Wednesday, June 13, 2018


This post has nothing to do with art. But I feel like I need to say something. This past week two well-known people had committed suicide, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Two people I actually like.  They both hanged themselves, Kate Spade with a scarf (as befitting a fashion designer, sorry to say this), and Bourdain with a bath robe belt three days later. I wonder if he got the hint from Kate.

I like Kate Spade's design. I have a handbag and a set of pajamas from her brand. Her death almost feels personal. Shocking. And I have been binge watching Bourdain's Parts Unknown on Netflix. Seeing him mingling with the local people in obscure parts of the world, smiling with his kind eyes, and enjoying great food, you feel like he's still with us.

They were deemed highly successful people, at least by worldly standards. Yet all I could think of is, how dark they must've had felt in their hearts before they took that final step to take their own lives. They were creative people. Sensitive and gentle souls. And they suffered, and were tormented, in their minds and hearts, Kate by depression (and possibly the break of her marriage), and Bourdain by I don't know what.

I hope they rest in peace and they have found a better place to be for themselves.

I had very few encounters with death personally. Guess I have been fortunate. The only death in my family was years ago when my dad's father passed away. I was little back then, and had very little memory of my grandfather. The only thing I remember was playing with my cousins in my uncle's house in the countryside. On a dare I walked into the room with the coffin placed in the middle alone at night, and suddenly froze and was gripped by fear, as if I was facing death in person and totally felt its presence. I ran out as fast as I could. But then I giggled with my cousins at the funeral the next day. You can imagine my father wasn't pleased, to say the least.

Another recent death of someone I know came rather as a shock too. A college classmate (technically we were not classmates. I was a journalism major and he's in Chinese Literature, but we had classes together sometimes). Died of lung cancer. Tall and good-looking, he was popular. The kind of guy who would throw a paper ball at you from the back row and pretend he didn't do it. I can't say I know him too well, although we had a good rapport. I had not heard about him for twenty years until a few months ago. The cancer took his life rather quickly. He smoked and drank with abandon (at least that's what I heard). He had moved to the city where my family is living now and became a reporter/editor in charge of the sports section of the city newspaper. I can't imagine how his wife and child are coping.

Anyway the post is getting a little sentimental. But I think we are allowed to do that sometimes.

These recent suicidal deaths teach me to be more empathetic. Sometimes people's cheerful fronts are just that, a facade. You never know the cross some people have to bear, and the private pains they endure. And for those of us who are living, if we seem to have a good life, it's because we are lucky.

P.S. This is going off on a weird tangent, but I once read a book by a psychic who is also a psychiatrist. She was treating a patient with severe depression. One day the patient came in for an appointment and looked more spirited than she ever had been. She told the doctor how she had been feeling better and how the medication really helped her. The doctor somehow drifted into a trance for a few seconds watching the clouds in the sky outside the window. A thought popped into her head: she is going to kill herself. But she pushed that thought away, thinking it's ridiculous. A week later, the patient did commit suicide. The doctor blamed herself for not heeding her intuition and wowed to never let that happen again. Well if only we could.

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