Farewell, Allen [Re-post]

[This post originally appeared on October 21, 2009 on my previous blog.  I am reposting it because i think handling death is an important aspect of healthy community life.  And because i am frustrated by the lack of things which will likely happen nationally around the Newton killings.]

Allen a few weeks before his suicide

Allen a few weeks before his suicide

About a week back a new member of Twin Oaks, Allen, took his life. He had wrestled with depression for much of his adult life and his mother said at the community sharing circle that “Twin Oaks had been the happiest month and a half of his life.”

The morning before he took his life i was in the tofu hut with Mushroom and in one of those rare moments when there is no one else there but the lone kettle person and the lone trays person she said to me. “Who do you think is the sexiest person on campus?”

“Allen” was my immediately response. He was quiet, diligent, attractive, musical, mechanically inclined. I had hooked him up with ex-member Denny Ray to help with the communities perennial problem of equipment maintenance. They had fixed the Llano refrigerator together and Denny had been impressed by his quick learning and eagerness. They were working on the ice machine together the day he passed.

16 years ago this community was torn apart by Delancies suicide. It was the last suicide we had and it was completely different. Unlike Allen, there was lots of warning. Unlike Allen there were many who felt the community could have done more. Unlike Allen there were many who were furious with other members perceived insensitivity to mental health problems. Unlike Allen, half a dozen people left the community because of it and McCune quit work for a year (something our labor system permits for people who have sufficient balance to do so).

Allen’s death is a gift to us. We pull together. We support each other. Many people, especially Louisa, his lover of 9 years, are saying “it is this type of support that is the reason i moved to community”. In fact the most powerful msg from our sharing circles and healing rituals is “i dont want to go back to normal”. What we want instead is a place where someone can be crying in public space, without anyone feeling put out by it or drawn into it against their will.

Christian was holding and comforting Bridget in the Tupleo Kitchen. I was in there with Willow who was being noisy and lively. There was a whole mini-circus that passed before the mourners. When we are at our best, we integrate our sadness and our daily lives.

And his death is a challenge to us. How do maintain some piece of this incredible support we are offering each other. How do we maintain this transparency, this willingness to speak our personal truths. I learned of several peoples struggles with suicide as part of this process. i joined the care team for one of the people today, who i care for and was unaware of their struggle. Allen has helped us shine a healing light on ourselves and now we want to figure out how to keep it shining.

if we are really good, we will find the switch for that light. and if we can i am sure Allen would be proud of us.