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Today is the 40th year anniversary of the death of my sister by suicide.

Like the ripples in a pond, the impact of this action left a huge crater in my life that has greeted me with waves of difficulty over the years since. I don’t know much about the actual suicide itself, but I do know she suffered from depression for years prior and had attempted suicide numerous times before.

I was young at the time. A mere 18 years old. She was 5 years older than me.

We got the call to come home so we could go keep vigil at the side of her hospital bed. She was in grave condition and unconscious. The doctors didn’t have much hope. My father, brother, sister and I lived the last 3 weeks of her life in the ICU, waiting, hoping, crying and praying…

I knew so little of what was going on and after about 2 weeks, I guess the doctors told my dad that it was time to take her off of life support. There was nothing else they could do. I believe, but I don’t know, that that decision was the hardest decision he has ever made. (40 years later, it leaves me breathless to think about.)

I decided to stay and keep vigil over her last few days of life. All I remember is that I sat on her bed and held her hand and on the day she died, I watched as the machines slowly indicated that she was going to her heavenly home. It was at the moment of her death that I finally cried.

I don’t remember much about the next few days. Much of that time was a blur. Her funeral was excruciating to endure as I watched my father cry like his heart would burst in his chest. The imprint of that moment etched deeply and permanently in my mind…

Over the last 40 years, we solemnly remember Martha on the 14th of August. It was clear my dad struggled with her death. The profundity of how it affected him, I will never know.  However, the impact of her choice was one that none of us escaped. Her suicide was the “rock” thrown into the individual ponds of our lives, with waves of effects rippling out and touching us; shaping our lives in ways none of us could have imagined.