Say the word ‘suicide’ and it feels nasty coming out of your mouth. The implications of the word are terrifying, that someone would hate life so much that they would choose to end it. It can’t be so bad, right? I mean, there is nothing in this world so terrible that it would drive someone to that definitive act, one that cannot be taken back no matter how desperately the survivors wish it was so. In a word: no. It happens every day whether we like it or not.
This blog is a eulogy of sorts, I guess, but I am dedicating it to more than one person. The reason I endeavor to do this is because the theme is universal; we all know someone who has taken their own life and we are left in the wake of their passing scratching our heads, wondering why. There is always a reason, although some choose not to expound upon it by leaving the prerequisite note. Sometimes the reason is simply implied, something we gather from extenuating circumstances.
A few days ago a man I knew from my hometown of DePere, Wisconsin, chose to take his own life. I do not know the manner in which he did it, all I know is that the deed was done. He left behind a girlfriend and two foster children and countless friends. I had not seen him for over two decades yet had spoken with him on the phone about sixteen months ago, regarding the passing of one of his dogs. I’d sent out a group message on Facebook advertising the release of my latest novel and when he got it he took it to be personal in nature and messaged me back that he was down because his dog had died. I could commiserate, having worked with animals for the last fifteen years, and told him to call me anytime, leaving him my number. He didn’t call me that day, but did so a few months later and we talked for almost an hour about various things: companion animals, bands, concerts, people we mutually knew, the city we grew up in etc. I felt good about it afterward, that he had reached out to me, even though he and I had never been what could be construed as ‘good’ friends. Mostly, in high school, we rode to school together with another guy who had a car and we took part in illicit activities that bonded us better than words sometimes can. I don’t know much else about him except that we always got along; he was a nice guy, I can honestly say I don’t think he had any enemies. After high school I left that little town for a big city (big in comparison: Milwaukee) and never saw him again. About five years ago we became friends on Facebook and later the above-mentioned correspondence occurred.
He isn’t the only person I know that has committed suicide. A friend (someone I knew much better in high school, a kid I’d played in a band with) killed himself in 2006, for reasons unknown to me. Not that it should come as a surprise; I hadn’t spoken with him since the early 90’s when I ran into him at a bar in Green Bay and the thing I remember about it was him telling me that I was lucky I got out of there, meaning DePere. Small town life shouldn’t be considered a death sentence, but to him it was, I guess. As with this most recent case I have no idea what his method was, only that it happened. So that is why I say that I dedicate this to more than one person, and what the hell I’ll also dedicate it to myself.
I’ve often fantasized about suicide, being of a creative nature and a man who seems to be in a near constant state of ‘finding’ himself. I am a failed musician, a so far failed writer…I have tried and failed a lot of things in my life but sometimes I feel intrinsically that I would succeed at suicide if I ever so choose to take that route. It takes a certain amount of dedication to carry it out though (and a lot of guts to boot, no matter how ‘cowardly’ the act may seem), and so far (fortunately) I lack the courage.
With that said I am glad that I always find a reason not to do it, and I wish these two men had found that reason as well. But, going further down the rabbit hole, maybe they are happier where they are. I don’t believe we should impose our will on others, making them live when they don’t have the strength to. If someone wants to do it than it is their choice, end of story. Of course I agree with the old saying ‘suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem’ but who are we to place sanctions on people’s lives, who are we to judge?
Coinciding with this man’s suicide (coincidentally?) I am presently reading ‘Heavier Than Heaven’ the biography of Kurt Cobain. I’ve had suicide on my mind as of the past week and it is unpleasant that I should encounter it first hand, via someone I once knew. It always hurts much more when you can put a real face on it, when it was someone you laughed and talked and hung out with, no matter how much time has passed since you’ve seen them. The ghostly image of the obituary photo from 2006 still resonates with me; in fact I came across it last week while digging through a box looking for something else. In the photo he is smiling, happy, but the untold story was the darkness in his heart of a future deed he would perpetrate while all along everyone around him probably thought he was fine.
But all that aside, here is to you guys (I am figuratively raising a glass in a toast) and I hope that wherever you are (be it in an ‘afterlife’ or simply in the ground) that you have finally found peace. Amen.