My high school drinking buddy, the one who used to stand naked on the bench to put his socks and Air Force Academy cap on first when he got dressed after showering in the football team locker room, put himself in front of a train at 11:57 PM on a lonely South Carolina February evening, ending his life at nineteen years young.
Everyone, the survivors, expressed some iteration of:
“People who do that are selfish.”
Maybe they’re right. It’s selfish to end your life without considering those who love you. Maybe, it’s as selfish as turning a person’s ultimate demonstration of pain into your tragedy. Making suicide, after all, something that happened to you.
People who take their life, you say, are weak. Well, yeah. They are weak.
Unimaginably, hopelessly weak.
Weak like your elderly golden retriever who you carry up and down the stairs until the day he dies. Weak like your ailing grandmother who you bathe with a sponge, every fold and crevasse. Weak like your toddler, who you comfort when she can’t understand the harsh midnight shuttering and flashes of light from the storm outside.
Imagine that some people are dead, but selfishly so. Can you?
Picture, in his last moments, my friend smoking Burley tobacco from his pipe, one of the only things he had come to enjoy, pining over a girl who didn’t love him, believing everyone else felt about him the same, relegated to a sad lonely island of his unacceptable weakness and incomprehensible pain, waiting for a train to heal him. How selfish was he?
They say, “he had so many people he could have told. He could have been helped.”
Maybe they’re right. He could have told the people who cared about him who, mostly, deemed his death as their burden. The ones who cried as his body lowered into the ground because he could no longer be in their life. The ones who failed to realize that he would not be here to complete his life.
It’s over for him which, for you, was too soon but for him, could not have ended soon enough. How selfish was he?
It’s not your fault. Your problems, too, are real and unique and entirely your own. You, too, have a cross to bear and, maybe, mercifully, you’re strong enough to do it. You couldn’t have known and, still, you can’t know, his or her or my struggle.
But then, how selfish are you? How weak are you?
We’re on this earth together, but we walk it alone. If you haven’t worn my clothes, then you don’t know my stench.