Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Suicide is on everyone’s minds.  The shock of a famous person committing suicide touches us all and the media doesn’t let go yet provides us little solace.  The old Simon and Garfunkel song, “Richard Corey” based on the poem by Edward Arlington Robinson comes to mind.  This captures the disbelief that someone who apparently has everything would end it all.


Is suicide the ultimate freedom providing a way to make physical suffering or mental anguish  stop?  Of course in religion, that is the biggest taboo since you are taking away what “God” does- gives life or takes it away.  Or the other taboo- are you setting a precedent for people who might otherwise find a way out and be helped?


In our own lives  we may have experienced the suicide of someone close or not so close to us.  I remember Jose (I changed the name) in Colombia when I was working as an English teacher in a binational center.  My first encounter with him was when he accused me of changing my name.  No, I insisted, Teresa is my name.  Sometimes I use the Latvian form, Terez but Teresa is my name.  He didn’t  believe me so we started off on the wrong foot.  Jose was in charge of materials so he spent a lot of time chasing after teachers who didn’t check off the right number of books they took out of the supply room.

He had a good reputation as a teacher.  I observed his class once and he told the students that he knew they were funny or smart of whatever but in the new language (English) they should stick to what they could communicate. They didn’t need to resort to Spanish.  Jose was also a painter.  He made  prints of the Colombian currency with huge portraits of Simon Bolivar on them in bright colors.

I had little contact with him outside of work until we took a trip to a small town in the interior of the country for a national English conference.  I knew something was wrong because Jose looked disheveled with greasy hair and he stood behind the bus driver all the way from Bogota to Boyaca as if he were controlling the driver.

Once we were at the conference, things didn’t get any better.  I saw him wander in and out of sessions.  All of us from our center (6 of us) were sharing a suite.  Jose wasn’t sleeping at night.  It didn’t help that the other female teacher was trying to get involved with him or that I was sleeping on the sofa in the common space so there was no escaping any of their drama.  One night Jose was talking to the logs in the fireplace in great philosophical detail.  It was obvious all was not right but we were all too young to really think much beyond how weird he was acting.

And we didn’t give it much thought until some months later, he killed himself.  At the funeral, I remember thinking that now he would have some relief from what was tormenting him.

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