August 26, 2018 - Journal Entry - Cliff-iversary
"I woke up sore this morning. Maybe both in mind and body. Yesterday, we had big day. My cliff anniversary. Cliff-iversary as we have dubbed it. One year since the day I tried to take my life at the edge of a cliff. The day that inspired this whole Rock Canyon enterprise. So by deliberate timing, we had our official Rock Canyon soft launch. This, following a day after my public (youtube) suicide story share. This week could not have been more busy and intense.
A year ago yesterday, I snuck out of the house, leaving a note, and walked the three miles from our home to the mouth of Rock Canyon. Once there, I climbed to the nearest cliff. So this week, I decided, somewhat at the last minute to organize a pilgrimage. This time instead of walking alone, I’d walk the roads to rock canyon surrounded by friends and family. Poetic, right? But also the epitome of what Rock Canyon Life stands for Recreation that breeds ReCreation.
We started out at 6 pm. There were 10 of us, including 4 kids under the age of 5. In the first ¼ of a mile, half of the kids screamed, including mine. At one point I got a bit annoyed. In truth, I think I might have been taking myself too seriously. I get these ideas about how things should go, and screaming kids never seem to fit into the picture, but as I thought about it, the scratching concofiny sang of far more life than the death dirge of my last trip alone these back streets. Everyone settled down after a bit and we fell into a groove.
The whole walk is essentially one massive hill. From start to finish, we climbed 700+ feet in elevation. The kids walked parts of the way, but needed to be pushed in the strollers the rest. It was kinda grooling, pushing my son up this hill. My friend Matt called to me on one particularly nasty incline, “This is crazy. What were you trying to do, kill yourself?” I would have laughed but I didn’t have enough air to spare, pushing the stroller as I was.
It’s fall, so along to way kids gathers apples and pears from overhanging fruit trees and sat in their strollers eating. I didn’t eat any, but didn’t begrudge them the chance. It was kinda picturesque. The route took us through one of our town’s nicer neighborhoods. We laughed and talked. Sometimes we talked about life, kids, and work. Sometimes we talked about that day. Where each of us was. What we were doing, and what it was like during the 6 hours I was missing.
I shared how I took this route because it was out of the way. No one was likely to look for me here, and how in the middle of the afternoon I wore a hoodie over my head to hide my face from searchers. As if the hoodie in 80 degree weather wasn’t suspect. My wife shared how she found the note I left and ran over to the neighbors because her phone was dead. All the while we talked, pushing my son in a stroller up this hill, him eating his third piece of fruit. Up and up.
We got to the mouth around sunset. A pink and orange glow lit our ascension into the canyon. I didn’t take anyone up to the cliff. The climb is sketchy and hard. Instead we had two cars waiting in the parking lot. I pulled out a cooler filled with water a mini mountain dews.
We watched the sunset. The same sunset I watched from cliff top one year before.
On the cliff, my mind clouded by mental illness, I was ready to die. At the last moment I pulled out my phone and tried to write my son a goodbye note. An attempt to persuade him of my love. I couldn’t write the letter. It didn’t work. I couldn’t do what I was about to do and make him believe I loved him. I spent 3 hours on that cliff sobbing. I never stopped wanting to die, but something deep and stronger burned in my being. Curled in the fetal position, feet from the edge, I fought the battle of my lifetime. A battle between Love and short-sighted need.
At sunset, as the sun hit the mountains on the other side of our little valley, love won out. I called my friend, “David come get me. Bring a water and mountain dew. I think I probably need to go to the hospital after that.”
So last night at the mouth of rock canyon, as the sun set again, my little group of friends drank water and mountain dew. It was oddly normal. No pomp or ceremony. Just being. Togetherness.
We loaded our son’s stroller into the car. I had pushed him the better part of the pilgrimage. Up and up. Step after step. It seemed appropriate somehow. After all, in the year since he has pulled me, step after step, away from the cliff. Away from the canyon. Down and down, back to my friends and family. That war still wages, at times, today. That’s fine. It’s doesn’t scare me anymore. Mostly because I know a secret my disease doesn’t. It’s not in charge. Love is. I can push, love can pull, and together we’ll watch the sunset on another day. And then another, and so on."