Normally on SlingWords, we visit with authors of romance or mystery -- with a few authors of other genres and nonfiction tossed in occasionally.
Today, I welcome Jill Sadowsky to SlingWords. Jill doesn't write lighthearted fiction. Her book David's Story is a story she lived as the mother of a son with schizophrenia.
I met Jill, one of my international readers, when she contacted me after reading this blog. She planned to publish the story of her son's life. This YouTube video gives a glimpse of the agony and heartbreak and love that characterized her son and Jill herself. In the end, her life was transformed by David's illness.
David's Story is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but it is also a story of love--of grace. I invite you also to reading Jill's Mental Health Resources, her blog. At times I found myself laughing at the humorous quotations about mental institutions. She quotes her son often. Because of Jill, I can see David, the man, not the schizophrenia.
Now, please welcome Jill Sadowsky.
David's Story Is My Story Too
by Jill Sadowsky
No one was more surprised than I was when Joan invited me, a grandmother of five, to be her guest blogger. Most of my friends use their computers for mail only but my grandchildren think I am a modern grandma. “Why,” I asked. “Because you varnish your toenails, use a computer quite efficiently, and you have an iPad.”
What is David's Story about?
Lily Tomlin’s saying is so apt, that I am quoting it here as it’s self explanatory. "When we talk to God, it’s called prayer, but when God talks to us, it’s called schizophrenia."
When my son David thought that the driver of an oncoming car was flicking his headlamps at him, he threw a stone through the windscreen of that car. By some miracle, the driver was not hurt.
The police came to our house.
When my son heard voices telling him that an old woman on the bus was contacting The Establishment that was working against him, he raised a hand to her. Fortunately, she only suffered from shock and a bruise on her forehead.
The police came to our house.
When my son gave up hope of recovery and came to the conclusion that he would never have the peace of mind he craved and deserved, he chose to stop living.
The police did not come to our house. They telephoned.
Death had claimed our son, and the resultant anguish was ours to bear. He’d taken my life too, but I could not cry. I had used up all my tears. My recovery will begin when I give my late son an unconditional pardon and tell him that I love him despite the fact that "he" took my son away.
My son David was a surfer with a winning smile. David’s Story is about one family--my family--yet it's also the story of millions of families with mentally ill children from Africa to Alaska.
I had three beautiful, healthy children and a loving husband, who once said; "A lucky child is one whose father loves their mother, and I do."
We were blessed and unremarkable, until the Israeli Military delivered a knock-out-punch in the form of a telephone call. "Your son has taken an overdose of sleeping tablets."
David returned physically from the armed forces, but, mentally, he was missing in action. Much later, we heard the diagnosis, schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia.
My son sparred with his demons, heard voices and had no peace of mind. Besides being ill, he was having a terrible time due to the stigma which affected us all, especially our teenage daughters.
Would a school friend discover my daughters’ secret; a mentally ill brother? Would someone walk into our house when David was shouting at me and my husband: "I’ll dance on your graves?"
Would a policeman knock on our front door asking for David while our daughters had friends over? Could that happen while we were entertaining friends?
David wanted someone to love, a decent job, and most of all, peace of mind. Three months before his 34th birthday, he finally came to the conclusion that the David who had sparred with demons for the past 16 years would never know that peace of mind again so he threw himself to what we can only hope is a place of calm, peace and endless waves fit for a surfer.
It took a long time, but our family finally chose life and eventually managed to emerge from our devastation to embrace life, even if it meant one without our beloved son and brother. My husband and I continued to love, to laugh and began to get some happiness back, as we continue to think about, talk about and remember our son.
I love you, David. Rest.
1962 – 1996
After losing my son, I continued my voluntary work with parents of mentally ill children, now known as "consumers." In the year 2005, I decided to start a police training course and managed, with the backing of ENOSH, the Israel Mental Health Association, to run a pilot program at police headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Simultaneously, I surfed the web and found Major Sam Cochran who started the first CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) in Memphis, Tennessee. After exchanging a multitude of emails, he invited me to give a presentation at the 2007 CIT Convention.
"Why me?" I asked. "We’ve never even met."
"Because, in the U.S.A. police officers do this kind of thing, not mothers."
We have come a long way since then, and, as I am a stubborn woman, I spend a lot of time hitting my head against walls of red tape, but I still have a few good years left and will fight for what is right until the end.
I promised my son, David, that I would do something about the stigma of mental illness and do what I can to let all the "consumers" out there walk with their heads held high and be accepted into their communities like the rest of us.
People ask me how I managed to continue tutoring and living in general. One of the things that left an indelible impression on me was an anonymously written, untitled poem I found in a magazine. The anonymous young girl was in the Terezin Concentration Camp near Prague. The poem was dated the day before she died.
On a purple son-shot evening
Under wide-flowering chestnut trees
Upon the threshold of
yesterday, today, the days are all alike there.
Trees flower forth in beauty.
Lovely too, their very wood, all gnarled and old
That I am half afraid to peer
Into their crowns of green and gold.
The sun has made a veil of gold
So lovely that my body aches
Above, he heavens shriek of blue
Convinced that I’ve smiled by mistake.
The world’s abloom and seems to smile
I want to fly, but where, how high?
If in barbed wire things can bloom
Why can’t I? I will not die.
My husband is no longer with us. He suffered from Alzheimer’s for some years. Soon, it will be two years since he passed away. I feel his absence every day.
Jill, thank you for sharing with us. I've purchased your book even though you sent me a complimentary copy because I support you and that for which you fight.
Please thank Jill Sadowsky by purchasing David's Story and enabling her in some small way to keep fighting the good fight for what is right.