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J D Smith

J D Smith
December 20
Married and in the heartland of the USA with little to say and nothing to say it with.


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JUNE 25, 2011 11:31PM

Could I Have Pulled The Trigger?

Rate: 11 Flag

Would I pull the trigger in the same position?

I can’t come close to answering that. I don’t think you really know the decision you would make, or understand the courage it would take. I don’t really understand what she was facing, unable to alter it.

In the end, it came down to MS; or her life.  

My Aunt DeAnne was the cutup of the three kids when she was young. She was energetic and funny in a down-home sort of way. My mom and my Uncle Bill were both older; and a lot more mature in some ways; so DeAnne didn’t have to be. Everything was funny to her, and she laughed so the whole world could hear her. Often, that laugh included a number of snorts, something I think I inherited with just a hint of woe. 

I remember well visiting her once or twice in her home town, and running the house; up and down the creaky wood floors and spinning at the top off of the polished wood banister. She’d fuss at us for making such mischief; smile; and walk away to leave us doing it again. She knew what joy was like; especially the joy of childhood.

Family Christmas gatherings weren’t the same without her being there, and she always showed up with lumps of coal for all the kids. Heck, I’d have no idea what a lump of coal was without Aunt DeAnne!

Marriage was the place she struggled. She and Uncle John never seemed like a matched set. He was so quiet and angry. She was so out there and loud. But they held it together for quite a while “for the kids,” before the final days of marriage occurred and the word “divorced” entered their lives. 

In the years that followed, she finished raising the kids, Ted and Theresa; and became something of a shadow to me. I seldom saw her once I got married and moved on with my life. Like many large families, we grew a little bit apart geographically and emotionally. 


The good news arrived about six years ago. My Aunt DeAnne was getting married again! I felt such joy for her. Maybe she had found the right guy this time; one that would appreciate the gifts she brings to the heart. We got to meet Tom, and he was just right! He so love my aunt and it was obvious she loved him as well. Ted and Theresa just beamed, and the baby Theresa just had in her marriage would have a happy grandma to care for and love her! 


I wish life worked that way ALL the time.

I wish that some things would work themselves out, and in the end, everybody could live happily ever after. It is such a great wish; such a beautiful picture; to imagine my Aunt DeAnne laughing and playing again with her grandkids.

I know I wished that for my aunt DeAnne. She had so much to offer; had sacrificed so much for her kids. But in my heart of hearts I also know that life can turn on you sometimes.

We have to ask sometimes why God allows pain and suffering; why bad things happen to good people?  Two short months after the marriage, when Aunt DeAnne and her new husband had moved to Tennessee to begin a life together, Aunt DeAnne was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was having difficulty speaking and occasionally slurred her words. Balance had become an issue for her.

I don’t think she wanted to believe anything was really wrong with her at such a happy time of her life, and she fought it so hard.

She travelled back to Kansas City for a family thing; I don’t really remember what, and I was shocked at how much she had changed in so little time! Movement and speech were so difficult for her already. The disease was moving fast and quickly overtaking her body and her life.

She tried to smile and talk a little to me, but the effort was wasted because I could not understand her. Tears started to form around her eyes, and all I could do was hug her and try hard not to cry in front of the kids.

 Grown up guys don’t cry,..right?

I patted her lightly on the cheek and wiped a tear away, knowing that her mind was fine, but quickly becoming entombed in a body that was wasting away around her. I told her that I loved her, and felt the light squeeze of the hand that she was able to muster in that moment.

I remember thinking how very brave she had to be; no choice. Tom, her husband of four or five months, was working so hard to support her and give her everything she ever needed. He changed her diapers constantly, and worked so hard to keep her spirits up with kind words and teasing. He fed her and massaged the throat to get the food down. He constantly kissed her on the cheeks.


They left to go home to Tennessee.  A short two weeks later, we got the phone call. While Tom was away at work, and the caregiver was off site for groceries thinking Aunt DeAnne was asleep, Aunt DeAnne found a way to get up out of her chair, move to the bedroom, write a note that nobody could read; then load a pistol and shoot herself in the head.

She was gone. 


I don’t understand everything about this; not even close. I think that maybe she decided that she would go out her way; not by this crippling killer. I know she loved Tom and I am sure she hated for his life to become nursemaid to; what in her mind, was probably a cripple. Maybe she didn’t want him to suffer with her as she suffered.

I can’t imagine what it had to be like to be forced into this decision. Had she waited any longer, she would not have been physically able to pull the trigger. There was no getting better. There were no long conversations with loved ones to figure things out. She was alone with her thoughts and scared out of her wits, I am sure.

She had to be terrified to point that gun at herself. It had to be so painful to get the arm just right and the gun pointed just right, and to find the hand-eye coordination to even pull the trigger.


I’ve wondered what she thought or saw in her mind’s eye before she pulled that trigger? Maybe her kids playing in the yard, or amazing Christmas moments where the magic sparkled in the eyes of the little believers? Maybe of Tom’s selfless acts for her and all that mattered most to her about joy?


Maybe a life does flash in your eyes before the final moment? I’d like to think so,…all the joys and love relived a last time is just what I would wish for her. 

I do know this though.

The one distinguishable word she managed to scrawl on that note will never leave my heart. 

She found just enough to legibly scrawl “love.”   

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This was a tough one. I miss her!
Very well-written, JD. I'm sure it had to be difficult to write with such clarity about such a tragic personal event. You did it well.

Life can be so cruel sometimes. Hard to understand.

Kim...you have had more than your share of tragedy in life as well. I guess it is part of the human condition.
Nice to have friends like you who care!
Suicide is very, very tough for a family to understand. As you know I lost my brother to suicide ... but different circumstances. I too often wondered if I could ever do such a thing. Knowing what it can do to those left behind, I don't think I would ... but ... well, there but for the grace of God ...

Beautifully written, JD ... with such compassion and love. But then, I've come to know that is you through and through.
Oops! You deserve to be rated too!
I DO know, Little Kate! I am sorry for that loss. All I am through and through though is a goob! : )
Grand writing. A fine, fine post. Sarah and I speak of this day often. I promise her to tell her when it becomes to much. Though I know in my heart that it is only my choice and mine alone.
Oh JD. Yeah, grown ups do cry, even when they didn't know DeAnne in person.
Scylla, I can't begin to tell you of the pain in those she left behind, even as we understand why she did it.
mhold : For real? Thanks!
I remember this post, JD. You tell the tragic story well--and convey, too, the resilience of the human spirit, and the maintaining power of love.
Oh my...... I have a dear friend living with MS..has been for sixteen years. I don't like to think that it would ever come to this for him. I am so sad for you and for the unmitigated anguish that must have existed to push your lovely aunt over the edge. I pray peace is restored to all of you......
I too lost a sister to suicide (a bonding Kate and I have) and have often thought what the mind-set would be. I actually just posted a poem this morning on Fictionique on this very topic. I don't remember this original post - I know I would have if I had read it.
A hard tale to tell. And you do it so well.
I remember when you posted this and that I could not find the right words to say...I still can't. I'm sorry just does not feel like enough. In her position I don't know that I would do it any differently, I just don't know.
Susan. I so appreciate your kind words...and feel for you for your friend. It is so damned painful.
Great post. I am sorry for your loss.
Don't think this doesn't occur to people with crippling and life robbing diseases every single day. I have my own plan, should I ever get into a situation like this but am hoping (a lot) that we will see a rapid evolution in our Right to Choose laws in the next decade.

Boomers are collecting SS and Medicare now, and dementia is rampant, the numbers are growing horrifically fast. I always had respect for Dr. Kevorkian - his contributions, at least, brought Hospice onto the end of life scene. I wish it had been more. Compassion is key to understanding the need to have a choice when incapacitation is clearly diagnosable. We exercise choices for our pets, so it's not outside the realm of contemplation for the Aunt DeAnne's that we love. It could be so much more humane than a holding a gun, alone and frightened.

I should live so long to see things change.

(A re-post on Tuesday! Now there's some change)