Kelsey Collins published a book which I haven’t read and probably won’t, called Exit Strategy… Leaving this Life with Grace and Gratitude. I considered Kelsey to be a friend, and a month ago I had lunch with her, and we talked for over an hour. She was a wonderful conversational companion; but just a week before she put a bullet into her brain, I had a brief conversation with her about her personal pain. I had mentioned my blog posts on Adverse Childhood Experiences, of which she had an overabundance. I acknowledged how much she must have suffered in her past, but I mentioned how good she was at communicating how to resolve serious issues that helped people live better lives, and assumed that she herself must be okay. You can hear her wonderfully positive recorded radio shows at The Kelsey Collins Show. I don’t want to read her book about death and dying because I know it will bring to my mind more pain and more unresolvable issues, and I haven’t slept well for a week as it is, but for the positive side of Kelsey check out Soul Talk.
I have participated in multi-hour conversations about Kelsey every day this week with friends of hers, and have gone through hundreds of different views of what happened and how we should relate to it. Almost everyone is trying to be positive, and to talk about the wonderful things she did in her life, and I feel these things too, but I am with Mark on the way she killed herself, because it inflicted so much pain on her friends. I feel that a major part of our human contract with one another is to minimize the pain and suffering we inflict on each another. I have already witnessed personally at least twenty people crying uncontrollably at their personal loss, and several other people who were even closer to her haven’t been seen publicly.
When the subject of suicide comes up as a philosophical concept, most of those who have expressed an opinion have said that it’s okay to commit suicide when the anguish is unbearable and there is no hope of recovery. They felt it was totally a personal judgment and decision. No one, other than Mark and I, seemed to be concerned about the devastating pain a confusing suicide will probably have on their friends and relatives, and how they will suffer for the rest of their lives. The suicide will give the most pain to those who loved them most, the very ones to whom they could have turned for help. It is those people who are the ones who will be injured most severely, and unfortunately Kelsey may set a precedent for their suicide. I feel that suicide is the absolute last option, and as pain-filled as Kelsey may have felt, she obviously had plenty of options.
Because Kelsey was a hospice counselor for over a decade she had to be aware of all the ramifications of various types of deaths. It was said that she had attended well over a hundred deaths. The fact that her son had committed suicide had to have created endless agony and rationalizations for her. She spoke often of his death as an act of free will and courage to which she responded by honoring him. If she had made it just a little clearer that she was also talking about herself, I would have responded. Perhaps like I did to the Jonestown suicides, by making up jokes which made the potential copycat suicides seem comic and disgusting. I once heard an interview with a survivor of that community saying they were planning a San Francisco suicide event, but canceled it because the public was making fun of their suicide plans with sick jokes. They didn’t seem to realize they were still alive ten years later because of those silly jokes. I wouldn’t have hesitated to have offended Kelsey that way, if it would have saved her life, but I would also have done what I could to make her life worth the pain. It wasn’t public acknowledgment that would make the difference, as she had an abundance of that, and perhaps not even personal expressions of love, as she received an abundance of that too; perhaps something simple like demonstrating how to do little unacknowledged deeds of kindness instead of the grand public gestures, of which she was so skilled, would have eased her soul away from agony.
I speak to the living – do little kind acts frequently.