Monday, September 19, 2005

Swan songs

A few days ago, Brendan found out that his one-time prom date killed herself.

She was my age, like 23 years old. And now, all that's left of her is a corpse decaying in some funeral home.

I never really knew Sarah, and so it's easy for me to think about her death as a part of a larger phenomenon. For my age group, suicide is like the second or third leading cause of death.

But suicide is a funny thing. I mean, in some ways, if she was suffering so much that suicide seemed like her best option, maybe she'd better off dead. In other ways, the decision seems short sighted. I mean, a year ago, I was really happy. Today, I'm kind of bummed. There's no telling how I'll be a month from now.

People who have never seriously pondered or attempted suicide don't get it. They don't understand what could motivate someone to go to the extreme. But I understand it. Aside from the obvious depression accompanying suicidal ideation, there has to be a sense of panicked hopelessness. You know that life wil never get better, that everyday will bring more pointless suffering.

People say, well, she was selfish. She didn't think about how her death would impact other people. But maybe, she did. Maybe she understood that her presence was a burden, that no one wants to be around the messed-up chick. When you believe that no one wants you around, removing yourself from the picture is a gift to other people.

And feeling like that, suicidal, is painful. Every second you believe that your ominous misery will get worse is a second you spend planning your death. The old saying is that hope dies last. And that's true. Without hope, you stumble through life and notice only the horrors our world has to offer.

Suicides can be premeditated and planned, but that doesn't make them any less desperate.

It's hard for people to understand the impulse and the mindset. But really, the only thing those left behind need to understand is that it wasn't their fault. Sure, they might have said or done something crappy and the accumulation of said crappy things contributed to the depression that fostered a deadly mindset. But suicide is a choice that requires conscious thought. The act inherently demands the participation of the person who wants to die.

Observing the reactions of Sarah's friends and family from afar is heart breaking. Parents mourn a child, siblings mourn their sister, classmates mourn their friend. It's foolish to think that your life hasn't touched those around you.

Ultimately, I wish that schools talked more openly about suicide.

God. If only people didn't have to feel crappy enough to think that being dead is more promising that being alive.

Anyway, if you feel suicidal, my advice is to go to the zoo. Really. Go to the zoo and ponder life in all its forms. Watch the primates and think about how luck you are not to express your displeasure by throwing feces.

I always find the zoo therapeutic. Animals give life perspective. I mean, if my cat can be happy batting around a bottle cap, surely I can find something to be happy about too.

There's no snappy conclusion or moral to the story here. She's dead and she's never coming back. On the battlefield of suicides, there are only casualties. Never heroes.