It’s soft outside. There is a light rain. I am making The Life Changing Loaf of Bread for my friend Katie’s Memorial gathering (I’ve written about her here, here and here). We ate the bread together the last time I saw her. It is a year that she has been gone. A year since she took her life. A year since all those who loved her have had to adjust to a Katie-less world, have been forced to try and understand, digest, process what feels utterly unprocessable.
My friend Beth’s son Nicky told her there should be some other word that’s not “suicide” for people like Katie who take their lives. I understood what that meant without explanation. He understood that she didn’t want to leave, she had to leave. Because when you had a life like Katie’s, a French bakery of goodies all lined up so perfectly, with the sweetest aroma wafting through it, you would never leave on a whim, there would have to be a fire. A fire that surrounded you everyday of every year. A fire that would make escape your only choice. It’s not because you want to leave, IT’S BECAUSE THE FLAMES ARE TOO HOT.
Yeah, mental illness is one red hot mother fucker.
This quote by David Foster Wallace describes the choice to end your life in a way that makes me see what MAYBE Katie saw and felt. It makes me begin to understand.
I think of her when the sky is dappled pink. I think of her when I see a great hat, a drool-worthy necklace. I daydream about what other amazing things she might have accomplished had she let the flames keep licking at her as she tried to armor herself from the unbearable temperature. Every time I see a sunflower, every time I hear another story about mental illness, I see that gleaming smile, those twinkly eyes. And I understand more how hard it was to stay in the kitchen with all that heat.
I have so much gratitude to have been in the orbit of the kind of brilliance and beauty that was Katie. Her being, her essence, her power stays with me, like a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a scar the doctor promises will fade but never does.
Today we celebrate what each of us has lost and found and kept. Together we let one another know that we’ll always remember that girl. We will not say those words to fill the air, we’ll say them because we feel them, we live them. We will always remember. Because really, how could we ever forget the streak of light, the epic force, the complex and stunningly beautiful shimmer that was Katherine McQuaid Toig.