Leanne Penny’s journey has taken some heartbreaking turns.  Including her sister’s car-train accident, losing her father to heart disease and her mother to suicide.  Through all this pain she has chosen to persevere.  God has led her to share her story of hurting, healing and choosing joy as a writer and blogger at leannepenny.com.  You can also follow her on twitter.

In Michigan the leaves are changing bold and beautiful hues and falling to the ground.  Fall has always been my favorite season, but this particular fall day lacks beauty for me.  You see, today marks the one year anniversary of my Mom’s death.  One year ago today she took her life.

Last year on October 13th I was just getting into bed after staying up too late when I heard my cell phone ring.  It was my brother, and after a glance at the clock I realized that time in Michigan was midnight thirty.  My heart sank and I braced myself for a blow, because calls after midnight rarely bring good news.  My husband took the call and after he hung up the phone he gently filled me in.  Earlier that evening my mother had taken her life on the same train tracks that my sister had her accident years before.  I didn’t burst into hysterics or tears, instead I sunk into shock.  I couldn’t believe that all the hope I had been grasping so desperately had shattered on the tile floor of our bathroom.  There was no coming back from her depression.  It had finally defeated her spirit.  She had been so mentally and emotionally unavailable for years, and now she had faded out of my life completely.

I wanted to write about what it feels like to spend one year processing and grieving suicide.  I know a lot of people tell me that they can’t imagine what it would be like to have your mother take her life.  Well I think that if I could sum it all up into one word it would be this: confusing.  After 365 days of living with suicide I am still confused.  I know that the body, mind and soul of a person are unbreakably connected.  When the mind is very sick it has the power to take down the other two.  When the body is sick it can take down mind and soul down as well. However, I have seen enough optimistic cancer patients to lead me to believe that the worst place to get seriously sick, is in the mind.

My mother struggled with depression for about 30 years, and it eventually took her life.  Some days I view her death as a struggle with terminal depression, a disease of the mind.  Other days I wonder what was inevitable because of her diagnosis and what she could have fought through.  But every day I wonder who my Mom really was underneath that thick gray crust of pain and sadness.  Toward the end of her life she was usually a warm body and a blank stare, existing in a world I couldn’t seem to reach.  I listen to stories and glean pieces of the person God made her to be, she was bright and fun loving, a warm hearted and servant minded person.  She felt other people’s pain like it was her own and she was the star of the school play.  I miss her even though I hardly knew her at all.  Mostly I am frustrated that I missed out on her.  That my life was spent watching her blow away like dandelion fluff, piece by piece drifting somewhere unknown.

I can honestly say I was angry at her, for all her failures as my Mom, and for being locked behind a wall I couldn’t penetrate no matter what I did.  I kept reaching for her just like my own baby son reaches up for my face.  As much as you hate to admit it, You always need you mom, and she couldn’t be mine anymore, even though she was sitting right across from me.  I won’t ever fully understand that, it’s utterly terrible grieving someone who is still alive.

I don’t know why some people die of physical illness, some people die of mental illness and some people die in sudden tragic accidents.  I do know that one out of every one person on the earth will die and that even though my moments on earth seem endless, they are anything but.

I try to remember the good memories of my Mom, but most of them happened years ago.  When she was alive, the idea of being like her terrified me, so I rejected everything in hopes of avoiding her fate.  Well now I am confident that I can avoid her fate while at the same time being her daughter.  I am now brave enough to talk about some parts of her that I carry on in this life.

1)  When Noelle was born she came to visit and kissed her right on the lips.  I thought that was weird, but now I smooch those little lips whenever I want to, because I am mom, and I can.

2)  She always left her coffee cup in the bathroom because she finished her last mug while she was doing her makeup.  I do that too.

3)  My mom’s favorite season was fall, mine is too.  She would drive us around town just to find beautiful trees to fuss over, as a kid I didn’t get it, but I have every intention of subjecting my kids to that as well.

4)  She wore the diamonds my dad gave her when he proposed, I am now brave enough to wear them too. They are a symbol of all the beautiful intentions they had when they started our family, and that’s a part of all of this that I want to carry into the future.

Suicide is messy and inexplicable selfish, I doubt she had too much control over it, as far gone as she was.  It is a terribly confusing thing and difficult legacy to leave your children.  All that being said, I am my Mother’s daughter and I have every intention to fight like hell against metal illness.  I will love autumn with reckless abandon. And every morning I will leave a mostly empty coffee cup on my bathroom counter before I get out there and live life to the very fullest with every intention to leave an amazing legacy in my wake.

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