Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I know, "Suicide" is a terrible title for a blog. Suicide is a terrible, almost incomprehensible thing. To think that any human being can be so unhappy with life that they choose to end it is sad beyond comprehension. Suicide is, of course, an infinitely complex issue, and the fact that it is relatively uncommon means that probably the large majority of people have never had any direct, personal experience in dealing with it. But for those who have....

This morning, I noticed several police cars moving up and down the alley behind my building. I later learned that a woman in the senior citizen complex next door had jumped from her 10th floor apartment. Though I had no idea of who she was, and was therefore not directly affected by it, I was nonetheless both shocked and deeply saddened. How could she have done it? How can anyone do it?
Being elderly, she may have had no family or close friends for emotional support, and loneliness leads to easily to despair. I understand she was not, herself, very friendly. But I also understand that she had two dogs who, in the manner of dogs, undoubtedly loved her unconditionally, and who I can only hope she loved in return. The love of or for an animal may not the same as the love of or for a human, but love is, at base, love. And even the love of an animal can be a bright candle to hold off the darkness. But apparently, for her, it was not enough. And I truly grieve that it was not.

Before we go any further, let me say that I am strongly in favor of physician-regulated assisted suicide for the terminally ill with absolutely no hope of improvement and who choose to end their lives on their own terms. To prolong suffering simply because "a cure may be found tomorrow," or on esoteric debates on "morality" is both illogical and cruel.

But of all the many things I find incomprehensible, one of the furthest from my ken is how anyone in relatively good physical health could conceivably show such contempt for the gift of life as to even contemplate suicide let alone carry it out. My deep and sincere empathy/sympathy for their emotional suffering turns too often to anger verging on rage. Suicide is too often the ultimate act of selfishness. The pain and anguish the act causes those who love and care about them is inexcusable. And when I think of all those terminally ill men, women, and children who want so desperately, desperately to live but cannot while someone else, no matter how valid their suffering, disposes of a perfectly good body is outrageous. If the suicide does not wish to live for him or her self, let them live for someone who does not want to die.

Again, the subject of suicide is not an easy one, morally or ethically. The recent horrific spate of suicides among gay and lesbian teenagers targeted by bullies underscores the fact that suicide is too often seen as a viable option by those not mature enough to have had sufficient life experiences to realize that bullying is no reason for depriving themselves of life--and those who love them of their presence. For the young, suicide is often a tragically ill-considered spur of the moment act of desperation.

I've told the story before of a young man from a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who, when his girlfriend broke up with him, went home and shot himself with his father's shotgun. But he survived, having blown away half his face. The fact that he lived to regret his decision does not balance having to live the rest of his life horribly disfigured. Should we be achingly sorry for his condition or furious with him for the stupidity of his action? Of course sympathy has to prevail in the end. But yet again we must address the ultimately unanswerable question as we look back on the wasteland all "successful" suicides knowingly created: Why?

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