The clouds parted and the sun came out. The first time in weeks. My God, quick, get out in the garden and let’s have a bonfire! There was a pile of fir clippings a mile high on the compost heap – two Christmas trees and half a hedge. I got the firelighters and some matches. Bother, damp. Tramp back inside to get dry box from kitchen drawer, carefully stepping on black tiles only since floor just cleaned and couldn’t be bothered to take off muddy boots. Back out. Strike. Success. Two firelighters lit, throw laurel and dry leaves on top. Bob’s your uncle. Why is it that men make such a big deal out of making a bonfire? All seems pretty straightforward to me. Within minutes I had a blazing heart and I set about throwing branch after branch on it. I briefly thought of throwing myself onto it – just to cause a stir in the village – but decided against it. That would be a terrible waste, wouldn’t it? ‘Housewife dies in shock blaze’. Burnt alive with the Christmas trees. It wouldn’t be a good start to the year. So unnecessary.
January’s a funny month. When I lived in Italy I loved it. January meant weekends in the mountains. Loads of skiing, eating, drinking and watching the setting sun turn ragged rock into burnished copper: sharp, crisp air and the smell of wood smoke lingering in the nostrils. It was always a period of great contentment, a hopeful time of year with the promise of good things to come. Over here, it seems so different. Everyone talks of ‘getting through’ January. It’s a hurdle, an obstacle to the rest of the year, rather than a gateway. It’s dark, windy and rains a lot. People make unrealistic New Year resolutions and get depressed when they’ve failed to keep them. There’s no light. Not enough vitamin D. The world seems grim - even snow is a disaster rather than a celebration. We’re never prepared and people die on the roads. Well, now it seems people die in Cyberspace too.
It seems that Bridgend must be a more depressing place than most in dank dark January. Young people are ending their lives there like there’s no tomorrow. Which for them, of course, there isn’t. Seven, was it, I read about? All young, all with their lives ahead of them, but all, clearly, believing there was nothing ahead. Just darkness. So they hang themselves. Their buddies in Cyberspace salute their bravery, their escape from their pain. They write in the disjointed speak and spelling of a generation raised on email and text messaging: ‘ hey tash!! still can’t believe that u r gone!! i will always member thur 17th jan 4eva, the day that u were taken from us, wish u could have spoken to sum1 about what u were feeling!!!!! Jus wish that u were still here wit us!!! its still hard to get round it in my mind that u are gone, it feels like a dream. luv u. xxxxxx’ But perhaps the most worrying thing is that they talk as if the deceased is still there – it’s almost as if even death has become virtual in Cyberspace.
Cyberspace is like a strange black hole in our human universe. It is a bottomless pit, a fathomless void where there are no limits to imagination and possibility. It is a world where strangers become friends, where emotions and ideas whirl around without the normal perameters of our earthly existence. It is almost as if this very real suicide never actually happened: ‘hey tasha u ad a gd send off miss u loads miss ur sense of humor c u soon xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.’ But they won’t see her again, will they? Did Natasha Randall really grasp this fact when she decided to end her life? It was not a virtual black void that she was entering. It was a very real one. She is not coming back.
Anyone who has suffered chronic depression, as I have done, understands the black hole thing. It is a hideous place to be. But when I was trying to self-assess my emotional whereabouts, there was one box I never ticked – and that was the suicide one. Thankfully there was enough of me which was still in touch with the real world to know that, eventually (I didn’t know how, where or when), things would get better. I was able to understand that for every trough there is a peak. That nothing is forever. Except death. Life can be a struggle – far more for some than others. It isn’t fair. It’s just the way it is. Yet every struggle brings some positive. You can always learn from your experiences, good or bad. That’s where faith comes in. You have to believe that you have a future. That it will be all right. That there is always someone who loves you and that there is always something worth living for: ‘i always wanted you to know that i loved you. my eyes are heavy now with the endless tears of a broken heart. i just wished id told you in time, how hard love hit me, every time I saw u. xx …..if i could take her place i would have a thousand times, just so that she could blink, breathe, laugh once more. r.i.p girl who i will never stop loving.’ That was written to Natasha by ‘someone who loved her, but didn’t get to tel her’. Now that’s what I call a waste.
Even when the ground is frozen, the shoots of new life lie below. There is always hope not far away, even on a dark dank January night. The clouds do part eventually and the sun always reappears. You take your chances when you can and run with them. That’s why I went to light my bonfire. Today it’s snowing. No bonfires again for a while, just a peaceful white, very real, landscape. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
31 January 2008