Suicide: A Story Ends Too Soon

Suicide: A Story Ends Too Soon
The perfect chalk image for Lindsay drawn by her cousin, Mary Margaret West, at last week's "Out of Darkness" community walk.


In Memory of Lindsay K. Apple (1981-2010)

Logically, you know people will die. But you hope they will take their own sweet time. You imagine they will live well and vibrantly into their 90s so that you, selfishly, can have all the years you want to share tender moments and precious goodbyes.

On October 25, 2010, my dear childhood friend Lindsay Apple took her own life.

Like a fast-moving book of prose, Lindsay lived 29 years of a fascinating, successful life that led everyone around her to believe the best was yet to come. She was a well-educated professional with a wonderfully supportive family. She was engaged to be married. She had held several prestigious university positions and had devoted her time to volunteerism, travel, and missions. But her story—the one with us—ends there.

Lindsay was one of the first friends I made as an awkward 6th grader new to the town of Reidsville, North Carolina. Lindsay, a generous and much-less awkward middle schooler, was a brilliant student, artist, writer, and all-around funny lady. We became fast friends and, along with a tight circle of confidants, shared the 1990s. In the journey from 6th to 12th grade, Lindsay kept us all laughing as we ditched our over-sized t-shirts and alternative rock to become more sophisticated young women (or so we thought).

We shared growth, birthday parties, sleepovers, nicknames (Loula Biscuit Knee!), teenage crises, high school jobs, and boy troubles. Lindsay’s sense of humor and gift of encouragement kept us all sane. Her favorite way to cope with teenage drama: dragging her (very proper and Southern) mother’s red leather jacket (reminiscent of “Thriller”) from the closet to prance around in it while we’d roll on the carpet laughing. Lindsay knew subjecting us to a pale skinny girl dancing in a too-big-for-her Michael Jackson get-up while shouting, “I’m Mary Florence!” would get us every time.

After high school, Lindsay attended UNC with our best friend Kate, while I went my own way to Salem College. At the time, it was difficult to comprehend how distant friendships can become when you don’t see one another each day at school. I made frequent visits to Carolina, where Lindsay and Kate introduced me to their new friends. I was jealous of their exciting university life–which stood in stark contrast to my small, isolated women’s college.

During the summers, we’d reunite for outings to Greensboro, the closest city to our rural town. In rare moments, Lindsay would share her struggles: her parents’ divorce and subsequent move out of her childhood home, boy troubles, and finding the balance of her dreams with the realities of job searching and being a grown-up. As years went by, she shared less and less, perhaps not wanting the rest of us to see how messy life had become—though our own lives were equally chaotic with the growth edges of our 20s.

Lindsay would have been 30-years-old on September 11, 2011.  I always imagined that she would have been one of those people who would have taken her own sweet time to leave this Earth. I imagined us having old-lady tea parties with fine china, still laughing over Mary Florence’s red leather jacket. I had imagined Lindsay would have lived well and vibrantly into her 90s so that I, selfishly, could have had all the years I wanted to share tender moments and precious goodbyes.

Suicide is a devastating event.

Lindsay’s sister, Mara Apple O’Neil, served as a team captain last Saturday in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)  “Out of Darkness Community Walk” in Winston-Salem. Mara, along with team “Loving Lindsay” met and exceeded their $5,000 goal. Proceeds from the walk help the AFSP conduct research and provide education and prevention initiatives “designed to reduce loss of life from suicide.”

Mara describes the struggles of suicide survivors:

“… let me tell you that amid the sadness, guilt, and regret surrounding the suicide of a loved one, there is also anger. Anger towards the person who has forcibly removed himself or herself from our lives without first consulting us. Anger that he or she has altered the rest of our lives, and the rest of our spouses’ lives, and our childrens’ lives, and our parents’ lives, and didn’t give any of us a say-so in the matter. Resentment of the loved one’s unilateral decision-making for all his or her friends and family is all part of the pain that complicates the healing for suicide survivors … Forgiveness is what we must strive for if we are to move forward and keep living.”

There’s so much I want to say to Lindsay. I want to ask her “Why?”, and I want to know what we, the friends who knew her so well so long ago, could have done. I want to tell her, too, how much I admired and loved her.

If she were here today, I know she’d encourage my dreams as we’d joke about how superior her writing is to mine. I imagine, too, we’d still be laughing about awkward school moments, boys, 1990s fashion, Ecto-Coolers,  listening to Blind Melon’s “No Rain” on repeat, and of course, Mary Florence’s jacket.

If you or someone you know has been affected by suicide, please consider donating to the AFSP. Your time and contribution may very well save a life.

Editor’s Note: I just realized that Lindsay’s last blog post (October 23rd, 2010) featured a link to a person performing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance with finger puppets, complete with the red leather jacket. Chills. Thanks, Lin.

11 thoughts on “Suicide: A Story Ends Too Soon”

  • Wow, Dana. How beautifully written, and such wonderful memories. The questions, I’ll always have, as well as the blessing for the good times. To do what she did, she could not have been the same lady we knew in her younger days, but we will love and miss her forever.

    • Thank you so much for reading, Mary. You are a wonderful mother and Lin was so fortunate to have such a supportive family. Thanks, too, for mothering the rest of us. It’s true: what happened on October 25, 2010, was so unlike the Lindsay we knew. Therefore, we shouldn’t (and we won’t) allow it to define her story–she was so much more than that day. Hugs and love always.

  • Really enjoyed reading this. I remember always looking up to you, Lindsay, and Kate as such strong role models growing up. She was such an amazing person.

    • Anna: Thank you for reading and for these lovely words. You made my day. I will be sure to pass this message along to Kate, who, like me, thinks of you so fondly! Blessings to you in your creative work.

  • Dana, this is beautifully written. I’m sorry for your loss. It must be such a shock to you and her family. Glad you all can honor the many mixed feelings you have. May healing keep coming and may good from what seems so senseless.

  • Dana, the one word that came to mind was the one with which Mary opened her reply…”Wow!” I cannot even begint to describe for you the absolute, utter devastation that Lindsay’s death has brought to her Daddy’s life (and to so many others’ loves). If anyone every tells you that that empty hole in your heart eventually begins to fill, they are being less than honest. It is still as empty in my heart as it was nearly a year ago. As blessed as I am to have a beautiful, loving daughter and two wonderful granddaughters in my life today, I never look at any of them without thinking what a void Lindsay’s death has left in their lives, as a sister and as a loving aunt. It’s odd that, in her absence, I think of Lindsay perhaps more often than I did while she was alive. that makes absolutely no sense, and is so unfair to her and to me. but it is one of those anomalies of life that is just there….it’s just there. While I would certainly not be one to offer advice on all of this, if I were to venture to do so, I would simply say: “Please consider very carefully EACH AND EVERY decision you make, in view of the waves that can emanate from each decision you make.” Whether it is a decision to leave a job and a town that you truly love and embrace; or return to a relationship that may not have been quite right the first time around; or choose a partner for life; or come to the conclusion that taking your own life is your best option… is SO vital that one look far beyond one’s own walls, town, state, etc…..and particularly beyond one’s own self…and think about the endless wake that you will create by making that decision. Surely, those waters will evantually become less turbulent, and the waves less pronounced….but those waters will never be still, and peaceful, within the hearts of those you leave behind. I pray so fervently that we all can learn that lesson, just as I wish so sincerely that Lindsay had taken a second look at her optoins last October. Thank you, Dana, for your kindness, and for remembering Lindsay! Sincerely,
    Bill Apple a/k/a “THE OAO (one and only) DAT.”

    • Mr. Apple (The OAO DAT!):
      Thank you for your heartfelt words. I am moved by your honesty and grateful for your wisdom. You, Mara, Mary and the entire family have known front-and-center how painful and real this hole is each day. I pray for comfort and strength for each of you as you continue your grief journey. I’m convinced that the openness with which you all share this experience will make a difference for many others. Thank you and much love.

  • Dana, the one word that came to mind was the one Dana, I apologize for my misspellings in the reply I left earlier. I was so focused on content, I didn’t do very well in the spelling/editing department!

  • Beautifully written, Dana. Lindsay would love it.

    The self-destruction of a family member is devastating. The unexpected loss leaves a penetrating hole in one’s heart, soul and mind.

    My father’s death (at home) by his own hand on
    Monday, Dec. 5, 1960 left a void never to be filled. He was unique, as all of us are. It has been 51 years now. I was 20 yrs. old. To this
    day, putting that loss into words escapes me.
    Tears come when I try. I am so sorry you never
    got to meet him. You would have been his joy.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Mom. You are so brave. I can’t imagine losing a parent under that circumstance. I continue to be sorry for your loss. I imagine the grief has taken different shapes throughout the years, but is still as powerful as ever.

      Thank you for being a loving, caring, incredible mother!

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