She had considered suicide on more than one occasion.
What put her off was the effect on her kids. She did not wish to burden them with a legacy of guilt, although she was unsure if they would harbour such feelings. She could imagine anger, frustration, disappointment. They treated her with such contempt it was hard to know what impact her demise would have.
And then there was her husband. He treated her well and she knew that she was useful to him. She cooked and cleaned even if not with the skills he could admire. Sex was another chore. He was still handsome enough and solvent in a world filled with debt. He could easily find a replacement although not perhaps one as compliant as she. He may relish the change but, as ever, she worried about the impact on their kids.
The aches and pains she felt, the blood she passed, it was probably just her age. If not then death by illness would be so much more acceptable to those left behind. There would be no public shaming even if her choices could be surreptitiously blamed by the spiteful. She knew that she drank more than was good for her but cared little for the effects on her body. If it shortened her life then so be it, at least she would have lived.
It had been a good life. She loved her husband even after all these years of marriage. She was proud of their kids whose lives stretched out before them, filled with such potential. They seemed normal, happy, ready to spread their wings. Didn’t their desire for independence, their strong but considered views, show that she had done her job well? She felt accomplished that they no longer needed her. It hurt that they did not want her.
She considered going to her doctor but saw little point. She was overweight for her age and height, obese by the helpful charts she consulted on line. Both her mother-in-law and her sister opined that the obese did not deserve free healthcare, that they should help themselves by losing the weight. She had been trying to lose weight since she was fourteen years old. Only occasionally did she succeed.
She did not agree with their point of view believing that these issues were often an outward sign of more complex problems. She wondered if she suffered a mental health disorder then berated herself for indulging in such thoughts. Her husband considered depression to be a first world problem, a sign of weakness. He had no interest in such nonsense.
They rarely talked about how they felt. They rarely talked of much at all. When the children discussed politics or the economy she would try to engage but her oratory skills failed her. They became exasperated, running rings around her stumbled opinions before dismissing them. Their father, when he joined in, always sounded so sure, so knowledgeable. She felt a failure for her inability to counter his neoliberal perspective with the same conviction.
She felt a failure in most things: as a wife, a mother, a worthwhile member of society. She sat upon this earth consuming resources and giving little back. If her body was now failing her then she would allow it to wane. The costly treatments that could be offered would channel finite resources away from those who deserved it, those who wished to live.
What is it her son had said when she had told him she did not expect to achieve old age? ‘At least you won’t get dementia.’ This had always been her fear, that she would become a burden to those she loved.
Some days she did not wish to die. Some days she felt the warm glow of happiness, a momentary sunbeam, breaking through the shadows that threatened to engulf her waking hours. Some days life still felt good.
And it had been a good life; she had no regrets. She had achieved so much even if her family did not now hold any of it in regard. She had not made any sacrifices but had offered her all willingly and with infinite love.
This then would be her first, selfish act.