When someone dies, I often look at photos of that person, whether it be someone that I know, someone who I have photographed, or not. I look deep into their eyes to see if there are any hints there about what was to come. To see if they knew that they would soon die. If there was any evidence of personal battles evident in those eyes. What kind of knowing this person held.
I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain, nor had I had the pleasure of photographing him, but waking up this morning to the news of his death really hit me hard. I am absolutely gutted. The tears flowed out as I thought of the pain that he must felt. And what hit me the hardest was knowing how he was one of the ones who was not afraid to speak of his darkness. Of his addictions and struggles. He was vocal about it and yet still, that darkness had engulfed him.
Suicide has been a common thread for my entire life. One of my first memories was when I was about four years old and I was at the funeral for my Uncle who had taken his own life. I do not remember the actual funeral but I remember that there were Gingko trees growing in front of the Funeral Home. Trees that grew at the time of the dinosaurs. I remember sadness and I remember not really understanding what was happening. In my final year of high school, just a couple of months before graduation, the father of one of my best friend’s took his own life. I called their house that evening and spoke with him. He told me to take care of myself and I remember getting off the phone and saying to my Mom “Something seems wrong with Mark.” For months, years, later I would see his face in crowds and I would remember those last words that he spoke to me. Take care of yourself.
Suicide is a tricky thing. It’s a complicated thing. And unless you have been there, in the throws of it, it is impossible for us to understand. While I have never been in that place, I can feel the pain that these people must have felt. I understand that this choice is not about us. It’s not about anyone but the person who chooses to end their life. In doing so, I believe that they are releasing themselves from whatever darkness has taken over their lives and I believe that they believe that in doing so, they release the rest of us from that as well.
In all of life there is light and dark and at times these can be difficult things to balance. We all have this darkness in ourselves and while often most of us can manage it, often a lot of people cannot. And knowing that breaks my heart. Knowing that no matter who you are, no matter what support system you may have in place, that darkness can take over every cell of your being. It hurts knowing how much pain people like Anthony must have been in. And it hurts knowing that suicides rates are rising. Knowing that so many people are suffering and so many people are looking for that release.
I’m not sure what the solution is. I truly do believe that if one no longer wants to live that they will find a way out. I also believe that every human on this earth has a role to play in it. That we are all special and that we all have something unique to share and I know that when we lose another human in this way, the light dims a little. I am taking today to send out some love in this world. I believe that we all need more of it. And I want everyone in my life to know that I am here for you. I am here to talk and to listen or to be in silence. I am here to hold your hand and to support you. I am here to help you sit in your darkness and I will do my best to help you navigate out of it. Because I don’t want anyone else to feel that they no longer matter, that no one will miss them, that we – the world – are better off without them because it simply isn’t true.