Hug the ones you love.
I wrote this story for my Rogue Nurse Media email newsletter. I really loved the story as “Hector” was a talented email writer that eventually wanted to write a book.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
I remember learning in a screen writing class, taught by Josefina Lopez (Real Women Have Curves), that life has many exit points. You can decide to get off at anytime.
The saying echoed in my head when I met “Hector” in the late Spring of 2020. We met on Bumble in the height of the pandemic. Even though we matched, I never sent him a response.
I was surprised to find an email from him in my in box that uncovered several serendipities which prompted us to meet: we were both nurse practitioners, we both worked for the same group of doctors, and we both loved food.
Over a series of 3 platonic dinner dates, Hector and I spent countless hours talking about his adventurous of becoming a Buddhist monk and living in a monastery in Asia for the past year. He talked about how he shaved his head, wore red robes with no underwear, meditated for countless hours and completed daily chores. He seemed to really love the monastic lifestyle and he found it difficult to acclimate back to his normal life.
At the end of his one year residency at the monastery, Hector stopped off in Varnasi, India where he participated in the celebration of Holi (the festival of colors). I was drawn into his story as he told me the unusual tale of people smearing each other with multi colored ashes from cremation pyres. And yes he got smeared too. This area in Varnasi is a sacred place and is believed to provide salvation to a person’s soul if he/she is cremated there after death.
Hector took a picture of a little Indian girl (above) and then invited her to take a picture of him and his guide. He laughed as he showed me the picture and said “She chopped off my head!”
After our 3 dates, Hector would only respond to my text messages if I asked him wacky questions related to work and nursing.I thought this was strange, but I just let it go.
One late evening in December 2020, my medical assistant called me to tell me Hector had passed away by suicide. Although, I was shocked by his passing, I wasn’t surprised. Looking back to our conversations, the signs were there: He had tied up all loose ends in his life, his mortgage was paid off, and he had mentioned he didn’t know what to do with himself because he was turning 50. Basically, he had reached his exit point.
Death is never easy. Especially a death by suicide.
According to a recent study in JAMA Psychiatry, Nurses in the United States have the highest suicide rates. In 2015, suicide was the 7th leading cause of death for all American men, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
I’m happy to share Hector’s story since he wanted to write a book about his time spent at the Buddhist Monastery.
You can also checkout my podcast Nurses and Hypochondriacs episode: I Worked At A Suicide Hotline
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.