I stood in the machine shed, surrounded by equipment and tools. Hammers, wrenches, buckets. Everything but the damn rope I wanted. It was a faded yellow rope that had been kicking around the farm for years. It was unmistakable because of its plastic like texture. It wasn’t a soft rope. This one had a bite. Years of hard use had roughened it and caused strands to stick out like little fingers. That is the rope I wanted. For the life of me I couldn’t find it anywhere. This was nothing new. The place was a mess, as always. I grew angry and frustrated the longer I poked thru the various piles. I left the shed an hour later, on the verge of tears. All this because of the rope. My mind had this planned perfectly. Not having that special rope was causing me to feel anxious and desperate. But I had found a long length of climbing rope. It was blue with gold braided into it. Brand new and coiled on the shelf. It was okay, it would do. I knew by picking it up that it would more than support my weight, and it was plenty long enough. I gathered up the rope and walked across the property.
The old Maple sat at the corner of the deck, stretching high above the house. It had probably stood there for the past 100 years. It had a thick limb that spread out from the trunk at a right angle. It bore scars from years of swings, and ropes. Many a child had happily swung from this great branch. I imagined those kids and their happiness in the moment I threw the blue rope over that limb. I was calm and steady. Focused completely at the task at hand. I pulled the rope flush with the large trunk. I coiled the end and tucked it in neatly at the base. I even walked once around the tree to make sure the blue rope wasn’t visible from the house or deck. I was sure it was perfect before I turned and left it waiting for later.
I couldn’t tell you what I ate, or even what I did in the hours that led up to that early morning. The snow started to fall, and the wind howled. I was undeterred by it all. I went upstairs to bed. Keeping the same routine I always did. Meds, and then up to sleep. I set my alarm clock to wake me well before dawn. I rose quietly. Steady in my head, and completely confident in my plan. I felt at ease. No anxiety, no doubt. I went down the stairs and quietly left the house. The dogs did not stir from their sleep on the couch. I stepped out into the dark. The Nor’Easter was still raging. The wind whipped along the siding and tore around the corner of the house. It was brutal outside. I was not dressed to be out in the elements, but that didn’t much matter to me. Nothing much mattered, but what I was about to do.
I had the cordless house phone with me. I know you are probably wondering why. I knew I couldn’t step off that chair without saying something. I had written my notes, letting people know my thoughts and had said goodbye. But I knew I had to tell Beatrice, or Virgil. It was the only part of my plan I had not decided upon. I really had no idea. I slid the phone into my pants and bowed my head to the wind. It was a short distance to the tree. I pulled the heavy metal chair silently through the shin deep snow. In the dark and snow it was hard to find the rope. I pawed through the crystal cold white piled against the tree. My fingers ached from the cold. With the strong winds and the dark it was probably well below zero at that point. I was covered in snow by the time I found the rope. I fought to tie the knot I had studied so carefully in the weeks before. My mind and fingers numb, it wasn’t working. Finally I though I had it right.
With peace in my heart I lay the noose around my neck and stepped up on the chair. Everything seemed right. Hands shaking I took out the phone and tried to remember the number. My mind was lost, I couldn’t concentrate. I could only shiver as I stared at the numbers. I was going to give up. The wind was driving snow, pelting me with ice. I finally got it. I don’t remember what I said, I only remember letting go of the phone. I watched it fall to the snow beneath me. Knowing I would soon follow. My heart pounded in my chest, I suddenly felt nervous. I knew though, that it would soon be okay. There was nothing to worry about. I checked once more the knot in the noose. Aligning it behind my right ear. I felt the anxiety leave me as I stepped off into the wind and snow. I remember the snap of the rope as it went taught. The weightlessness of my legs as they dangled. The pounding of my heart could be felt in my temples. I remember hearing a weird noise, and thinking it sounded like a dying animal. I know now it was me, fighting to breath, fighting to live.
There is one thing that we can’t take into account when planning our own death, our body’s will to survive. You cannot just will yourself to stop breathing, it doesn’t work that way. Our mind may want more than anything to be at peace, but our body will still go on. Our brain will tell our heart to beat. With each beat bringing oxygen and life to our being. It is not easy to stop that. It is not easy to kill oneself. I know in those last moments before I lost consciousness hanging from that tree, my body wanted more than anything to live. It wanted no part in this careful plan that got me up there. I respect that now. I understand, deep in my heart, it wasn’t meant to be.