“I feel really sorry for the next city.” -Chris Cornell
This is an article where, once again, I hope I’m wrong. I’m no authority on these things, this is all my opinion. But I do have a little bit of experience on the matter, so I hope this helps.
By now you’ve likely heard of the tragically early demise of Chris Cornell, frontman of Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple Of The Dog, etc. The man was gifted with an unbelievable voice, a creative mind towards music. He was on tour this year, having put out a new album and generally was having the kind of success many of us could only dream of. He did several interviews, visited people and stations and programs just to talk, took pictures with fans, had many people involved in his life that loved him and wanted the best for him.
He killed himself via hanging, at age 52. And no one knew it was coming.
Honestly, this pisses me off, and for a while, I couldn’t really figure out why. When I first heard the news, I looked it up and every article just said he died, just as a mystery, leading me to believe it was some medical snake eyes that hit him. Later the same articles changed, saying he committed suicide, and what I can only describe as a primal rage grew in me. This I believe, is why:
Suicide is easily preventable. I’m living proof of that.
I’ve thought about my own death a lot in my adult years. But it was in my childhood I actually thought of, and came close, to taking my own life. I was 10 years old at the time. I honestly can’t remember all of what was going on at the time, but I do recall feeling my absolute worst. I was failing at school; no one liked me there, including the teachers. I felt unstable at home, feeling that my own family didn’t want me around, let alone loved me. I felt worthless, unwanted, hopeless, and this went on for years. For so long, I hated my life, at a time where my mind was at it’s most malleable and vulnerable.
One day, while my mom was having her hair done by a friend, I grabbed two knives from the kitchen. I don’t remember how I knew as much about anatomy at the time, I escaped reality at the time by reading a lot, so I probably came across an anatomy or medical book. I remember holding one knife, in my left hand, directly against my temple, the one in my right hand directing it’s blade under my left rib cage, pointed right at my heart. I knew, according to my 10 year old brain, there was nothing left to live for, that removing my presence from this world would make more people happy than remaining in it; I had the resolve to stab both knives at the same time; ensuring that my heart would literally be destroyed, and that my mind would be disabled so I wouldn’t suffer while it was happening.
I’m here today to tell you that story because my brother stopped me. He, aged 3, walked in on me as I had both blades pointed, bagged me to stop, not to do it, then ran to my mom telling her what I was about to do. His action alone, his genuine care for me and what I was about to do, was enough to give me pause, long enough to get everyone else to stop me from ending my own life before it really even started. Years of resentment, malice, abuse, nearly culminated in my own suicide, and it was stopped by about 5 seconds of a loved one who was barely old enough to know his own native language.
That’s not an easy story to tell. I’ve since built up defenses against such thoughts, so it doesn’t happen again. I still went through hell during my childhood, but I, to my memory, never attempted it again. So what happened with Chris?
I’ll admit upfront: I don’t know, not for sure. It’s not like i was a personal friend of his, or even a devoted fan; I was only introduced to his music and his personality a couple of years ago. But this man, this living legend, this wildly successful and beloved musician, hung himself mere hours after a concert, with more planned after, out of nowhere? This was a man that had many fans, friends, confidants, family; he had a wife and kids that depended on him, for fuck’s sake. And with everyone that loved him, relied on him, interacted with him, no one saw this coming? Don’t just take my example, look into the statistics for suicide, and it’s clear that the act of suicide may be triggered by a specific event, it is the result of a long amount of time of misfortune and hopelessness; no one kills themselves out of the blue because they lost the lottery. There were signs this was coming, and no one close to him picked up on them, or didn’t take them seriously.
Why did no one see this coming? As I’m researching this now, people are saying there were signs things were wrong after the fact, the quote that the start of this being portrayed as ominous. The person that discovered his body was sent by his wife via telephone after saying she was worried about him, even though she says there were no warning signs. Now people are saying that there may have been signs in his final show, his uncharacteristic happiness before taking the stage, his distractedness over his own lines, though that last part is conflicted. The reality is that no one saw this coming, or if they did, they didn’t care enough to say anything. People that commit suicide only succeed in their first attempt; if they have to try again they tend to rethink it and not repeat their attempt; you see this with the British switching their oven gas, the cases of the San Francisco cop literally talking people down from the bridge. This was a man that, from the outside at least, had everything going for him; his career was resurging and booming, he was relatively young, he didn’t seem to be following the Smith & Wesson Retirement plan due to a debilitating disease. And yet, something had to have been disturbing him, something no one close to him ever noticed, not until it was too late.
It didn’t have to happen. He didn’t have to die. His death, in my humble opinion, came from the absence of at least one person asking him if everything was O.K. Maybe I’m biased due to my experience, but it only took one person to stop me, right at the brink. Had someone taken the time to talk to me beforehand, I doubt I would’ve even gotten to that point. Right now, there are people, close to him or simply fans, that are crying over his death. And while this is an unfair question to ask of most of his mourners, why did you not ask him this? Between all of the business of keeping him going, dealing with his demands and needs, did no one ask him if he was O.K.? Even if you’re the most cold-hearted businessman, it’s not a good move to work your investment literally into the ground.
This didn’t come out of nowhere. He had something that bothered him that he was willing not to live to deal with it, despite having a family, friends, a career, and many other people dependent on him. All it would’ve taken to have him still among us to take that challenge on was one person to ask him if things were going O.K., to ask if anything was wrong. And it didn’t come; he died for want of concern, of ultimate loneliness. You, the people he confided in, relied on, depended on to keep him company and sane, you failed him. Nobody who feels loved and wanted wishes to end their life. So what happened?
Look, I wasn’t there. At least if I was there, I’ve at least asked him to tell me what was on his mind. But that doesn’t matter. A light, a very bright light, just went out today. A beautiful voice, a colorful talent, a kind man, is no more, victim of his own demons. It goes without saying that this is a time to reflect on his memory, his works, his life. But let this be a reminder that ther emay be people you care about, people close to you, that may be dealing with struggles in their own lives. Family, friends, co-workers, that may be dealing with stress, addictions, their own hopelessness. People that may be considering whether it’s worth continuing to live on or just cash in their time early. There may be people that are holding on for dear life, waiting for you to reach out to them, to ask “… Hey, are you O.K.?”
We all lost one the brightest lights of our lives. Let’s make sure we honor his memory, his music, by making sure we maintain the rest of the lights of our lives, so they may continue to shine on, illuminating the world. He may be gone, but don’t we owe him at least that much?
(This post was made in the memory of the late Chris Cornell. Farewell. May you Rage In Paradise.)