The Happy Business of Dying

My cousin committed suicide yesterday. I spent the night trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out how he could have gotten there, this is what I came up with. I've come to realize that the right to life includes the right to death. Whether or not the choice is ultimately dark, only the person who made the choice can own it. Suicide is a choice, a choice between life and death, and is the ultimate expression of autonomy.

My cousin committed suicide yesterday. I spent the night trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out how he could have gotten there, this is what I came up with. I've come to realize that the right to life includes the right to death. Whether or not the choice is ultimately dark, only the person who made the choice can own it. Suicide is a choice, a choice between life and death, and is the ultimate expression of autonomy.

To say there was a plan, or intent gives too much credit. His plans were more eloquent, more wonderful, more daring. He wasn’t quite sure how he ended up here, like most things in his life, it just happened that way.

His intentions never quite bloomed, never bore any fruit worth preserving, he wasn’t sure why, or how it worked out like that. He tried to be great. He tried to be the one that made it. The one who escaped, who succeeded, who flourished. He was an artist, a gamer, a storyteller. His imagination was rich and varied, was drenched in a creative passion he could never quite harness. He was destined for a university, to be a degreed man, competent and capable, but it just didn’t happen that way.

He lay in anguish on the couch, fighting the pain in his mind as he wrestled with the time line, trying to figure out how he got here instead of there. How was it he managed to be the guy that struck one he loved, the guy that blew into a rage and harmed his best friend, his brother. How, he wondered, did it happen? Where did he miss the turn in his life? Where could he have zigged instead of zagged? It wasn’t him, he wasn’t the type, or he wasn’t supposed to be. He was a gifted kid, a true friend, the one others could depend on. He didn’t mean to hurt anyone, it just happened that way.

There were opportunities, he realized, opportunities that would now be missed as he sat and waited while time mercilessly dragged him to his destruction. His appointment with the courts loomed and he knew that he would have to answer, to answer for his failure to excel, for his failure to be exceptional, for his failure to be great. He would stand and be judged, accused of being someone he wasn’t, and would be made to account for the actions of the man he had never intended to become. Then he would be one of those people, with a record, a history, always under suspicion of passing police, denied at every border he tried to vacation across, scrutinized by every employer for a mistake they would never understand, because he didn’t himself. He was now to be a burden on his family, his society, and his future. This wasn’t the life he had planned, he was going to be a success, a triumph of creative will and familial passion, but it just didn’t happen that way.

He found himself detoured from the interview he was to attend. Success couldn’t come to him when he had these new demons to fight, this new brand to display. He tried to make sense of the world before him, how he would survive his punishment, how he would survive the looks of scorn and disappointment on his family’s face, how he would cope with being a criminal, another societal reject. Like so much in his life that went sideways, he couldn’t comprehend how he ended up here, with the noose around his neck. He didn’t want to be a burden, he didn’t want to continue to hurt. He had no clue what to do, how to apologize, to make it right, to stop the barrelling train of misery that had entered his life. He didn’t want to die, it just happened that way.