Saturday, 12 May 2012

Topping yourself does no-one any good. Or does it?

It’s a sunny weekend day, so I felt it was time to turn to a cheerful subject.

It’s a theme on which no-one has spoken so well as Dorothy Parker:

  Razors pain you 

  rivers are damp 
  acids stain you
  and drugs cause cramp. 

  Guns aren't lawful
  nooses give
  gas smells awful. 
  You might as well live

Not everyone does decide to live, however, and I’ve known a number of people — a small number, mercifully — who’ve chosen to commit suicide or were close to someone who did.

The most bizarre case I came across was one I heard about from a young couple years ago. I say ‘young’ but neither them was more than a year or two younger than me — this was in the days when even I was young.

Which reminds me of the ghastly thought that I’m older right now than I’ve ever been before.

Still, back to the main subject.

It wasn’t the woman who told most of the story, even though she was undoubtedly the protagonist. It obviously made her far too uncomfortable. So it was her partner who explained what had happened.

A few years earlier she had been living with a different young man but, unfortunately, things had become increasingly difficult between them. Eventually, the animosity became so pronounced that she felt she could stand it no longer and moved out, ending the relationship.

It was a bad time but at least he avoided making it any worse: he didn't ring to recriminate, or follow her around, or even write to her. Instead he kept himself to himself and left her alone.

A few months later she started another relationship, and it had stood the test of time: it was her new partner who was telling me the story.

Having heard nothing more for two years about the previous, abandoned boyfriend, they assumed that he’d simply turned the page and got on with his life. So it came as a terrible shock to hear through mutual friends that he’d committed suicide.

That though was just the beginning. A little while later they were contacted by a lawyer. She had come into rather a large sum of money.

It turned out that within days of their breakup, her ex-boyfriend had taken out a substantial life assurance on his life, with her as beneficiary. It had contained a clause preventing payment on suicide within the first two years of the contract. The day after the two-year period had ended, he had taken his life.

It was a grim tale to hear. I felt for them both. What an appalling legacy to pick up. Talk about blood money. It must have been devastating for them.

But how had we got on to the subject? Well, they’d wanted to explain why it was that they were in the unusually fortunate position, for people under 30, of owning their house outright.

The suicide must have weighed heavily on their consciences, but if it allowed them to clear their mortgage, that was probably one heck of a counterweight.

Still, I felt no temptation to indulge a sense of moral superiority. I hadn't 
faced such an agonising predicament.

And if I had, could I really be sure I
’d have made a different choice? 

Dorothy Parker - got it right on suicide, as on so many things.
'The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue'

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