My Mum committed suicide on April 9, 2000. I was 21 at the time, in Japan on a Monbusho scholarship. I had called the day it happened, or the day after, when there were already relatives in the house trying to function for my family members. My brother’s girlfriend answered the phone and told me Mum wasn’t there. I had my results for my first semester exams. I wanted Mum to be proud! I said I’d call back.
My brother’s girlfriend answered the phone the next day too. It was so confusing. She said Mum was out. Again? Where? Why? Mum was never out. That was the thing; that was how things had become.
And then I got the call. On my boyfriend’s mobile the next night – which was strange, again. I answered in Japanese, moshi moshi, and I heard my brother’s voice. Kate! It’s Paul – in Osaka! I’ve come to see you! I was so excited. I danced with abandon on the street, dark and glossy with spring rain as we waited for the taxi. I knew it didn’t make sense but who cared! Paul had come to surprise me, we would go straight to a bar and I would show him my Osaka, the place I had come to know in the last six months.
The elevator doors opened and there he was. Paul in Osaka. He lurched forward and hugged me tight. Too tight. He wouldn’t let go. And then he said it. Mum’s died. Mummy’s gone to heaven. I’ve come to take you home.
My life has never been the same, and I lost that girl, right then I lost her. The girl dancing on the street in the rain with excitement. Gone. I couldn’t yet process that I had lost my Mum, but I felt that loss of me. It wiped me out. It effaced me.
Mum threw herself off the overpass onto the Monash freeway. It was about 9am on a Sunday morning. I think she may have seen my father drive past first with my sister in the car. My mother had asked my sister to come down and visit her – Jane lived in Canberra at the time – because she was not okay, and Dad had picked up Jane from the airport that morning. I think of all these initiatives they have now, R U OK Day, and Beyond Blue, and signs up in doctor’s waiting rooms – and yet, it was too hard for my Mum. My timid, Catholic mother, who didn’t know why she had depression, and didn’t know that it was okay; that she needed help and it was okay.
God only knows the state of her mind that morning. Dad said later that she seemed ‘very dark’. She hadn’t been sleeping properly. She had just started a course of Zoloft proscribed to her only a few days earlier, but she hadn’t even told my Dad. Was she so ashamed? Scared. In my mother’s mixed up mind she thought it made more sense to end it all that morning rather than face change, face humiliation, get help.