It was my job to scan assorted documents and to electronically file them into folders sitting out in cyberspace. When I came to a death certificate, a little sigh escaped me. The cause of death was suicide by hanging. I am always taken by surprise, though I cannot explain why, when I see death certificates. I know no one sneaks past the grim reaper, and every living thing has an expiration date, but when an individual checks out early of his or her own volition, I feel like the human race has been short-changed. Perhaps it is because I feel that we are all unique and we each have a job to do and lessons to learn.
Even when people opt for death by medicine rather than be subject to terminal conditions which are likely to include excruciating pain, I experience a sense of loss. Perhaps this is due to my Roman Catholic orientation and belief that one can offer pain and suffering up to save other souls. Perhaps it is because a life cut short deprives the victim of doing one more bit of good in the world, one more smile, hug, prayer, or other act of kindness that may help someone else.
When I was younger and struggling with the ravages of depression myself, I could understand how despair might enhance the plausibility of no longer facing the monsters of reality and the level of effort it takes to put one foot in front of the other just to begin a routine day. I felt that I did not have the strength to inflict the kind of physical pain associated with brutally ending a life, and somewhere deep down in my soul was a tiny voice screaming for sanity and offering the lifeline of hope which I was able to grasp to pull myself through some pretty harrowing times.
In the little bio about Anne Sexton in a The Vintage Collection of American Poetry by J. D. Mc Clatchy, there was a note that she had committed suicide. There were only a few of her poems, so there were no hints or indications of what plagued her to resort to that end. Another loss.
When a child takes the drastic measure to end what looks to him or her like relentless pain, I am grieved that there was not a spark of hope to pull the youngster from the edge back into the reality and value of life as it can progress and improve, that what they are confronting may be terrible but it can be resolved, with help.
So, what is missing from the lives of people who seem to have plenty of reason to forge ahead, to work toward goals and cling to their passions???