Walking quickly towards the front door in the sweltering Texas sun, I could still feel the coolness on my skin from the air conditioning blasting on me in the car for the last five minutes. I always implemented “operation a/c frostbite” before stepping out of the car and into the unbearable heat.
I pressed the doorbell, put a sincere smile on my face and waited for someone to answer. The front porch was neat as a pin with bees enjoying the massive flowers blooming in huge pots. I began making a mental grocery list and calculated how much time I needed to finish a few visits before the end of the week. Cautiously, the freshly painted door opened and Margaret stepped outside with checkbook in hand, closing the entrance behind herself.
Embracing with heartfelt friendship, we greeted one another.
“It is so nice to see you. How have you been?” I asked as I handed her the Avon bag full of goodies.
“Not so good. Thank you so much for coming at the last minute,” she said a little weak spirited.
“Is there anything I can do for you? Are the kids okay? How about your husband?”
“The kids and Ron are fantastic. My bipolar medication is not working and life feels so impossible. I just want to die so that Ron can find a better wife and mother for our children,” she said and stood staring directly in my eyes unwavering.
I could feel the sweat begin to drip down my spine. The already stifling heat almost felt unbearable after her revelation. If anyone was serious about suicide, it was Margaret. Life had not been kind. Abused as a child, marrying and subsequently divorcing an abusive man, and eventually being diagnosed as bipolar during a stay at a psychiatric facility had all left massive emotional scars on her heart.
My mind raced as I asked, “Have you told anyone how you are feeling?”
Marrying Ron and having three beautiful children should have been the happy ending to her story, but Margaret had a hard time staying ahead of her bipolar symptoms. Depression constantly plagued her.
“Yes,” she said and then continued with her explanation. “I told Ron this morning and he cried as he left for work begging me the whole way to the car not to do anything to wreck our lives together. He asked me to call you to deliver my order because he hid my car this morning so that I couldn’t drive. Honestly, he didn’t want me to start it in the garage and sit in it in order to follow through with my wish.”
A vision of Margaret killing herself in the garage caused a puking feeling in my stomach. I felt so sorry for this little family. Ron was a big, burly man and loved Margaret and the children. He had a hard time coping with this wife’s manic tendencies, but he was a loyal husband and tried to cater to her whims no matter how unreasonable.
The sun’s heat engulfed us as we stood for an hour on her porch talking. I just couldn’t walk away and leave her so alone. Unwilling to lose her sounding board, she talked on and on about everything. Margaret had a therapist appointment the next day and after we had talked at such length, she felt she could hold on until then.
With my clothes soaking wet from sweat and my heart heavy with compassion, an hour and a half after arriving at the house, I was getting back into my car. As the keys turned and the engine came to life, the air conditioning once again began to blow albeit hot air. I opened the back windows and coasted backwards out of the driveway. Looking back at the now empty porch, I pulled away from the house and headed home.
A few weeks later, Ron called to thank me. “I don’t know what you said to Margaret during your visit, but she has a renewed vision of her role in our family. I just wanted to thank you for being more than an Avon lady. I knew you would visit her if she called and it brought a huge relief while I worked. As you know, she doesn’t have many friends because they take everything she says so personal when she’s in one of those moods, but you always seem to let it roll off your back and you listen.”
Now I felt guilty. When Margaret called weeks ago, I had silently complained about having to deliver anything to anyone after hanging up the phone. I had even vowed to only stay with her ten minutes no matter what happened, but I hadn’t followed through with the plan. I was so thankful I had ignored my selfish inclinations.
After that experience, I vowed to myself that I would not complain about helping other people. Obviously, being an Avon representative was meant to provide more than an income while staying home to raise my daughter. I was also in service to other people who often kept me at their homes for several hours unloading one problem after the next. Many times I was told things that these women had never told another human being. I felt a keen sense of responsibility to fulfill my role of compassionate service which is one of the instigators that led to my consumption of a vast number of self-help and psychology books. I also had a prepared list of psychiatrists and psychologist that I could pass on when the occasion warranted.
That experience only heightened my awareness of the delicate balance we all have between life and death. Nothing, however, could have ever prepared me for the recent experience with my daughter. So many of you have written wanting to know more details of my daughter’s brush with death. Rather than putting the same story in each email, over the next couple days I will begin posting the most gut wrenching experience of my life.