From 1972 to 1983 a 30 minute dark comedy aired that portrayed the personal cost of war on individuals, families, and societies. MASH was not a show we watched as a family, and I never really questioned why. Perhaps it just came on at an inconvenient time or during another show that took priority in the family. While I never knew much about the show's content, the theme song caught my ear during college. Each week the music minus lyrics filtrated the homes of American families, many who never knew the meaning behind the tune playing over and over as a soundtrack that carried throughout the week. Did you know that the title to the song is "Suicide is Painless"? Here are the lyrics for your interest.
While many would argue that the song is depressing and should be stripped from the musical libraries of our world, the words are so real that they frighten those who choose to live in a world that does not exist. You see, fear is the great maker behind all masks. Our society thrives on hiding from all that scares us. We hide our feelings and our failures. We hide behind masks of power and prestige. We throw out words that spread the lie that everything is okay when the broken pieces of our lives are cutting gashes into our hearts because no one wants to know. No one wants to see. No one wants to hear. No one wants to feel. Stay hidden on the journey that will eventually end in death.
Death happens in so many different ways. My dad died from pancreatic cancer. We thought it would be from heart disease or from smoking. A friend's mom died after being struck by a car while crossing the street. We thought she would live forever. A student was struck by lighting, and another was killed in a drunk driving accident. A cousin died by suicide. An uncle died by drinking himself to death. Another uncle - stabbed by his girlfriend. A close family friend died from natural causes late in her 80's while the son of a family friend died in his 30's from an aneurysm. No one really knows how or when. No one knows if death will come suddenly or over time.
Robin Williams was an amazing actor and comic. He could make people laugh just by looking a certain way. He made movies that made us think about how we were living our own lives. His heart was large for those around him. We all allowed him the pleasure of helping us escape for a few moments or a few hours as he created a life that made us smile and cry all at the same time. I won't pretend to know what was happening in his life. I just know that the news reported he died - by suicide.
What makes someone who seems to be full of life find the answer in a sudden, self inflicted death? Could the song be right? Is suicide really painless? I suppose not for those who are left behind to figure out what happened or for those who are trying to put the pieces back together. What about for the person who sees this option as the only one? Do the ravages of personal war plague our lives so strongly that the only way to be free is to commit death - emotional or physical - by suicide?
The answer to that question should be a resounding "no." My friends associated with the church would say that there is another way. Those with families near them would also cry out in rejection of the notion that death by suicide is the best answer. Personally, I cannot imagine that death by suicide is the best answer either. I can, however, see why some would find this path the most obvious path for the moment. Without someone to help guide us through, we all get to places where we think there is no future. The dead ends are surrounded by impenetrable boulders and vines. What is the other way? Most people don't suggest anything that is tangible. Lots of ideas and meditative prayers rise to the surface. Does anyone have an answer that someone can really cling to and use to find a way to shore? Can the church perhaps decide to dive into the water and pull someone to safety rather than just cheering him on from the shore?
In later years, spinoffs of MASH surfaced helping us to see that there is life after war. How did they survive? They looked within themselves, focused on what they could affect, and decided to make a new life that mattered - at least for the moment. In essence, they committed a different form of death by suicide - bury the past by creating the future. Unfortunately, suicide is not painless. Suicide does not remove the pain. Somehow we have to find a way to embrace what the future holds and use the past to keep us from making the same mistakes again. Make the future what you need it to be to survive. War stinks. Survival stings. Life ....