A prayer from the living world

posted at 9:20 pm on February 26, 2010 by Doctor Zero

The body of actor Andrew Koenig was found in Vancouver’s Stanley Park yesterday. His father, Walter Koenig, said that his son “took his own life, and was in a lot of pain.” Like most of my generation, I grew up with Walter Koenig as Chekhov on Star Trek, and he played a superb villain much later, on Babylon 5. Until his press conference yesterday, I didn’t realize he was a man of such incredible strength and dignity. He asked for his family to be left in peace to mourn their loss. I hope he won’t mind if I take this sad occasion to address others who might be following the road that ended in Stanley Park for Andrew. No matter how far you have gone down that road, there is always a path that leads away. I could offer no greater tribute to Andrew and his family than trying to help you take it, or at least see it.

You won’t find the beginning of that path in your house, or your room, or any other private place where you torment yourself, and wonder why a world you’re hiding from can no longer see you. You’ll have to step outside, and take a walk through your town. You’ll pass hospitals where the gift of life is unwrapped and presented to the universe. In another wing, life is held as precious treasure by families gathered around quiet beds, surrounded by tireless machines and their tired, but determined, keepers. Perhaps you’ll find a hospice, where the dying embrace their last opportunity to share their lives with all who receive the blessing of a seat beside them. You’ll pass churches and temples, filled with the sworn enemies of despair.

You may find yourself wishing you could give the unwanted years of your future to the clients of those hospitals and hospices. I did, years ago, when I stood where you are standing now. I was on my knees at the time, offering that trade with all my heart. It doesn’t work that way. Those who tend the hospices can tell you why, and the people in the churches and temples can explain why it shouldn’t.

Stroll past your local police station, where the noble calling to risk your life in the service of others is answered… and the worship of death as a solution to problems meets its humiliating end. Maybe you’ll spot a recruiting station, where men and women who love their friends and families accept a duty that could take them away forever… because they know others love their families too, and there is no safe way to build and protect the future for them.

If your walk takes you past sunset, watch the cars rolling into the driveways of apartments and houses. If you walk from night into morning, watch the people reluctantly leaving their homes, to provide for their families. Those people are not wasting their lives, but fulfilling them. They return home to enjoy their reward, and renew their inspiration. Every day, they write new pages in the human story. None of us will see the end of that tale… but I know you share my appetite to read another chapter, and then one more after that. You may have convinced yourself to ignore it, but it’s still there.

Step into a convenience store for a cup of coffee or chocolate, and take a look at the newspapers. They are filled with pleas for help that you could answer. From the inner cities of America, to the broken streets of Haiti, and around the world, there are places where the clocks are filled with nothing but desperate hours. Another pair of hands, or another few dollars of support, are always needed. The years ahead, which you regard as a painful burden, can be given to them. It will take effort, and courage… but along the way, I can promise that your life would stop feeling like a burden.

You may view suicide as your last chance to shake the pillars of a world that has turned its back on you. The world doesn’t need any more shaking. If you’ve been telling yourself that no one will miss you when you’re gone, you are wrong. Your suicide would tear a hole through the future, and nothing could ever fill the space where you used to be. You might think you’re alone, but you don’t have to walk more than a couple of miles from your house to see a building full of people who would be delighted to meet you. There are places like Suicide Hotlines, staffed by men and women who have spent their entire lives preparing to hear the sound of your voice, and greet every day hoping to learn your name.

You may be afraid to face the years ahead. You’re not the only one, and if you extinguish the light of your faith and wisdom, you consign others to darkness. You might see death by your own hand as the end of unbearable pain… but I ask you to think about Walter Koenig, facing a wall of cameras with quiet grace in the hours after finding his son’s body, and understand that it’s only the beginning of agony.

You might have decided your fellow men are rotten to the core, and you’re weary of their company. Listen to the music of Mozart, or look upon the work of Michelangelo, and consider the argument of those who profoundly disagree. Maybe part of your problem is that you’ve been listening to the wrong music, or looking at the wrong pictures. Dark waters are easy to drown in. The judgment of the human race will not lack witnesses for the defense, and they will make their case to you, if you give them a chance.

Now, take the last few steps back to your home, and set aside one sorrow or terror with every footfall, until your mind is clear. If you’re thinking of incinerating the remaining years of your life, surely you can spare a few minutes for quiet reflection, and hear this prayer from the living world:

Please don’t leave us. We need you.

It is a quiet prayer, spoken in a soft voice, but it’s never too late to listen.

Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.

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Suicide is a permanent solution
to a temporary problem.

christene on February 26, 2010

NO, it’s not.

Eyas on February 26, 2010 at 11:34 PM

I respectfully disagree
Yes, it is.

Suicide is a permanent solution,
(Not the Answer)
To a temporary problem.
(this too, as does everything- will soon pass)

christene on February 27, 2010 at 5:26 PM

It’s being reported on the news that Marie Osmond’s son committed suicide last night, he jumped from a building in downtown Los Angeles. So tragic for the Koenig and Osmond families, they’re in my prayers.

beachgirlusa on February 27, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Sad for the Osmonds and the Koenigs.
Those poor bewildered children.

elclynn on February 27, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Sad for the Osmonds and the Koenigs.
Those poor bewildered children.

elclynn on February 27, 2010 at 6:24 PM

When the wealthy commit suicide, I always think of this old classic:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine — we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM

Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM

I hadn’t thought about that one in a long time. It’s very fine poem. I first heard about Richard Cory in this incarnation.

smellthecoffee on February 27, 2010 at 7:18 PM

Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM

I think of the devastation it causes in their families, rich or poor. My son’s best friend hung himself when he was nine. My son blamed himself and me for not saving him. I have never quite forgiven myself. Ask not for whom the Bell Tolls………..

elclynn on February 27, 2010 at 7:38 PM

So sorry to hear about both families, such heartache.

wi farmgirl on February 27, 2010 at 7:38 PM

Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Touching, I needed the sympathy

daesleeper on February 27, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Wow. Just wow. What a powerful story.

Thank you for a beautiful essay Doctor Zero.

My wife is trying to understand the suicide of a high school friend…maybe this will help.

ornery_independent on February 27, 2010 at 9:20 PM

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20347551,00.html

Unfortunate! Marie Osmond’s son jumped to death, left a suicide note. Severely depressed, never felt he fit in.

I have many demons to battle, and many crosses to carry. Been battling depression since I was a teenager, but after the major blow of my mom’s death of breast cancer 13 years ago and moving here, it’s a daily sacrifice to keep going. My mom has missed every single significant moment in my life, after high school and starting college. 3 1/2 years of hell.

So I am on meds. Been in and out of therapy. Now to top it off, in came epilepsy! I can only do one thing at a time most of the time because seizure meds mess with memory, I can’t work to put my BA to good use and I am sick and tired of being asked if I want to harm myself or anybody else.

I need to point out there’s an indirect correlation between antidepressants and seizures. Check it out. If it wasn’t because Mr. PPF is short of being canonized in Rome for putting up with me and the kids, I dunno where I’d be.

I almost died three years ago of TSS and sometimes wonder why I didn’t just die. Funny thing, was on the phone y’day with my BFF and I went over some of it since she’s in PR and I am here; she didn’t know I almost died. She has a very quick wit and pulls jokes faster than anybody I have ever known. She told me in Spanish, “yerba mala nunca muere!”, which means “bad herbs never die!”

I laughed so hard because I labeled it as my cause of living. “That’s IT! That’s why I am not dead, that’s IT! Thank you so much for pointing that out!”.

I read this article early in the PM and I was hesitant to opine on it because it hits me. Of course, I am numb most of the time; I tried quitting the antidepressants because I was not having any meltdowns or issues to deal with and it backfired BIG TIME.

I guess I am in the bunch where my brain just needs the drugs. Apparently when weaning from them it’s just as hard as with cigarrettes, only worse b/c for a period of time people with depression are just worse so I caution this to anybody that attempts to wean, or go cold turkey as some people do.

Natural supplements do help a lot, esp. B-12, calcium, magnesium, fish oil, vitamin D and anything that helps the nervous system. Some improve with diet changes too, so I have turned to Catholicism, FOX News and HotAir. ;D

I don’t consider suicide a selfish thing to do. That’s what people on the outside of the scope think. It’s a moment that comes either planned or on impulse, and it’s worse if people around are very judgmental.

I call it lack of strength, a dark vacuum and a mental voice to just do it, go for it, nobody will care, life’s not worth living, yaddah yaddah yaddah. And they’re not grounded and do not comprehend the magnitude of their actions. Hey it’s not an Xbox game where you die and come back to life. You’re gone and not gonna come back!

Call it self-abortion if you like. God created you, had a plan, your life ahead of you with free will but under His guidance your path will be straight. Go off the path onto a weak branch of that tree, it will take a LOT to get you back on track. If I fall off the tree like an apple, I will not get to heaven, which I wanna do-and of course, the ripple effect to my families and friends would be insane. That is what those on the extreme CANNOT SEE OR FEEL. Get it?

I feel for Marie Osmond, she’s so wonderful, perky and has inspired me in many levels, besides having such a talented family. Michael will be missed.

ProudPalinFan on February 27, 2010 at 9:22 PM

Eyas on February 27, 2010 at 12:40 AM

Spot on!

ProudPalinFan on February 27, 2010 at 9:26 PM

Touching, I needed the sympathy

daesleeper on February 27, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Solitude

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Edna Wheeler Wilcox

Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 9:26 PM

See what I mean? I am being dragged out of here by the family to go out. In the snow. In the cold. While they’re having fun. CRAP!

ProudPalinFan on February 27, 2010 at 9:35 PM

No matter how far you have gone down that road, there is always a path that leads away.

Truly eloquent…

jerrytbg on February 27, 2010 at 11:34 PM

daesleeper,
From your posts, I assumed that you, too, suffer; but, at the same time your humor made me doubt that assumption. I hereby nominate you for both 1st and 2nd place for “funniest post in thread” for the following parley:

Life is what you make of it.
Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 3:13 PM
That is even more depressing than what I wrote…thanks.
daesleeper on February 27, 2010 at 3:18 PM”
I guess it is depressing to own up to your own responsibility for your own misery.
Disturb the Universe on February 27, 2010 at 3:32 PM
Touching, I needed the sympathy
daesleeper on February 27, 2010 at 8:26 PM”

DisturbtheUniverse,
Maybe you could take the lead by telling daesleeper to “snap out of it”. That sh!t is always comedy gold.

Eyas on February 27, 2010 at 11:58 PM

My cousin put a .270 under his chin and I seen the aftermath. Pass this article along. Share it and encourage your friends to read it and pass it along. It may save someone. Life is worth living.

Sam_I_Am on February 28, 2010 at 12:02 AM

I always remind parents that the children of parents who commit suicide are more likely to commit suicide, too.

Blake on February 28, 2010 at 12:37 AM

All I can say is “Wow” !!!!

sweet92169 on February 28, 2010 at 12:46 AM

DisturbtheUniverse,
Maybe you could take the lead by telling daesleeper to “snap out of it”. That sh!t is always comedy gold.

Eyas on February 27, 2010 at 11:58 PM

Too true mi hermon.

I’m one of the fools that is too chickenshit to kill myself but languishes on in this dying world. Tragedy and comedy have never been so spirit-fully mixed.

Here is to tomorrow! The day that I despise…

daesleeper on February 28, 2010 at 12:51 AM

Yea I am too much of a chicken, that’s always my reply to the tons of “do you think you have suicidal thoughts, or are going to harm yourself or any member of your family?”

ProudPalinFan on February 28, 2010 at 1:07 AM

Excellent post Doc. I pray that God will continue to give the Koenig family strength during these desperate times.

Captain Kirock on February 28, 2010 at 3:04 AM

So anyways, when I woke up in the ICU, my father and my fiance were at my bedside. The first thing my father’s all pissed off and the first words out of his mouth were “I hope you know what a selfish thing you tried to do.”

Still groggy, my response was, “No shit, Sherlock.”

The only thing more selfish than committing suicide is telling a suicidal person what a selfish prick he’s being by not thinking about how YOU would feel.

And on that note, I’d just like to say that I do deeply appreciate Dr. Zero’s words, and I take them in the spirit in which they were written. But, as for those who have never suffered from CLINICAL Depression and yet think you have an educated opinion on it: Fuck all y’all, you know shit.

(xcept you, beachgirl, you’re beautiful)

Eyas on February 28, 2010 at 7:03 AM

I’m one of the fools that is too chickenshit to kill myself but languishes on in this dying world. Tragedy and comedy have never been so spirit-fully mixed.

Here is to tomorrow! The day that I despise…

daesleeper on February 28, 2010 at 12:51 AM

While you are waxing poetic about this dying, tragic, comic world, pay special homage to the bitter-sweetness of irony, for as you languish despising another day someone with far worse troubles than your own is praying God grant them just one more.

But I’m glad I was able to help. I’m glad you are too chickensh&t to kill yourself, but if you ever find the dubious courage of which you speak, please don’t take anyone else with you.

Disturb the Universe on February 28, 2010 at 9:09 AM

This is a remarkable post and thread. While nicely written, I would agree with commenters that Dr. Z’s post speaks more to the bystanders than to the participants in suicide. It’s rather counterproductive to tell suicide candidates about the hole they will leave in the lives of loved ones. Think about it, piling on more guilt with the promise of giving bystanders a hole of suffering that might communicate a glimpse of the candidate’s suffering — this is not helpful. And while Dr. Z does speak eloquently for the loved ones that remain, he does not say nearly enough about summoning the Grace to soldier on.
.
“To be, or not to be” is a profound question, and there is honor in having the courage to pose the question. What follows though, can be a slippery slope of accelerating self absorption; it is filled with dark forces of constant and detailed and cascading self condemnation — and these forces welcome your increasing despair with a growing encouragement to one day strike back at the paralysis with a single act boldly ending it all. The mind is so twisted at this point that loving gestures and counsel from loved ones become profound in their seeming meaninglessness.
.
Vitamins, supplements, exercise and drugs are aids, but they do not replace the thing that only the candidate can supply: the conviction that their life belongs to something bigger than themselves — this is the thing the dark forces have been eroding away with incessant inner voices saying: You Fool! You Idiot! You Worthless Chump!
.
Ah but these voices don’t have to be the last word. They decline in strength and frequency with a simple thing: a short reply. “Thank you for reminding me of things I need to work on” or “I hear you, I thank you, I forgive you.” The dark voices will persist, but persistence in giving the reply is a slow but steady way back, if one wants to be moving back. I suggest that you do come back to nobly convey your journal of sufferings endured, and to keep those experiences for building bridges to others, maybe in song or in poetry or in stories or just in conversation. Honor us by affirming that we really aren’t alone – we can’t be if you’ve chosen to be with us.
.
And for those who did not find their way back, our love for you remains as noble as ever. We accept that you were lost in the wilderness. We can’t bring you back, but we can let you go knowing we love you, and trusting that our love reaches you and comforts you.

Mark30339 on February 28, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Two friends of mine hanged themselves over the years
And the amount of people that attended their funerals and burials was absurd.
If only they had any idea.

They thought no one cared

blatantblue on February 28, 2010 at 10:25 AM

This sadly is a common path for child actors. It’s too much pressure to succeed. The materialistic environment. Adoration for the children. Bills for burgeoning adults who become imperfect men and women. Vultures called papparazi. Who else? Buffy from Family Affair. Little Rascals. Judy Garland. Leave your cute and charming children out of the spotlight so they don’t end up on the bathroom floor or soaring from the 15th floor…

flameofjudah on February 28, 2010 at 11:02 AM

blatantblue on February 28, 2010 at 10:25 AM

The sad part is that depression is such a crippling disease. People end up thinking that life is too painful and not worth continuing. It’s just so sad that people don’t know how much they are really loved and cared for.

Rightwingguy on February 28, 2010 at 6:09 PM

BTW,Doc Zero, outstanding post. Very poignant and moving.

Rightwingguy on February 28, 2010 at 6:10 PM

Eyas on February 28, 2010 at 7:03 AM

My father suffered from depression for a while. Basically, you can educate yourself on it and try to understand it, but until you find yourself in that blackness, you will never know.

Rightwingguy on February 28, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I know I’m a bit late to the game, but I found this piece absolutely beautiful.

When my twins were born nearly 5 years ago, I lapsed into (predicted) post-partum depression. I was warned, and instead of seeking out help, I retreated into myself. I did not become suicidal (didn’t want to do that to my kids), but I would hurt myself out of some feeling that I was inhuman, a failure. My boys were approaching 10 months old before I sought treatment, and it took 2 years for me to feel human again. I’ve never fully shaken it, but I refuse the medications – they made me into somebody else, somebody I didn’t really want to be – and they didn’t really help with the depression anyway.

I have found that when I am preoccupied with the problems of others, I have little time to dwell on my own. I enjoy volunteering, and when the twins start school, I’ll have more time to do so. I am fully aware that this will not cure my depression, I’m not sure there is a cure for it. But every little bit helps, even if I don’t realize it at first. Depression requires a multi-pronged approach, and having an awareness of our fellow man (which is what I perceived Doc Zero was saying) is quite legitimate.

I would like to add one final thought to this – never underestimate the power of touch. Yes, I’m a certified Massage Therapist, but I learned this long ago – physical contact can be very beneficial, whether it’s a massage to reduce stress, a hug when someone’s sad, or a hand on the arm during a conversation. No, it’s not going to cure depression anymore than Doc Zero’s walk, but the touch of another human when you feel alone in the world can be a lifeline. Which reminds me, I think I’ll go hug my husband.

Thank you, Doctor Zero – this made me think about my own demons, and about how I need to keep up the fight against them.

Anna on February 28, 2010 at 9:13 PM

My God, Doctor, what was beautiful.

Thank you.

Dominion on February 28, 2010 at 11:26 PM

My God, Doctor, what was beautiful.

Thank you.

Dominion on February 28, 2010 at 11:26 PM

My God, Doctor, that was beautiful.

Thank you.

Dominion on February 28, 2010 at 11:26 PM

Dominion on February 28, 2010 at 11:29 PM

What a touching article! I’m remembering folks I’ve known who have killed themselves — a man in my church who had suffered from clinical depression for years and shot himself at the gas station nearby; a high school friend who killed herself in college over a failed romance with a professor; the son of a family friend who, having gotten very messed up in the Sixties, killed himself.

I remember an acquaintance from junior high who, in 1968, told her parents she wanted to go to San Francisco — exasperated by her hippie ways, they let her go, only to discover a year later that she had gone out into the woods behind their house and OD’d on stolen sleeping pills.

Another young acquaintance came home from school, and upon hearing that the family dog had died, went upstairs and shot herself with her father’s gun. And then there was the mother of a female classmate who hanged herself and tried to stage it so that her daughter would be accused of murdering her.

Our society seems headed for greater acceptance of assisted suicide for those who want to die for whatever reason. God help us.

KyMouse on March 1, 2010 at 8:15 AM

Chewy the Lab, thank you for your story. Your son’s story sounds a lot like mine. I was diagnosed bipolar when I was 19. It was wonderful to finally have a name put to what was wrong with me, and for a while things were well (I initially had a really good doctor). But after a couple of moves, I had a hard time finding a doctor who didn’t want to do anything more than throw medication at me. After a while, I got fed up, and worked through things on my own. I also have a really good network of friends (my family is in PA, I’m in TX) that I can lean on when necessary. I have a job that I love that I’ve been doing for 16 years, I have some very good friends that I couldn’t love more if they were family, I’m a couple of months away from finishing my MBA, and for the most part, I love my life. I’m very lucky.

Alia on March 1, 2010 at 9:07 AM

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