Suicide. What a tragedy.
I went to a university that was notorious for its suicides. The most spectacular form was called "gorging out." It meant jumping from one of the bridges into one of the gorges. It was even a common joke: "If I don't ace this exam I'm gonna gorge out." Ha ha.
During my years in college there were several suicides. A graduate student hanged himself; the body of a young son of a professor was found in a gorge; there were others.
One day I heard that an undergraduate I worked with at a part-time job had attempted suicide. This was my first personal encounter with suicide, and I was amazed at my reactions.
My first reactions was horror and grief.
My second reaction? I wanted to slap him.
"You idiot! What the hell were you thinking? You think anybody's life is a bed of roses? Did you ever once think of that?"
That was decades ago. Then, a few years ago, I learned that a good friend had killed himself. This time my reaction was different: I just felt sick.
I'd always thought of my friend Tom as a survivor. He survived a horrendous childhood under the thumb of a violent, drug-addicted mother, the deaths of all but one of his siblings, and a stint in Viet Nam, and he had overcome his addiction to alcohol. Twice married, the first time to a girl he'd gotten pregnant, the second time to a woman he met in AA. Twice divorced.
We met when we were both training for our black belts in tae kwon do. Tom helped me a lot, just as he helped everybody in the dojang. The kids loved to work with him.
He was remarkably gifted. He restored furniture for a living, and he was an artist in his work. An artist in other ways too; he painted, he carved. As I discovered after his death, he was a gifted writer, as well. And he was funny, too.
But in the end the darkness overcame him. Hopelessly in debt, mostly because of one of those rotten mortgages, he isolated himself more and more. He went back to drinking.
In the end the darkness overcame him. Tom hanged himself in his home.
My friend Tom, whom many people loved and respected, thought he was alone. I honestly don't know if anyone could have convinced him that wasn't the case.
I imagine Robin Williams thought he was alone, too. In spite of family and friends and countless fans, he must have felt terribly alone.
That's the real tragedy here, I think. That so many people think they are alone. When all the time Christ is calling to us, "Come to me, and I will give you rest."
Robin Williams, like the rest of us, was not perfect. He cheated on his wives, did drugs, was vilely anti-Catholic (look it up on Youtube). But his life had meaning, and his death was a tragedy.
I'll be praying for his soul tonight.