"Hi, Mr. Sullivan?" Lee knew full well that the police officer was talking to him, but for some inexplicable reason the words in his head were slow in finding their way into his mouth.
"Yes, I'm Mr. Sullivan." Lee was almost fearful of the next words, although he was fully aware that his mother was dead.
"Mr. Sullivan, I'm Detective Wagner. I'm so very sorry that we had to meet under these circumstances. You may already know this but if you haven't been advised, your mother's death has been determined to be the result of a suicide. Apparently, she had a terminal illness and chose to end her life before the cancer could take it.
"I was the investigator assigned to the case and, upon examining the scene, your mother's home, I found an envelope addressed to you lying on the nightstand next to her bed. I apologize for opening the envelope and reading the letter, the intrusion of a conversation she wanted to have with you, but the envelope and enclosed papers were considered to be evidence."
Lee was waiting for more from the detective, maybe something that made more sense of his mother's death, but nothing more was offered.
"Here is the envelope and the letter addressed to you. Again, I'm sorry for your loss."
Lee left the building, but if you were to ask if he remembered much of the conversation with the detective, he would readily admit that he did not. I suppose that his mind had not processed the notice of his mother's death and he was unsure which emotion should fill his mind, that of pain, anger or grief.
There was a small grass-covered park just across from the police station. It was relatively free of people and, for some reason unexplained even to this day, Lee was drawn to an empty bench which rested on the green grass-covered ground. It would be a quiet place, a place where he alone could read the words that were on the sheets of paper in that envelope, that white envelope which he held so tightly in his hand.
"For my dearest son, Lee,
"I am leaving for you these last words and thoughts of mine not as an apology for my actions but as an explanation. If not in the words themselves, then hidden between the lines, and if you look hard enough you will find the great love I have for you, a love that doesn't end with my passing, for I believe that love is the strongest eternal force.
"This disease, this cancer that has taken my strength and would have, in its own sweet time taken my life, has interrupted my seemingly normal and patterned life. I lived my life as if there was no tomorrow because I always thought that the day after today was sure to come. It, like other things in my life, was taken for granted and inevitable.
"As I lay here in my old and comfortable bed, I remember the day the doctor so casually and coldly informed me of my impending demise. I remember asking how my life would come to an end and he explained the pain, the loss of hair and the seemingly endless bedridden hours and days that would precede my death. All of these things would be completely out of my control.
"I remember thinking to myself that this cancer was going to kill not only my body but my spirit, and that was something I feared more than death itself. I refused to allow this cancer to take my life on its terms and on its timetable. I have been a free and independent woman far too long to allow that to happen. I may not have had much control of my life left, but the means by which my existence would find its end were still in my hands, not in the hands of this disease.
"So now I come to the crux of the matter. Realizing the futility of future treatments and procedures, I have made the decision to hasten my death. I mixed a blend of drugs which will bring to an end the pain, depression and what is now my life. I have consumed that mixture and now lay here in my bed composing this letter and waiting for the angel of death to whisk me away from all I have known and been. I by no means seek martyrdom, sympathy or even forgiveness. I only ask that you try to understand and respect my decision to end this fractured existence that is my life.
"This cancer has taken my hair but it has not taken my courage. This indiscriminate killer of people has stolen my strength but it has not stolen my dignity; that I cannot and will not abide. This hideous monster may strive to kill me but I will intervene and prevent it from achieving its goal. It shall not win. I lament not any thought of defeat, for I leave with a subtle smile and the gratification knowing that I am victorious.
"This letter is short because, let's face it, there's really no end to the thoughts I could share with you, but to what end? I'm sure that this letter will fall into the hands of the person who discovers my lifeless form and I ask only that they ensure that these papers find their way to you. For it is the love and respect which I have for you that compelled me to pen these words to paper.
"I can now feel the effects of the deadly potion which I so carefully brewed and I must, therefore, bring this one-sided conversation and my life to their fitting conclusions. I regrettably leave you as I will travel to a place where my mother, father and your brother have gone before me. I know not where this destination is or the route that must be followed to get there, but I have always been one with an adventurous soul and I tell myself that my journey will end with hugs from loved ones and promises of eternal love, for love lasts longer than forever.
"I pray that your life will be full of love and happiness, and it is my most sincere wish that any journey similar to mine which you may embark on will not begin for many years to come. But know that at the end of that trip, I will be waiting there for you with open arms and a heart bursting with love.
"I'm a little sleepy, so I guess it's time to close my eyes one last time; but before I sleep, I want you to know that I love you more than you can possibly know.
"Please talk to me once in a while; I'll be listening. I bequeath to you all my worldly possessions, a final kiss and the knowledge that you were loved -- oh, how you were loved! I beg your indulgence one last time, but I will leave you and this world with a reminder of who I was, my name.
"Goodbye, Anne Sullivan"
Anne had years earlier purchased a marker but she believed that the date of her demise would be inscribed on that slab of granite decades later and long after its placement on that grassy hillside. The Cemetery was a small and remote one which contained only a hundred or so stone reminders of those who had passed before Anne.
Lee scattered Anne's ashes on the grass that covered the ground next to her marker.
"Goodbye, Mom, goodbye, Anne Sullivan."
Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 11/08/2018
Print Headline: The Death Of Anne Sullivan