useful at all. I cannot thank her enough for giving me these little boosts here and there, gently forcing me to remember my self worth.

My two Aunts have been so kind and caring, offering me a shoulder to cry on and wonderful insights and stories about my Mom throughout her life. We’ve grown a lot closer since my Mom died and, recognizing how fleeting life is, we make sure to say, I love you, often and appreciate the gifts each of us offer.

There are also several of my Mom’s close friends who’ve continually been there for me. With these women there’s that wonderful feeling that no time has passed even if it’s been ages since we’ve talked. We’re just able to pick up where we left off and carry on. This type of friendship is so special and I’m incredibly pleased to have those pseudo Mom’s in my life. Furthermore, the Mother’s of a few of my close friends are also incredibly warm and caring surrogate Moms to me.

It’s been a great pleasure to watch many of my friends and one of my sisters-in-law becoming mother’s and I get the bonus of doting on their kids and spoiling them whenever possible. I hope to someday earn pseudo Mom status to all of them whenever they need it.

I’ll be so thrilled should I end up having children in the future, but I like to think I am maturing into the type of person who is a stand-in Mom or second-Mom to a number of lovely young people I’ve come to know. I don’t wish to infringe on any decisions made by the actual parents but I’m there to offer support and love whenever needed.

I’ve overheard new parents say things such as, “I didn’t really understand love until I had a child of my own.” I like to think this isn’t true for me. I love the people in my life with all my heart and all my soul. I am fiercely protective should I feel one of these people is being attacked, short-changed, or bullied. It’s clear the “Mama-Bear” behaviour so often referred to is alive and well within me, no labour required (see what I did there?).

The next time you wonder why a woman hasn’t had children I urge you to compliment her on something you admire about her instead. You may be speaking to someone who’s never given birth but is a mother to many. Look at Oprah and Ellen for examples of prominent women with no children who absolutely are exemplary Mom’s to so many. I bet you can think of many women you know who have earned the status of Mom one way or another, be sure to treasure this gift.

In this modern age where, hopefully, we’re smashing the patriarchy for breakfast and moving towards a society of gender equality, I think we should examine what it means to be a “Mother” and modify the definition accordingly.

Please Note: Men are awesome too. I am incredibly lucky in that department as well but that’s another blog for another time. I promise.

K