on bloom and decay

Like most people I know, I was intensely sad to learn last week’s news. Two gifted souls gone–by their own choice and hands. Two high-profile acts of suicide. What to make of these extraordinary losses, these deeply human lives? I took to social media to see what others were saying. Sometimes–most times depending on who you follow–social media is a compassionate place. Other times it can be a cesspool.

Grief and confusion poured out and for good reason. These lives–their suicides–didn’t compute from what we (the public) knew of these highly public individuals. Every now and then I would find some less than compassionate comments. I wanted to comment back, but there’s a time and place for that. And last week wasn’t it.

So here are a few observations with my take, which you can take or leave.

“But they had everything.” I am sure they had financial success beyond their wildest dreams but they didn’t have everything. They didn’t have privacy. I’m not a public person so it’s difficult for me to imagine what it’s like to have every aspect of your life under a media magnifying glass. I mean, yuck. That’s a steep price to pay for financial success.

“But they could have sought help.” Yes, but what if they already had? What if they tried every intervention (therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, and so on) and they still suffered? I can’t speak from personal experience so I don’t know what it’s like to wake up each day and experience outrageous despair, anxiety, and worthlessness. That sounds like cruel and unusual torture, doesn’t it?

“What they did was cowardly.” This one really gets my hackles up. There are many ways to act in a cowardly manner. I don’t think what Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain did was cowardly. As much as I don’t want to contemplate their last moments (and I really don’t), they must have felt tremendous shame before they seized their lives by their own hands. And they were alone. Cowards? Hardly. Shame on us (the public) for casting such judgment. Shame.

“But they devastated the ones they love.” On this I couldn’t agree more. I would hope that their loved ones are able to grieve privately but openly with one another. And perhaps in the distant future, perhaps not, they will be able to look on the ones they lost with a lot of tenderness, grace, and affection.

I guess life is like a rose or some other magnificent flower. You hope you get a lot more bloom than decay. There is a British artist who captures this counterbalance so magnificently. His name is Nick Knight (and you can follow him on Instagram here). He cuts roses from his garden and then photographs them (yes, these are photographs). How exquisite and fragile.