Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bell Jar Revisited

I was stricken with a sense of dread yesterday when reading the account of the suicide of Nicholas Hughes, son of poet and author Sylvia Plath. The empty harshness of such a decisive act – whether by a friend, family member or stranger - has always transported me to a cold and fractured state of mind. It is difficult – if not impossible – to find any value in such a sad and final event. I have yet to read or hear any sage or preacher offer a satisfying response to these dark mysteries. Some say suicide is the ultimate act of courage and others that it is the ultimate act of cowardice. Some claim it to be the unpardonable sin and others that God awaits these broken ones with His Merciful Arms. I, of course, offer no answer here. When I experienced this type of loss within my own family I noticed that we were all suffering from a peculiar heartache – a form of grief associated with this kind of ending that was somehow inexpressible; we were oppressed by a veil of darkness that had its own, unique weight. None of us, it seemed, was capable of rising up out of this deep valley. It was at that moment I concluded that our beloved and troubled soul had succumbed to a form of illness no less devastating than cancer, heart disease or leukemia. The illness struck deeply and did not let go. Our beloved chose a radical and most disturbing cure.  The pieces of our lives that laid fractured on the ground following that event seemed to be different from the sadness of other losses.  They were not.
This sense of dread with the Hughes case is compounded by its shadowed history. Mr. Hughes’ final choice was preceded by the deaths of his mother and stepmother by their own hands. These were lives spent in self-examination, entangled in infidelity and despair, exposed through literature. One wonders at the power of such a dark legacy and the impact it had on the soul of Mr. Hughes. He was 47 years of age and had no wife or children. Could it be that Mr. Hughes made another choice along the way – a choice to break the chain? Rest In Peace, Nicholas. 


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