CW: PTSD, Suicide
A neighbor gave me a gift of a dozen ripe peaches today. As I stood pondering what to do with them, a memory came back to me, unbidden, of the last conversation I had with my friend, Mike. He’d just returned home from a tour of duty in the Persian Gulf and we were talking an upcoming pot luck holiday dinner that a mutual friend was hosting. Mike suggested that I bring a peach pie to help everyone stick to their diets. It was tongue-in-cheek joke, since Mike was the unfortunate taste tester of a peach pie I’d made in our high school home economics class, not realizing that some joker had switched out the sugar for salt.
Mike didn’t make it to the potluck for some reason or another and we just never seemed to be able to meet up. Two years after he’d returned to his hometown, Mike drowned in the creek behind his parents house. A letter to his family painted a terrible picture of a life destroyed by PTSD and unexplained physical symptoms (what would later come to be know as Gulf War Syndrome). Rather than endure the pain, he ended his life.
There are those who would say that a veteran who commits suicide does not deserve to be included in ceremonies for those who died in combat. Bullshit I say. Those who die as a result of their service to country should be honored and remembered, regardless of the manner of their death. Whether by enemy fire, by their own hand or by the slow and terrible work of Agent Orange, our fallen vets should not be forgotten.
I do not want to mourn my friend again, but I do not want to forget him either. So I am doing what any good kitchen witch would do, pouring my heart and energy into the alchemy of baking. In my oven are four rustic peach tarts made with rosemary laced crusts which will be delivered tomorrow to a shelter for homeless vets, because while it’s important to honor the dead, we must never lose sight of those who still live.