The Language of Death

by Carolin Messier



When someone dies
we talk of her passing away
that he left us
she departed, is deceased, rests in peace
or even simply that he died.
But when someone dies
by his own hand
we say he
committed suicide
the way we say that one
commits a crime
or a sin
and with it comes the judgment,
confusion, and shame,
the ostracism and otherness
we cast on the committer.
We plague ourselves with “why?”
trying to understand
the incomprehensible.
We separate ourselves
from this conscious, evil act-
“How could he do this to me?”
runs through the egos of our minds,
distracted from the death’s true nature.

Words are powerful things.
Simultaneously, they describe
and form our thoughts.
Words can become our masters
if we simply swallow whole,
without tasting or chewing,
those that are fed to us.
But just as easily,
if we peer beyond the rhetoric,
we may choose
to make of them a tool
or the raw materials
to build a new idea or belief.

Therefore I choose and propose
a different set of words,
a phrase that best describes
the manner of this death,
so reviled and misunderstood.
When I tell the story of William’s death
I now say that he
died of suicide.
Like dying of cancer
or a heart attack
it describes an illness,
in this case of the brain,
a disease so massive
that it causes a suffering person
to go against all base instincts
of self-preservation
and survival
to end his life.
It is not a choice,
like what movie to see
on a Friday night
or whether to have ice cream
instead of cherry tart.
It has a progression,
it runs a course
and once the brain
enters the tunnel of despair
unable to see light on either side
the organs of perspective, reason,
and optimism
shut down and cease to function.
It becomes terminal.

Suicide is a disease,
not a choice.