We recently returned from vacation in New York and learned that our neighbor, Bill, had committed suicide. No one had a clue he was that depressed. We didn’t know him very well but we saw him a lot. I would often run into him at the park where we ran our dogs. Cheryl would run into him at the gym. We’re not even sure if Bill knew our names. Nevertheless, we grieve for Bill and for his suffering family.
His passing was a great shock to all of us who live in this quiet neighborhood. Bill loved the outdoors. He also hunted. The readiness of his guns did not serve him well on that warm September day when his inability to cope with depression led him to take the action that ended his life. It started a dark chapter in the lives of his wife and two young adult daughters.
He went out to his shed and put a gun to his head, leaving it to one of his daughters to find him, a victim of self-inflicted violence. According to his buddy, Bill had become depressed after changing medications that treated an unrelated physical ailment, apparently tremors.
Probably no will ever know why he didn’t wait until a new prescription might alleviate his psychic suffering. Or, perhaps, there was more to his depression than meets the eye.
In the United States, 1.3 percent – or about one out of 77 – of all deaths are from suicide. More than half of those deaths are inflicted using firearms. In many cases, like Bill’s, that leaves family members to deal with the gruesome aftermath of the violence of the act.
In the first chapter of our book, Enough of Us: Why we should think twice before making children, we raise the issue of the gamble involved in having kids. We don’t know if the children we produce will lead happy lives. We don’t know if success or failure; productivity or negativity; or contribution or harm to society will be the net effects of their having existed.
In the program for Bill’s church memorial service – which took place one day before his 58th birthday – there are two quotations that stand out for me. One is from John 3:16 of the New Testament. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in God’s one and only Son.”
The other is from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
We are not here to challenge religious belief. Faith is an individual choice that is beyond the scope of our book. But it seems that Bill – a churchgoing person – was far from overflowing with hope when he took his own life.
When people decide to become parents – or neglect to make the choice not to – they very frequently do not consider the hazards that lie before their children, whether debilitating disease, mental illness, drug addiction, lives of crime or a near-endless litany of terrible travails and outcomes.
Having children – and the adults they become – is a high-risk gamble. We wish that all would-be parents would give that notion intense and very serious thought before procreating.
– Ellis Levinson