Dudley Clendinen (above). Photo credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Journalist Dudley Clendinen writes in today’s New York Times about his decision to end his life.  Compelling to say the least (as are his conversations with Maryland Public Radio). He has ALS, has no illusions about what the future holds, and has no plans to let nature take its complete course.

Dudley is a man who clearly loves being alive and writes about this stage of his life with joy, wonder, and sadness—sadness in particular over leaving behind his grown daughter.  His reasons for ending his life seem clear, rational, justified, and right.  And despite my family’s history with suicide and my general revulsion at the thought of doing anything resembling what my father did, it’s easy to imagine choosing suicide as Dudley has if I were faced with the kind of certain (and awful) death he describes.

The contrast between this “right kind” of suicide and my father’s kind couldn’t be more stark for me on this gorgeous summer morning in New York City.  As we do every morning, my partner and I headed out on our fast-walk to the elevated High Line park and then over to Hudson River Park, a ribbon of landscaped promenade and bike path that extends along the Hudson from the southern tip of Manhattan north to the George Washington Bridge and beyond.

Soon after entering Hudson River Park, we were diverted by police barricades onto the bike path.  Seeing police cars in the distance and uniformed cops milling about it was clearly a crime scene. A murder perhaps?  But as we approached the wooded area marked off in yellow tape I had only one thought—suicide.

We stopped for a moment beside a fellow walker who was looking through the underbrush to see what he could see.  My partner asked what was going on.  He said that at first he guessed it might be a wedding, but before he could complete the rest of his thought, I already knew.  The detectives were looking up into a dense pine tree and pointing.  Someone had hanged himself.  I suddenly felt faint.  Definitely not a good suicide (or at least I assumed so).  I could only imagine—all too well—the phone call the surviving family would be getting on this gorgeous summer day when being alive, even to a man like Dudley Clendinen who is planning his own death, seems like such a gift.


 

2 Responses to The Right Kind of Suicide?

  1. Bobby says:

    Wow. Between reading Dudley’s column and the details on the death in the park, I cannot help but reflect in the juxtaposition of the two events–one set at an undetermined point in the future, one fixed and done in the present…and I cannot help but be very curious about the story of the person in the park and how I wonder if he or she was or would have been so open and honest with their plans as Dudley. Very interesting. I posted Dudley’s column and a link to this on my Facebook.

  2. Dan says:

    Hello,

    I’ve poked around your blog, and this story in particular is well told. I must say, however, that I’m not convinced by the “right suicide” rhetoric that Clendinen is advocating. I’m much more supportive of people like Bruce Kramer and Hal Finney, who I’ve written about on my own blog.

    Thanks.

    –Dan

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