Sympathy for Suicide

tim_miller-the_lonely_young_and_the_lonely_old-front_coverFrom Bearing the Names of Many/The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, just as illness and war are spreading:

People are committing suicide all over the place. I am enjoying this in part because the people killing themselves were the type, only a year ago, most likely to condemn suicides as evil, as cowards, as cruel to themselves and to their families.

But the ability to empathize with someone who thinks or acts differently is still beyond their reach. Because now, of course, those who want to live in an unknown future world are the cruel ones, they’re even sadistic, to want to put themselves or their children through such times. And where once the suicide was the coward, now the one who refuses to kill themselves are cowards. Now the speech runs something like, They haven’t the strength to do what’s necessary, while I do. It’s appalling.

A man I knew killed himself a few years ago. He’d been through a ton. Addiction, divorce, never settled. But he had a wonderful daughter. His great joy. Only weeks before he’d professed his love and thanks and pride to his little girl, now twenty-five, on her birthday. And after he killed himself a mutual friend said he was a coward. Cruel. And I lost it on this guy. I said to try to imagine how much pain he must have felt, and how horrible must that pain have been, to be more powerful than all the love he felt for his daughter, for his friends, even for the preservation of his own life? Imagine that pain which allows you to hang yourself by a belt from a doorhandle in your bedroom. Imagine not the overwhelming weakness of this man, but how overwhelming the pain must have been to drive him to do that. And so have some fucking sympathy.

Of course this man didn’t. It’s much easier to judge than to imagine that kind of pain. And of course now he’s one of the many fathers and mothers that have been found dead by their own hands after they’ve shot their children.