There's a special way to commit suicide, and that is: Take someone else with you. It's the ultimate ace-in-the-hole for those who argue that suicide is a selfish act -- and I've been arguing that very point back and forth ever since a close friend killed herself a few hours after our last phone call about a year ago. Removing oneself forever from the world, because life's troubles seem otherwise insoluble, is massive enough. It wields tornadoes that never subside. But killing others, then killing oneself, is a spectacle of monstrous contrasts: It's a display of terrifying power (over life itself, and not just mine but yours) but also of pathetic impotence (he couldn't handle life but also couldn't handle death, thus needed company). It's fierce but cowardly. Self-obsessed yet hyper-social. It is at once a cry for help and a command to be condemned.

Consummately pitiful yet consummately cruel.

Last month, a Southern California man apparently distraught about job loss slew his wife and five young children before killing himself. Armed with a handgun, Ervin Lupoe "evidently roamed room to room" in the family home "fatally shooting his wife and five young children -- including two sets of twins," we read in the Los Angeles Times. Lupoe had faxed a letter to a local television station claiming that "my wife felt it better to end our lives," though investigators and relatives believe the bloodbath was entirely his own. "Knowing we have no job and five children under 8 years with no place to go," Lupoe wrote in that letter, no other choice seemed viable: "Why leave our children in someone's else's hands?"

Excellent question, my mass-murdering friend. Why leave them in someone else's hands? Answer: Because, there, they'd be alive today. Here we see the high-speed selfishness of suicidal thinking: "Someone else's hands," anyone else's, are unacceptable to the man who feels that because he lost his job he can no longer hold those children comfortably in his.

"A broken-hearted husband murdered his wife before killing himself with an electric drill after she ended their marriage on Facebook," ran a story last week in the Daily Mail. "Electrical engineer Gary Grinhaff bludgeoned wife Tracey to death after she changed her Facebook status to 'splitting up with husband.' He then drove to nearby woods where he tried to kill himself in a number of different ways before finally succeeding."

Tracey was having an affair, a fact that Grinhaff had confirmed by bugging her car and following her. After beating Tracey to death in the couple's bedroom late at night while their daughters, aged thirteen and three, slept in nearby rooms, he drove to the forest, where he "killed himself by drilling into his leg and arm with the saw attachment to his cordless electric drill." Police found suicide notes in his car. In one, Grinhaff wrote: "This cannot go on, this is my only way out." Another note, addressed to his thirteen-year-old daughter, "expressed sorrow over the affair combined with anger that he had been 'forced' to follow his wife to confirm his suspicions."

Ah, "forced." Those of us who have lost loved ones to suicide know this word all too well, along with "I have no other choice" and "Without him/her/it, I have nothing." The world goes black-and-white for the suicidal person, and the future goes blackest of all: a total blank. Believing himself "forced" to kill his unfaithful wife and then himself, Grinhaff was also "forced" to render his young daughters not just orphans but the children of a murderer.

The passive voice: I am forced. Which is to say: Someone or something else besides me is to blame.

And in today's news: "A company director battered his wife to death before calmly walking to a railway station 100 yards from his front door and throwing himself under a train. Father-of-two Mark Findlay's decapitated body was discovered on the tracks at Marston Green station in Birmingham yesterday." According to the report, police found 36-year-old Helen Findlay dead in the couple's £300,000 home, where the Findlays had run a successful business selling Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon materials. Their children, aged thirteen and six, were staying with relatives at the time. According to neighbors, "the couple had been experiencing marital difficulties."

Well, that man's problems got solved. Wait, or did they?

Every suicide takes other lives down with it, regardless of how many human hearts technically stop beating. Making those takedowns literal and irrevocable is a crime i'd like to punish, but can't.

 

 

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