Monday, January 7, 2013

Suicide as a Negative Proof

It's a haunting that says more about me than I care to admit.

Suicide, and those who commit it.

I mentioned the violent passing of Harriet Deison to my editor at, Debbie Wright, and she brought to my attention a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, entitled Richard Cory:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1865-1935

Originally published by the poet in 1897, it's been adapted in modern pop culture by Simon and Garfunkel into a song of the same name, and literature by writers the likes of Garrison Keillor.  Maybe you were already familiar with this poem, but we're always learning, aren't we?

Or, at least; we should be.

Having Richard Cory and the death of Harriet Deison share such parallel paths brings several things to mind.  First, that the more things change in our world, the more they stay the same, even as we think we've become so much more sophisticated, inoculated from antique travails.

Second, as the saying goes, we truly can never judge a book by its cover.

Third, that some people suffer deeply tragic pain that they can train themselves to hide from us.

Despair isn't just a form of economic poverty.  Despair is a poverty of many forms, some of which become lethal when complexities like chemical imbalances deprive both brain and soul of purpose and promise.

Deep depression is as cancerous to the soul as physical cancer can be to any biological organ.  At this very moment, my family has two dear loved ones at death's threshold, one from injuries sustained in an accidental fall, the other from a sudden return of an aggressive cancer.  We know these people, one a long-time friend, and the other a relative, are near death because of their obvious physical symptoms.  Even if they wanted to hide those symptoms, our loved ones simply cannot.

How many Richard Cory's and Harriet Deison's do we have within our family?  How many are within yours?  We can't necessarily see the symptoms, most likely because they're kept well-hidden from us.

Like I said the other day, I don't know Dr. Pete Deison, Harriet's widowed husband, to pull him aside and have this personal little chat.  From what I've heard, he and a small circle of Harriet's beloved were aware of her private griefs, and likely were doing all they thought they could - and should - to help her.

Not knowing the situation, we can't say whether they should have done more.  Her suicide is neither proof that all other avenues of healing had already been tried, nor proof that anything else had been left untried.  What it is, however, is proof that fierce battles still rage within the most unlikely among us.

As much as we'd like to think there must be some solution to chronic clinical depression, sometimes the only tool we have at our disposal is to "mourn with those who mourn."

We cannot solve everything.  These suicides are proof of that.

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