Saturday, July 19, 2008

Yes

I am convinced that in real life suicide can't be the backdrop, dwarfed by something else. It is the foreground: itself inevitably the thing that changes people's lives. There is no other plot, and no resolution. And while some healing does happen, it isn't a healing of redemption or epiphany. It's more like the slow absorption of a bruise.

~~~

In one sense, I knew exactly why my father had done it. I felt as if I were standing on a mountaintop looking down at the entire topography of his life, a landscape of hurts and failures and physical ailments and disgraces and shames and exhaustion and hopelessness that was suddenly--from this new, high vantage point that had become accessible only with his death--fully visible for the first time. I realized already, looking back at the moment yesterday morning when I had first learned of his death, that in addition to my genuine disbelief, I had also known that what I was being told was true--had known it so deeply and clearly that his suicide didn't even seem like news. It felt like something I'd known about for a long time, which was only now being confirmed by an official source. At the same time that I'd been thinking, "Oh no!" I had also thought: "Of course."

~~~

We worried about his heart, his liver, his stomach, his lungs. It was like Brueghel's painting of the fall of Icarus--we were looking the wrong way; the focus was on the big events in the middle of the canvas. Nobody noticed the terrible small thing that was starting to happen in one corner.

~~~

We find each other. We're referred by friends. Or we happen to sit next to each other on an airplane. We end up standing together in a hallway, during a party. We stop noticing who is coming and going around us. We talk. It's urgent. We have nothing new to tell each other. Even when the stories are different, they're the same.

~~~

Kate said, "I didn't want it to be this big secret. It think it's better for him to grow up knowing than to suddenly find out one day."

I nodded. I could see the logic and the sanity of this, and I admired Kate's clearness.

But I said, "I guess I worry about him growing up knowing that people actually do this. Kill themselves, I mean. I worry that if he knows too early he'll just take for granted that it's part of the normal range of human actions."

"It is," Kate said.

--Joan Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order

I'll not read a truer book all year.

5 comments:

wisteria said...

Wow! Powerful emotions must have rocked your soul. I am very tempted to put everything on hold to read this book soon. What would you say? On a lighter note, I love the pic of Ellie and Claudius.

SFP said...

Oh, yes. This book--an unexpected review copy--showed up the day after the 32nd anniversary of my brother's death. If you've a reason to read such a book I daresay it'll speak to you, too.

And thanks for liking the cats in an exploratory mood!

Jordan said...

Sounds amazing.

thisiswhathappens said...

Funny, I came across your blog, and this posting just when I needed it most. Thank you, I'll be picking the book up today.

SFP said...

You know, I wouldn't mind seeing if I could set up an interview with the author. But if I did, I would prefer to have everyone (translation: anyone interested in the subject) email me/post questions they'd like to see answered.

Should I check into this?