This post continues the theme of reflecting on suicide and its impact in our lives. It is written by Aaron Scott, a close friend, biblical scholar, poverty initiative activist, and all around awesome person. She lost her grandpa earlier this year to mental illness, here is some of Aaron and her grandpa’s story.
My grandpa committed suicide in early February of this year. He had slipped rapidly into a hallucinatory and paranoid form of dementia (after his death, a doctor suggested lewy body dementia). Between the quick onset of the illness and the agonizing slowness of the health care system to respond to our family’s requests for help, he ended up going without care for much too long. There’s more to say about all of that. But today I am wondering about: how past experiences and political realities shape people’s experiences of paranoia (especially when their minds are coming undone).
Grandpa served 32 years in the US Air National Guard. He was never deployed, but his unit was activated during the Cuban Missile Crisis and his base helped with tactical and supply operations through the Korean and Vietnam wars. According to my dad, Grandpa held a lifelong empathy for working people and his politics reflected this. But he was also a law-and-order, career military man (I think he joined up before he was twenty years old). My dad told me they barely spoke to one another during the Vietnam war. Grandpa was staunchly ideologically in support of it. My dad, just fourteen years old then, committed himself to resisting the war after being educated by his local UMC pastor on the economics behind it, becoming critical of the way he understood his peers’ lives were being used for profit.