The hymnist Fanny Crosby wrote these words: "Chords that were broken will vibrate once more." I included her words in the first chapter of my upcoming book, Victory Song. Below is an excerpt describing my up-close encounter with suicide and the remnants it left behind.
I was 17 the night it happened: the single, tragic event that would shape my journey and life's purpose from that point forward.
It happened in Hong Kong, February of 1974, five months before I would leave for America to attend Mississippi University for Women on a long sought-after scholarship. It happened just before dawn, in the dim hours when the world still wears the blanket of night. In the bedroom that I shared with my older sister, I woke up suddenly, hearing a wailing cry. I can still hear that haunting voice of my father. He was shouting my sister's name. As I shook my sister awake, I had a foreboding sense that something dreadful had happened and life would never be the same. I followed timidly behind as my sister made her way through the living room into the kitchen. I was afraid to follow any further and stood silently in the living room, hoping for some indication that this was just a false alarm and life would resume to normal, if there was such a thing as normal. Then I heard my father's voice say in a panting way, "Quick! Get a knife! Cut her down!"
In that instant, I knew my mother had hung herself from the rafters. My father was holding up her body to keep the rope from choking her further.
Time stood frozen as I tried to wrap my mind around what had happened. America had been my mother's dream. Making it to America had been all she had ever hoped for, the sole devotion of her scarred and broken life. We were almost there: my sister and I had been accepted into college already, and we felt certain that we'd be able to help our parents make the crossing. After all those years of courageous dreaming and painful sacrifices, why had she given up now?
When the paramedics came to take my mother away, I still held on to a glimmer of hope that they would find a way to resuscitate her. My father left with the paramedics…About an hour later, when the phone rang, I stared vacantly at the phone as it continued to ring. When I finally picked it up, I heard my father say, "She's gone. We lost your mother." I'm not sure what happened after that. It was as if someone pulled down the curtain on our lives. Would there be an Act Two, or was this the end?
Her choice was the final, most terrible bomb; my mother had detonated her own lost hopes and shattered my world into a thousand pieces. Death washed over me in all its impenetrability and permanence. I fell to the floor, asking myself questions that would consume me, night after night, for decades to come.