Postmortem remarks: gratitude and suicide


I learned a lesson after the passing of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and other public figures who have been some of the popular victims of a national pandemic, suicide. According to the Centre for Disease Control, suicide is now a leading cause of death in the United States.

I met a man on the train. He was middle-aged, probably forties, and carried a laptop bag. We sat next to each other riding the subway eastbound downtown. It is unusual for me to chat with strangers on the train, but on this day, the energy was electric. A brown woman, probably in her fifties and speaking with a west indian accent stood up and started speaking loudly. At first, I thought she was mentally-ill until I really listened to her monologue. It was more like a lamentation. She said her 21-year old son had recently taken his own life after a battle with depression. Then she started weeping. The energy in the train became eerily still and quiet as she started telling passengers to “check pan yuh family, aks dem eff dem ok, how you cya help them” (check on your family, ask them if they’re OK, and how you can help them).

The woman said her son had stayed back in his university town to work over the summer. Gradually he stopped responding to calls and then stopped checking in with the family altogether. Then she got the call. She said if she had the chance to speak to him again, of all the things she could say to him she wishes she had told him she was so proud of him. He was a wonderful listener and always helped around the house when he was home. That since she did not say all these things to him when he was here, she’s saying them to us on the train.

The man next to me turned and said “this is so weird. I just got back from my younger sister’s funeral. She took her life last Thursday”. The hairs on my skin stood on end. He said his youngest sister had battled depression for years but she had been getting professional help. They hardly saw each other since they lived three hours apart. He remembered the last time they were together. They had a silly argument about her taste in men. He said he thought her history of dating bad boy lone-wolf types was negatively influencing her life. She couldn’t see the connection and thought he was just being a pokey over-protective big brother. Their arguments usually came to nothing. He wished they had not argued that day. He could have told her how much he cherished those times they got to spend together. And how much he adored her humour and thoughtfulness in everything she did. He wished they got together more often, maybe he would have known how bad she was hurting.

There was a common thread in these stories. The tragedy of suicide does not end in the demise of the victim. Its aftershock usually leaves a ripple in the lives of loved ones left behind to wonder ‘why’ and question how things could have been different.

The suicides of high profile celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain shocked most of us. At their demise, I imagine there were feelings of intense grief, sorrow, astonishment, and confusion for their families left behind.

During my rounds on social media over the passed months, it was hard not to come across posts about Bourdain or a meme with one of his famous quotes. These posts were usually followed by thousands of fans pouring out their hearts about how much he inspired them. In other threads, discussions of Kate Spade’s legacy were followed by fan taking selfies with their favourite Kate Spade bag or purse. Many people expressed appreciation for the design, quality, and stylish aesthetic of Kate Spade merchandise.

In like manner, Bourdain was a phenom. The chef turned-TV host took us on culinary adventures that delighted our senses with the sights and sounds of global gastronomy. In ‘Parts Unknown’, he took us along to Myanmar, Okinawa, and Lyon. When he went to Lagos, Nigeria he said: “it’s mad, it’s bad, it’s delicious, it’s confusing, and I’ve never seen anything like it”.

One tribute in honour of Mr. Bourdain on facebook was shared over 160,000 times and liked by over 181,000 people. Stephanie from Maine said: “I loved him since the early days when he wore his Ramones t-shirts. He introduced me to cultures I would have never known about. His sharp wit and sarcastic sense of humor always made me laugh. Anthony, I’ll miss having you in my living room and reading your books.” Laura from Melbourne said: “I have no words… you are the reason I aspire to travel villages, nooks, and everywhere but the norm!! Thank you for your influence. I’m sorry you never knew how far your reach went”.

When I read those comments, I felt deep sorrow for the opportunities lost to relay our appreciation to the deceased when they were here. Over time as the shock of tragedy fades, their stories become a blip in the social narrative. The thought of them might evoke a gasp, a shudder, or sometimes a sigh. But that’s about it. When the dust settles for most of us, we carry on.

I have to ask: when they pass to the hereafter, what use is the dirge when it falls on deaf ears? Those lamentations sound lovely to listening ears. But their intended audience can no longer give no applause. So maybe the next time you have the desire to criticize, troll, or leave a nasty comment online or in person, perhaps begin with gratitude first and see where that takes you. Express gratitude before they are post-mortem.

Part 2: A personal crisis…with babies thrown in the mix!

Image result for mom sadness

One the thing I’ve learned about motherhood is that it’s not really about you. That sounds pretty self-explanatory, yes? Let me put it like this: Just because by definition, the act of “mothering” requires a subject or child to be mothered, the mother actually plays a secondary role in motherhood. To be clear, enormous strength is required to birth life into another human being. Mothers matter, too. But today I am not talking about mothers. Let’s shift our focus to the children God has entrusted in our care.

There is a truth conscientious mothers know. Our foremothers needed to do a better job reminding us of this truth. Pregnant moms-to-be have to do a better job of listening and remembering when they are told this truth. This deep and mysterious truth…


Seasoned mothers who have come out of the early childhood phase know this reality. But brand new moms will need more time to learn the ropes. That for a time, especially when the baby is very young, you will forego elements of yourself to accommodate the demands of your cuddly little bundle of baby scent. It will be beautiful and it will be horrible. So please sit tight, you’re in for a ride. New mother will learn to endure sleepless nights for on-call late-night feedings, and the 2AM shifts changing soiled diapers only to change them again, because sometimes babies poo right after being fed. Please endure the “cries-for-no-apparent-reason sessions at 3:25AM. And ignore those thoughts that scream “you have personally ruined my chances of ever sleeping again for the rest of my life!” Please remember that as cliche as this sounds, but “this, too, shall pass”.

An intentional shift in the way we perceive motherhood can alter our experience of those early years. This looks like reframing “I have to get up for her next feeding around 2AM” to “I get to give my baby the vital nourishment she needs”. When I changed my attitude towards these inconveniences, I was able to better value my role as a caretaker for baby.

Ok, let’s get back to you, Mom.

As the child matures into the toddler years, it is recommended and even necessary for the mother to begin making efforts to become a whole individual again. Many moms may be preparing to return to the workplace. She may take an exercise class or join a ‘baby & me’ running group. This is the time many moms start wearing make-up and looking to fit into clothes other than yoga pants. Do whatever it takes to make you feel whole again. You will need your whole selves to navigate the next phase in motherhood. I got a personal trainer and started working out at a gym a three times a week. Ultimately, the goal of becoming a whole person is to invest in the process of your phoenix being reborn out of the ashes, that is the inferno of childbirth and delivery.

When my first son was 2 months old, I had lost all but 10 lbs of my baby weight. I knew I needed to get fit again so I started walking around neighbourhood with the baby in tow. I also began doing new bridge exercises to rebuild my core. Reading has always been a respite for me, so I started reading novels off my yearly book list. I ordered some digital books on my Kindle and grabbed a few hard copies too. And by 3 months old, my partner and I started the work to put baby on a proper sleep schedule.

The early months after childbirth is like any storm. Your chances of weathering the storm will be higher if you fortify your shelter. And like during most natural crises, there is safety in numbers. No new mother should suffer in isolation. Without the proper care and support, she may inadvertently prolong the length of the storm. During those early days, I was blessed to have the physical and emotional support of my husband.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of being surrounded by loving care and positive energy when it comes to managing the mental health of new mom’s. Let’s talk about that next time.

Allons y!


*Image from rochester moms


A personal crisis

Existential crises, thoughts on conformity, and the outlier conundrum

Did you have a panic attack or an emotional melt-down for no apparent reason? Did you feel like you were running out of time?

I created this blog in an effort to articulate my thoughts, to make sense of the mundane comings and goings of my mind. I started writing again mainly to question the frenzied panic that began swirling in my head around 2013; after the birth of my second child.

It was in between the breast-feedings, the lack of sleep, and the need for emotional support that I began to question everything: who am I? what am I doing with this life? what is this life anyway? Like, certainly this can’t be it!? Wake up, breast feed, diaper, sleep, on repeat.

It all started at the ripe age of 25 (old enough to change the world, old enough to die) when I noticed a gentle but constant eroding of my perception of my self. I had just moved to a new country, leaving work and friends to begin life with my loving partner as we were expecting our first child. After the baby came, I put most of my mental and physical energy into planning daily activities, and the general hustle of motherhood to care for our child. I read every popular book on parenting I could get my hands on. I devoured articles off Heck, I figured, at least if nothing else was going on for me in that new and strange city, I might as well become the best darn mother I could possibly be. I pored over research study after study; reading up on early childhood development. Quite often, I went over the research on developing gifted children and cultivating the genius factor in toddlers. Quickly, I began to see the pay-off for my efforts. My son knew all the alphabet and colours by 15 months old. Then he started reading at two years old. In my mind, I was winning! In fact, it wasn’t about this child anymore. Slowly, it became about me. Like, see what I can cultivate, look at my creation. I took this child from babbling toddler to reciting all the colours off the colour wheel and wow’ing the pediatricians. Essentially, it’s like I was saying to everyone who noticed “look, I did that! I’m so awesome”!

I was wrong. So wrong.

Ultimately, it was not about me. I was avoiding my own internal storm. Let’s talk more about this in the next post.