A short while ago, I received a text message from a friend, saying only “Tis a sad day, amigo…Anthony Bourdain dead at 61.” A link to a CNN article about Bourdain’s death was included. Bourdain, who was in France working on an upcoming episode of “Parts Unknown,” is said to have committed suicide. Learning that he had died shocked me. Learning that his death was by his own hand ripped into me like a knife. I suddenly felt like I must have missed signs of his pain. But how would I have known what signs there might have been? How would anyone know what was hidden behind his lined face? Who could have known that behind his self-assured style was a man who must have been tormented?
Perhaps, I thought, I was so shattered by Bourdain’s death because of something I wrote a few days ago. I went looking through my drafts and found it: When I hear that someone has committed or attempted suicide, I feel profound sadness for the person. I feel empathy for the person because, I suppose, I know the depths of hopelessness and sadness and despair the person must feel. The sensation is that there’s nothing to be done about one’s situation and the way one feels about it. The blackness, the suffocating cloud of emptiness and unworthiness and utter desperation about life, is almost impossible to bear. No one knows the demons hidden beneath a calm exterior. No one knows what goes on in the minds of the people we love. This morning, I’m reminded of just how imperative it is to be supportive of the people around me, to demonstrate in every way I can that I’m there for them, no matter what they’re going through.
All of us should pause to reflect on Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. A wildly successful man— traveling the world, meeting interesting people, getting a close look at all sorts of cultures and their culinary traditions—who seems to embody what happiness is chose to end his life to free himself of a pain about which we know nothing. I can’t help but tear up at the thought of a man who appeared so “strong” but who might have felt unable to reveal to anyone the crushing pain that brought him to an awful decision.
Goodbye, Anthony Bourdain. I’m sorry for the pain that caused you to end your life. My friend, the one who told me about Bourdain’s death, noted in a follow-up that he’d listened to something about mental illness that ended with, “Please be kind to a stranger today. You never know what they might be going through.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Goodbye, Anthony Bourdain.