The first time I heard this question, it caught me off guard, hence I hesitated before answering. It was a big question that over the years I have mulled over quite a bit. When I say “big” I am implying that it has the potential to bring up heavy deep-seated emotions.
My immediate thought about a note was that it would be very private, something survivors may not want to share or talk about. Personally, I had no problem answering that question, because I had an answer, and I had the strength to talk about it. I have put more thought into it over the years, so it has become something I take seriously.
What I would like people to consider is the emotions a loved one may feel as they attempt to decipher what the note meant. To whom was the note written? Who was meant to find the note? Was it left in a special place where the intended recipient would find it? After losing a loved one to suicide, there is one common phenomenon and that is the questions! It is only natural to wonder or ponder what drove the person to take their own life. To have the “note” question asked only stokes the fire.
Did you know that most people who die by suicide do not leave a note? When they do leave a note, it usually consists of a couple words, instructions, or a direct message; so, when asked if my son left a note, I surprise people by saying “No, but he did leave something that I believe was intentionally left for me.”
The night I learned of my son’s death, the police deputy asked if I was up to answering some questions. While I was answering questions, my son’s apartment and car were being searched. I learned later that depending on where a suicide takes place, it can be considered a crime. My son had trespassed onto private property.
I was imagining the car search wishing I could have been the proverbial fly on the wall. My son Nick loved his vehicles, but they held equal status to trash bins. His pickup trucks were the worst because there was a truck bed he could fill. He told us a funny story. He was serving in the Navy and based at Pearl Harbor. He was on his way to work in his ’86 Ford pickup. There was heavy security at the time due to 9/11. A security guard asked him to exit his truck. At the same time, the security guard on the passenger side of the truck started opening the passenger door. Nick hollered “Don’t open…” but it was too late. The door opened, it was a windy day and trash started flying out onto the pavement. He got in his truck and drove off. He did warn them.
Nick’s car was delivered to my house once it was released. This stirred up so many memories and emotions. No longer would Nick be telling us funny stories. His car in the driveway no longer meant he was visiting. No, this time he did not come with the car. The realization that he would never be driving into the driveway again felt like a knife going through my heart. It took my breath away. How was I going to deal with all of this?
I took the car for a ride a couple of days later. As personal representative to Nick’s estate, I had to take care of the final records, reporting and taxes. I found a receipt. He had his car serviced only days before he left us, as if he were going on a trip. Surprised at first but then I smiled. He always tried to do the right thing and take responsibility. This act was so unbelievable realizing his state of mind at the time.
After taking the car for a ride, I took a few minutes to inspect it myself. My thought was to sell it, so I wanted to note its features. Opening the passenger door from the outside, I looked down and saw a penny in the grip area that a passenger would use to close the door. Did the police see the penny? Did they miss it? Was it there when they inspected to car?
I opened the trunk to search around. Nothing stood out. When I got back into the driver’s seat, I was checking out all the accessories: AM/FM radio, windshield wipers, interior and exterior lights – happy to see that everything was in working order. Then I saw a little red light near the radio controls. “What do you do, little red light?” Yes, I often talk to inanimate objects. I suppose I could have checked the manual, but that is no fun. I just pushed the button!
You will never guess what I found. I pushed the eject button near the red light. A CD was ejected from the CD player. This is great – it had a CD player! After the first CD popped out, the red light was still on, so I pushed the eject button again. There was another CD! And then another. There were six CDs. One purchased and the other five consisted of music Nick had downloaded. Wow – what a find. Therefore, I answer the question “Did he leave a note,” with, “No, he left music.”
Was I meant to find CDs? I will assume yes, and because I found them, I am taking time to listen to the music to decipher a message. Almost ten years later, I am still listening to the CDs and still discovering things about Nick through the words of the songs. I try to understand what went so wrong. Instinctively, I knew he was not doing well. He had dealt with depression for years. His world was collapsing around him. Life was getting increasingly more difficult for him. As I listen to his music, it feels like a never-ending letter that talks about his world. There are so many songs, so many messages. I was surprised to discover that he had downloaded tunes from my desktop. I knew we had similar tastes in music but finding these tunes made me happy. I felt more connected.
Listening to Nick’s music has been an ongoing project, sometimes fun, sometimes sad, and sometimes frustrating. The frustrating part is trying to figure out what he was trying to say, if in fact he was trying to say anything. I am confident he was leaving a message.
This will be a long-standing project for me, and I’m sure he’s happy that I’m spending time on it. I think we can all agree that music is a wonderful thing.
Here are some words from one of the songs to leave you with. I am guessing it was for his girlfriend.
And so I’m sailing through the sea
To an island where we’ll meet
You’ll hear the music fill the air
I’ll put a flower in your hair
Though the breezes through the trees
Move so pretty you’re all I see
As the world keeps spinning round
You hold me right here right now
Nicole Perry says
Wow. Very beautifully written.
It’s interesting how us humans respond. We not knoweth what we do.
You’ve captured a part of your life and share it with grace and intention. And there are lessons in it.
Oh my goodness, music! You are releasing joy here to replace fear. So lovely.
Lyrics, aka language, is a beautiful gift you received.
Wendy Juergens says
Hi Nicole. I’m a little late getting back to you. Sorry. Thank you for the kind words. Reading your words tells me I captured what I intended to capture. I did not realize how much music meant to Nick until listening the CDs he left in his car. I also have his Ipod. He and I had such a connection and didn’t even know it. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.
Stephanie Lemoi says
What a beautiful & raw story to share. Among the many things human’s use to communicate I often find we can all relate to music. Sharing your son’s story through his love of music and on-going memory to you brought tears to my eyes.
Wendy Juergens says
Thank you Stephanie. Your comment is helpful to me. I hesitated to post this one because of its being so raw, but my purpose is to share in hopes of helping others.