Thursday, May 30, 2019

Funeral Flowers: A TeenVoice Post

I’ll confess. Sometimes I inwardly cringe when I hear the question (especially when it comes from complete strangers who email or hand me their work) that, as an English teacher and writer, I’ve been asked thousands of times: “Would you like to read what I’ve written?”

“Of course,” I normally answer, regardless of whether I really have extra time.

The standard reply I gave my 17-year-old nephew, however, was 100 percent sincere. I’d never seen his writing. I was curious. Best of all, since he lived several states away and wasn’t my student, I could set aside my red pen and simply enjoy his work with no obligation to critique, grade, or give feedback.

Without expectation, I nestled into a quilt and opened his St. Joseph High School college-writing class binder. I began to read, awed and delighted by the content, craft mastery, and word choices on the typed pages. An hour in, however, I paused. Tears fell. This can’t be, I thought. It happened six years ago. I’m reading too much into this.

The next day I asked; Jonathan confirmed my suspicions. He’d written the poem about his oldest cousin, my oldest daughter. Jonathan's powerfully transparent words, emailed during his drive home to Michigan, deserve to be heard:

“Every time I visit South Carolina, in the midst of all the family and good food and fun, I think of Jenna and how much better it would be with her here.

I have so many great memories of games, plays, and conversations about books that I had with Jenna. She always spoke to me like I wasn't just a silly elementary kid. Love and respect defined who she was.

She was the best cousin and friend I could ever imagine. So, it was really hard to write the poem “Funeral Flowers.” I wrote it by myself in silence. Although I cried as I finished it, I was happy because it communicates the ache I feel.

I think we all share a longing for the way things used to be—a longing that will someday make our joy incomprehensible when Jesus makes all things right. But for now, I hope other people know that, in their pain, they’re not alone.”

Please stay. Hope remains.
~Beth Saadati

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Can We Kill the Stigma? (5 Insights from Cancer about Suicide and Life)

 by Beth Saadati

It’s only two steps. I remind myself this is probably nothing—the odds are ever in my favor!—still, I tremble inside as I climb.

I lie down on the hard table, a pillow beneath my head, a pillow beneath my feet, and turn my head to the side, away from the bustle and noise. A painted scene—beauty to decorate the sterile?—hangs on the wall. Inches away from my face, a CD boom box rests on a ledge. From it, falsely soothing music begins to play.

“We want to make this as comfortable as possible,” says a nurse I can’t see. “Almost like a spa. Don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything you need.” She’s kind, quite kind, and sincere, but…a spa? Despite the heated blanket draped over me and the wedge pillow cocooned in one arm, it’s not. It’s terrifyingly not.

With no wasted time, the process starts—the prep to be done before the doctor comes. I close my eyes. I try to relax. I make a respectable effort to push all that’s vulnerable, awkward, and exposed out of my mind. It works, somewhat, until Dr. Chaney arrives.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

3 (or 13) Reasons Why Not: From One Left to Survive a Non-Fictionalized Suicide

by Beth Saadati

While perusing at Barnes & Noble, I noticed the girl on the swing. I picked up the prominently displayed novel, scanned the back cover, read the included author’s interview. Suddenly a single thought overshadowed everything else: I never want to read this book.

Not because it wasn’t relevant. Not because I wanted to bury my head in the sand and pretend you and I live in happily-ever-after land.

Rather, because Thirteen Reasons Why was, to its author, fiction. Truth be told, I wanted to fling the novel across the room, because I hated knowing this FICTION was my—and way too many others’—nightmare…my nonfiction reality.

Nevertheless, curiosity got the best of me—it was an international bestseller, plus I wanted to see what the YA literature had to say—and, well, I always want to muster up enough courage to face the hard in life. (That run towards the roar thing.)

So, a few days later I pulled the book off the library shelf, snuggled into a cushioned chair and, without moving save an occasional blink, read the story from beginning to end.

That was thirteen (pardon the irony) months ago. I’ve been processing it ever since. 
  •  Is Thirteen Reasons Why a page-turner? Obviously.  
  • Do I agree with the theme—we can go to school with classmates for years and never really know them—that Jay Asher shared when I briefly met him and heard him speak? Sadly, yes.
  • Am I glad the novel encourages a conversation about tough topics that have, for far too long, been silenced and stigmatized? Definitely.  
  • But…Was I emotionally wrecked and, admittedly, physically sick after completing the book? You can’t imagine the extent.
Why? Despite some positive aspects of Asher’s work, the message it, perhaps unintentionally, communicates about suicide—whether through the Netflix hit series or the novel—is severely wrong in three major ways.