“It is so hard to die” – A Story of Depression from 1809

"It is so hard to die" – A Story of Depression from 1809 Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 7/5/21: Tonight, I read from Stephen Ambrose’s book on the Lewis & Clark expedition, Undaunted Courage. I’ve chosen a scene from the end of the book, detailing the last night of Meriwether Lewis’s life, in October of 1809.

Unlike his more famous companion, William Clark, Lewis suffered from what we today would call depression, and this passage is one of the saddest I know. I’ve always thought that those of us who can stand to hear stories like this should take the time to do so, to perhaps offer a bit of understanding that Lewis was unable to find in life–and to perhaps look on those around us, suffering in the same way, with a kinder eye. Ambrose has remarked that he wept while writing it, and it was hard to keep myself from doing the same while reading it.

I should note the mistake I made when introducing the passage: this scene takes place not three days, but three years, after Lewis and Clark’s return, but I haven’t the heart to read this aloud again. 


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