I found out this afternoon that a friend of mine died this last Sunday.
He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
In his case, I can’t really blame him. He was diabetic, losing his eyesight, in poor health, in constant pain, and just got news that his leg was going to have to be amputated above the knee.
It is many hours and a fair amount of sake and whiskey since I started this post. Since I rarely drink, I feel I should disclaim in advance.
- There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide.
- ~ Albert Camus
Don’t we all have some wound, psychic or physical? At what point is it too much? My friend decided that losing limbs and his senses (sight) was too much.
I couldn’t help but take that news today and fly back in time and think about my dad. Hell, it’s closing in on Father’s Day anyway and I was working on writing something for that day. Might as well start now.
My pop’s death was deemed an “accidental overdose,” but I know, and those of us close to him knew, that it was a suicide. Perhaps an “accidental suicide” but regardless, the man was in pain and had been self-medicating for years as a means to an end.
So, the question is: Why do people kill themselves? Okay, maybe that’s not the question, because that answer is easy: they were in pain. I guess the question is: how much pain is enough? Perhaps that is the question.
In my friend’s position, he was falling apart. Literally. (and yes, I mean that word in the true sense, not in some hipster figurative miscalculation of the word). In my dad’s case… I don’t know. He had a pain in his belly that he’d had since he was in his early 20’s, most likely a result of a botched surgery. He also had considerable “psychic pain”. Would that spiritual or psychic pain have been enough to do the deed if he hadn’t the physical pain as well? Would he have been an alcoholic and drug abuser without the physical pain? I don’t know. I tend to think, yes. But these are questions that will never be answered. Do people who have constant physical pain not have psychic pain as well? I know plenty of people who have psychic or spiritual pain who have no physical maladies. And that pain is plenty on its own.
I will refer now to one of my most-liked websites Post Secret (and if you don’t know the history of this very cool project, check here.) They list the Suicide Prevention Hotline at the bottom of most of their weekly posts.
That said… and please refer to my above disclaimer… I feel like a Bad Person ™ even asking this, but is suicide sometimes a viable alternative? I mean, why should someone live in pain and have a super poor quality of life? Just for the sake of being able to say that they are alive? Because people who love that person don’t want them to go away? That seems rather ridiculous and selfish to me.
I’m too tired to continue this post, and perhaps I could condense it to a two, or three line Facebook status report and elicit a spirited debate in that medium, but this is my website, so I’ll post here. Feel free to comment, argue, grandstand. I’m not guaranteeing I’ll “approve” all comments (this is not a democracy site, but a totalitarian fun park, after all) but I still would like to hear your thinks.
I hope any of that makes sense because I’m not going to bother editing it.
I’m going to forage in my refrigerator now, because apparently rambling to the interwebz gives me an appetite.
Thanks for sharing that, Dawn.
… Regarding suicide, I believe in the right to self-determination, including suicide. I am not burdened by any religious prohibition, but the morality is complex. There will generally be effects on those left behind, of course. There’s a selfishness-vs-selfishness offset there.
… As to when there should be intervention to prevent suicide — hard question, for me. I would reflexively intervene, given the irreversibility of the action and the impulsivity of many such acts. But a thoroughly-considered, deliberate intention, governed by chronic concerns and clearly-formed wishes rather than acute physical or psychic pain? I think that right should be respected.
My grandparents belonged to the Hemlock Society ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemlock_Society ) and I was raised with a pretty firm belief in the right to control ones own life/decisions.
The selfishness factor is a big one. I think part of why my dad held on for as long as he did because he didn’t want to cause me pain. That was a huge burden on me. But at what point do the other people burden the one in pain by wanting them alive – even knowing the pain that is being suffered?
(ugh, apparently sleep didn’t help with my inability to construct a decent sentence)
I stand firmly in the camp of right to choice. In this case, Hex was at least able to go out on his own terms. He made a decision and elected, rather than suffer, to finish the game.
To be sure, it’s a horrifying decision and, no matter how many friends you may have, in that last moment you are truly alone — but still in control.
I’ll miss Hex, and thinking about him making that decision is heart-wrenching. Nevertheless, awful though it is, he was at least able to make that decision with full clarity and being.