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However You Want To M*a*s*h It Up, Suicide Is NOT Painless!

The sword of time will pierce our skins

It doesn’t hurt when it begins

But as it works it’s way on in

The pain grows stronger… watch it grin, but…

‘Cause suicide Is painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please…

Who among us has never sung, wailed, hummed or screamed at some time or another to a song written by a fifteen year old hormonal teenager and which would become the soundtrack to the film M*A*S*H?

For it was on Tuesday June 19, a cloudy day in 1962 that the loved ones of Clarice Tibbett would experience the heartbreak of knowing that suicide is not painless with the awful news of her death AND by her own hand at the age of 48.

Her suicide would bring on many changes for our family, not least those harrowing feelings of sadness, bewilderment and regret which can weave their way inside the narrative of every death leaving no surviving loved one immune; but with Clarice, there would always be a touch of disquiet, a subtle tone of pity, shame tinging every fond recollection when she was brought to mind and always a stubborn reluctance to talk about the reasons for her death.

For I knew almost nothing of Clarice, other than her name, until my early 20’s when I began my history sleuthing and discovered that it was she who was this unexplored branch rooted to MY family tree!

However, I quickly realised that not every member of my family shared my excitement for this genealogical gem and I began to annotate my research notes with those interviewees with whom I must ‘proceed with caution’ at the mention of Clarice.

And although I eventually managed to ‘win over’ several tight-lipped members of my clan, who I might add, were never known for their recalcitrance on many other topics; others have died taking all that they know along with their personal feelings about Clarice with them and who, I like to imagine are now taking it up with the lady herself!

Jeremy Garvon in an interview for the Daily Mail prior to the publication of his poignant 2015 memoir A Woman On the Edge of Time about the suicide of his mother had written that:

All suicides leave some degree of confusion. Suicide is the hardest human act to understand because it challenges the fundamental assumption by which we lead our lives – that life has meaning, value – but also because it leaves no one to explain…

Even though Clarice breathed her last on Tuesday June 19, her final journey to death began some three days previously on a cloudy but warm Saturday afternoon when after enjoying a final lunch with her spouse in which she chattered about what she would cook for their tea and of their plans for that evening and after he left for work; she made the decision to go to an upstairs bedroom and swallow the entire contents from a bottle of prescribed sleeping tablets.

At the time of her death, Clarice and John were living in a pleasant terraced house in a residential area of Scarboro in North Yorkshire and as the house still stands, I have made the journey there to stand in the shadow of the large trees which dominate the secluded garden in an effort to understand and try to imagine what happened on that fateful day.

After John had returned to work, did she clear away the remains from that final lunch they had shared together? Did she wash the dishes, wipe the kitchen table of crumbs and rearrange the dining chairs or did she simply make her way upstairs and leave a poignant Marie Celeste scene for John to discover upon his return home.

What we do know is that her bottle of sleeping tablets was in the bedroom and she had to have gone upstairs to take them. But why?

For when she did finally make it upstairs, did she take a look out of that bedroom window and see children playing or one her neighbors tending to their neat garden on that typical Saturday afternoon?

Was the house warmer upstairs? Did she open the window for some air or to listen to the sounds of the rustling trees, the occasional car driving past or some welcome laughter?

And did she look at those trees in her garden and watch the branches swaying in the wind or was she just so tired and desperate for a decent afternoon nap that she pulled the curtains shut and took one tablet, then another and then one more until she had no recollection of anything.

Did she mean to go to sleep forever or just for an hour or two until it was time to get up, put on her glad rags and hit the town later that evening?

We know that when John returned home from work later that day, she was found unconscious in a bedroom and with the doctor having been called for, she was carried through her front door for the final time and taken by ambulance at speed across the long stretch of Seamer Road, past the home of her mother-in-law and down and up Scalby Road across the sprawling Manor Road Cemetery and finally on to Scarborough Hospital.

And although her final earthly journey was one of less than 5 miles which lasted only minutes; in the hours, days, weeks and years following, her loved ones would travel millions of miles on their own journeys of ‘What if?’ or ‘If only!’.

A brave man once requested me

To answer questions that are key

Is it to be or not to be

And I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

‘Cause suicide Is painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please…


Sources Used:

Oh My Brilliant, Beautiful Mother… WHY? Jeremy Gavron Femail Magazine for the Daily Mail (Thursday November 19 2015)

"Anyone who braves the opinion of the world must sooner or later feel the consequences of it." ~ Lady Melbourne

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