April 18, 2014

The Dumbest Question of Them All

A little over one year ago for the kid barely in his twenties.

A month ago for the forty-nine year old rock star’s girlfriend.

Barely a week ago for the twenty-two year-old entrepreneur.

Come July, it’ll be seven months for the thirty-some year old mom of little ones not yet in their teens.

Sometimes death by suicide makes headlines. Sometimes, the loved ones drowning in its wake are the only ones who know about it.

When it’s a headline, count on news anchors to assume a pseudo-sad tone as they report the tragedy with heads cocked to one side, staring through the camera’s lens and into the eyes of whoever is on the other side, and asking


…and then moving on to the next news bite for popular consumption.

"There are such things as dumb questions,
and in suicide’s shadow,
Why is the dumbest of question of them all."

Answers to Why are never productive. They don’t restart the heart, cause oxygenated blood to course through the body to the brain and restore the chooser of death to life again.

Answers to Why are never justifiable. What justifiable answer is there for parents who find themselves suddenly childless, or for little ones who will never get another kiss to make a boo-boo all better? Are there any answers to Why that makes anyone say Ah, yes, now it makes sense. Death over living is a wise choice indeed. 

Of course there aren’t.

So I don’t ask. My gut’s ache doesn’t leave room for asking Why because it’s too busy churning at the thought of personal demons chasing someone to the end of a rope, bottom of a prescription drug bottle or gun barrel’s end.

It aches, not because of the senseless, tragic nature of death by suicide, and not even because it is the ugliest possible side of life, but because I’ve seen suicide up close and personal…and I remember.

What I Know
I know what it’s like to circle the drain and end up in a puddle of gooey despair and have it completely envelope me.

I know what it’s like when utter darkness blinds and deafens all senses into believing that not existing is the most logical option. I know the EMT’s expressions after checking your vitals and realizing there’s a hair’s space of time between your existence ceasing and you opening your eyes to another day.

Post-partum depression? Nope. It happened years before my husband and daughter. At a time when, even if Rochelle of the future could’ve come back and shown me a glimpse of how wonderful life would be in a few years, I wouldn’t have believed her.

But you’re a Christian. You betcha. I am now and was then. Just lean in a little closer and I’ll tell you a secret: Christians get tired, hopeless and lost sometimes too.

But you seem so strong and happy. Here’s another secret: Strong is overrated. Oh, I understand that Strong is a compliment of resilience and never-give-upped-ness. But sometimes admitting weakness can be another kind of strength. And Happiness? Meh…Peace trumps happiness every time.

And now you’re probably confused like I would be if I was reading this. And you’re probably asking yourself: Why?

Photo Credit John Young, cutcaster.com
Why Ask
Don’t feel badly. It’s easy to end up at Why. If I’m being forgetful and removed from where I’ve been and what I know, I’d be asking the same thing.

But then I’d get quiet and honest with myself and remember that Why’s answers are never satisfactory, and they certainly won’t resurrect anyone. I’d remember and feel in my gut where Why – mine and yours — lives.

It’s a twisted place where I remember dying being a reasonable option to living. A dark place where the deaths by suicides of people around me still sting, and whispers...

How far away from that choice is my co-worker, my spouse… my child?

Who else is shouldering invisible burdens?

The Not So Dumb Questions
Why lives in these dark places and begs for other, not-so-dumb questions whose answers...

...examine the relation between suicide and mental disorders like depression versus its relation to money, relationships, happiness and spirituality.

...make people aware of suicide’s signs and symptoms.

...draw attention to larger issues of undiagnosed mental illness; or, depression occurring more often in women than men; or, that a lifetime of struggling with depression can begin as early as nine-years-old.

Who knows? The right questions could yield answers that might prevent the next Newtown or Fort Hood, or the next childless parents, or the next motherless kids.

Between what I know from that long ago time and seeing what survivors of people lost to suicide go through each day, I think those are the kinds of answers we’re really searching for.

But we can never get to those answers if we keep asking the dumbest question of them all.


  1. Thank you for this. Replace the WHY with HOW, same number of letters but a WORLD of difference. HOW can we help, HOW can we recognize, HOW can we be there to be support, hope, and shoulder the burden?? (thank you for this, friend)

    1. The HOW is the key Alexandra. Exactly the key...and just your saying that gets us a little closer to asking that very right, very productive question.
      Thank YOU.