Jun 1, 2005

Suicide and Damnation

This post really is about suicide and damnation; the title contains no hyperbole or metaphor. It's a switch in tone from the Trader Joe's post, but that's the way life is: Happy, sad, happy, sad. No, wait, it's more like happy, mundane and boring, sad, mundane and boring, happy. I just try to keep the mundane and boring parts out of my blog as best I can.

My friend Bill's brother Matt (both pseudonyms) died of an overdose in West Hollywood on Saturday. He had been suicidal since the 1980's and had threatened suicide a week before his death, when his other brother had refused to give him money for crystal meth. Matt had lived in L.A. for many years and had been alienated from his family for a very long time. I had a brother like that, too, only in San Francisco, only he didn't kill himself; he died in a fire when his life was actually looking up, sort of. But this isn't about my brother right now. Bob and I used to talk about our brothers and what to do about them and always came up with this conclusion: nothing.

Matt was found by his landlady, his apartment filthy and littered with needles. He had been a user for years, and had finally overdosed. Was it a suicide? For Matt's family, this question is critical because they are all devout Catholics. Matt's eternal fate hinges on the answer to this question, but apparently prayer can tip the balance from hell to purgatory. So Bill says in his email to me,

". . . The question of suicide will most likely remain unresolved mainly because no one can now know for certain what thoughts were going through his head as he lost consciousness. I believe so fervently all that the Church teaches that I've found myself praying all the more for Matt and asking others do so so. Thanks for those prayers. "

I don't believe that God punishes people for being depressed or for trying to kill their pain with drugs. I am disgusted at Bill for letting his theology blind him to the realities of mental illness. Bill is an attorney, very bright, who also has an MA in English. But he hasn't read any contemporary (last 50 years) books in a very long time "There are so many good nineteenth century novels to read, why should I read anything new?" Bill had never heard or read the word "vegan" until I told him last year, and I had to spell it. Sometimes I think his mental world is filled with dust and cobwebs. And lots of Catholic theology. The older I get, the more aware of the world's mysteries I become, its paradoxes, ironies, sadness and joy together. But Bob is as dogmatic as ever. It's possible I'm not being fair.

Reading this post was like eating a brick, wasn't it? On a lighter note, Will is peeing quite well in the potty now, albeit with dubious aim, John dented our car this time, NOT ME, and Jack wants me to teach him to knit and my Dad had a sarcastic, sexist comment about that. Roofers coming Monday. I'm trying Neutrogena Self-Tanning Lotion on my legs, since they are incapable of tanning on their own. Sad, happy, mundane and boring, there you go.

1 comment:

jo(e) said...

What a sad story. And I'm guessing it might trigger feelings for you about your own brother. How difficult.

Lots of Catholics have all kinds of bizarre beliefs that have nothing to do with actual Church teaching. Catholic theologians would be properly horrified at the idea of prayer tipping the balance from purgatory to hell. It is not a church teaching. But in Catholic communities, all kinds of weird superstitiuos beliefs are really entrenched. It's usually not so evident in educated people ....

So how do you be a friend to someone when they are struggling with stuff like that? It's hard to just say to someone -- well, your beliefs are messed up. That is the part I find difficult.