Past Tense

By Beth Winze

The shrill ring of the cell phone abruptly ended my entertaining reenactment of a bizarre encounter with an inebriated customer from my evening shift. I checked the watch that clung to my wrist noting the late hour it displayed. 11:53 beamed into the dimly lit bedroom where my mother lay half-asleep. She slung the covers back from her body and made her way to the beckoning phone, her steps hasty and short. I left my place at the end of the bed, making my way to my room to encircle myself in the warmth of my pajamas.

It is peculiar to me, how my mind seems to erase the entity of a situation and so boldly focus on the particular details in which an event happens. I can still quite easily recall the way my hair was piled on top of my head, the night air that drifted in through the open windows, and the smell of my White Cherry scented candle teasing my nose. It is as if the mind aptly focuses on the minuscule details of a scene instead of the happenings in which a person is about to undergo; a way for the body to feel a final sense of familiarity before they are swept under into a whirlwind of change.

The chattering of my mother’s voice was silenced and it is this seemingly obscene silence that will be the single calmest moment before the storm. My feet lead me from my room onto the kitchen’s threshold. My mother’s hand was clutched over her chest, her mouth lowered in surprise. The warning signs of tears had sprouted on her lower eye rim reflecting the computer screen she sat in front of. My body subconsciously positioned itself in front of the computer, my eyes making slow drags across the screen, too terrified to focus on the words. I absent-mindedly noted the single sob that bubbled from my mother’s throat. She abruptly stood leaving me to read the same three sentences in robotic repition. The phone I clutched in my mind, buzzed in sync with the chaos charging through my head.

Regret to inform. For unknown reasons. Was found. Dead. Suicide.   

Tears unexpectedly spilled down my cheeks. All of a sudden, the fluorescent lights were concentrated far too much – a spotlight on my sudden breakdown. The air was too dense and heavy, and the candle in my room was nauseating. I stumbled from room to room, my uneven footsteps in time with the ringing of my cellphone. I finally allowed my thumb to slide across the screen and accept the call. In those next few moments, I had never felt more entirely alone. My heart glossed numbness over the surface and I fell to the floor clutching my comforter in my hand. My body medicated itself with a self-made morphine, steady drips keeping my eyes dry and my heart unresponsive. It was in that moment that I wish I could relive – the pain-free exhaustion that my brain had so graciously provided. I nursed the natural drip for the next seven hours. But the pain-relief did not last forever. The wall across the room became my focal point as my body awoke to the reality of the situation.

In one moment, the tidal wave of pain hit me. It took me under the surface and kept me there until I could barely breathe. The wall watched me as I shook like a dried out autumn leaf shaking in the cold wind. All the color was gone and I was hanging on to the branch by a single fiber of my last ounce of strength. I allowed sleep to consume me to usher me away from the new reality that had become my life.

For the next two weeks, tears seeped from my eyes in random flows of anger, pain, frustration, hurt and confusion – each tear coming from a different section of my exhausted heart. Questions raged through my head and guilt consumed my every breath. What if I could have done something different? What if I missed signs? What if, what if, what if. But my brain refused to suture and heal the “what if” questions. Speaking about him in the past tense was a terrible emotion to work through. No one should have to talk about such a well-respected man in that way. Past tense.

Yes, I had interacted with him on several occasions. He listened to me when I talked, gave me encouragement in my weakness, and provided an enthusiasm for pursuing my passions that he had shared as well, but beyond that, we were not entirely close. We did not share a relationship as he did with his closest friends and coworkers. But maybe, just maybe the reason it hurt the very core of me, was because that had almost been me three months prior. Ready to give it up. Life became this idea of past tense to me. My name was finitely close to becoming another name on a Saturday morning obituary announcement. This summer was the first time I have ever wanted to escape anything so desperately. I wanted to escape the pain and forget the past tense. I no longer desired to be talked about as if I was gone.

She was a great person. She loved greatly. She was young.

This summer, I changed my mindset; I decided I wanted to be talked about in the present.

She is a great person. She loves greatly. She is young.

To begin my life again. Finally living in the present tense.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, please know that you are not alone in this.  Depression and suicide were a struggle of mine for four years  and I understand the pain, hurt, frustration, and confusion that all become side effects of it.  You are wanted here, you are loved here, and you are needed here no matter what you or anyone else tells you.  If this struggle is what consumes your thoughts, search out a counselor and/or call the suicide hotline.  

1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide has become a large issue and I want to use my blog as platform to support and encourage you to seek help if you are currently dealing with this.  


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