(Hearing the M*A*S*H theme for this)
Postscript before the post...
I wrote the following before reading anything about the personal life of Mr. Aubrey McClendon, who took his own life on March 2, 2016. Instead of editing this perhaps presumptuous missive to a man I did not know, I'll let it remain for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's not really about him or even his alleged crimes: It's about a few horrible moments in someone's life, moments all too many folks might recognize even though they take different forms. (These 'different forms', really, are but fragments of one huge illusion, that, in such differences, we are separate. That single illusion creates the greatest tragedy. I'll admit it - trying to dispel such embedded misconceptions is crazy. It's windmill jousting at its most absurd and maybe its most necessary.)
But my second reason for leaving the letter alone is more important: I just read Aubrey McClendon's hometown obituary and watched a 00:58 local news report about his funeral. Mere sadness at the untimely passing of a stranger morphed into true grief: I extend my deepest condolences to his beloved - and they are many.
To Aubrey McClendon
Rest in peace.
Dear Sir, dear brother from another mother on this earth,
There will be folks who read this, knowing of your passing, who may find a public letter less than tasteful, even macabre given the circumstances of your death. This is not my intent.
I never met you. And this missive will presume much. You may think, How dare she? But guess what? Too bad, sir. With all due respect, that's the price you pay for cutting out on the bill. Now sit back down and listen. Please. To start with, I'm on your side...
Now then. The lack of solid evidence notwithstanding, it's fairly obvious that you felt besieged enough to take your own life. Yes, I am taking the liberty, I realize, in imagining that you felt hopelessness to a degree so profound that no other option promised to outweigh the certainty of your... what? Doom?
I've known people who took their own lives amid the toxic trickery of alcohol and/or drugs. Any sense of what is real in current time or - scarier still - the future was long held hostage or disintegrated altogether in the wake of using. The thousand 'if onlys' your loved ones have cried might've paled beside your own. We can only reckon that the many stories from people who attempted suicide, but lived to enjoy - often to treasure - life afterwards must not have crossed your desk.
To fail, to fall from rarefied heights is an unenviable lot. I know a little about that. What's true and false becomes tangled in a web we co-created, I daresay, with high hopes and fervent support. What stings in that fall is surprising, isn't it?
And that doesn't get to the part about finding out who your real friends are. (In my case, I'm happy to report that I did not lose a single one. However, I may have sightly miscounted to start with.)
Am I joking? Not really. Maybe a little. It's a dark business, after all, this seriously thinking of leaving the party early business. Yet jokes can rise up from the big dust up at the Not OK Corral.
Sir, I wish you'd known the Voice of permanence, of - no pun intended at all - grace, mercy - any of the above - before you made your decision. Please don't mistake my meaning for vanity when I say I wish you'd known me, too. Not in the sense that I'm special. Any more than another survivor of our own best dreams and worst nightmares colliding.
By now, I'm sure you've met the Voice, the Source - OK I'll stop beating around the bush since you're already there. How's this? Aubrey, I think you've met the golden, sweet light of an eternally merciful, loving Source. Even if it's simply called a reunion, the re-belonging to the Light so vast and engulfing that all galaxies tremble in their own itty bittyness beside it.
To those of you squirming, muttering, "Oh just say His name already!", please try to understand. A public forum isn't the place to risk labeling The One Thing that implies exclusion. This is only about the great big one-size-loves-ALL kind of what's 'shining on you right now.
Only reimmersion in the Light can bring true perspective - which can only happen without the hemophiliac qualities of regret. People who have attempted and failed at suicide almost unanimously report - insofar as literature is available on the matter - of regret so abject that it's like the guy who said, "I coulda had a V-8!" to the millionth power.
Alternatives occur to you: ones that didn't seem viable before suddenly look like a merry-go-round from your new digs - from Over Yonder. By the way, this is SO not an, "I told you so"! It ain't a reprimand. Nor is it mockery. Here's why I'm writing to you...
There actually exists the chance that someone else, another living, currently breathing human being who feels so out of options, chances, love and hope is reading this and has danced more than once with the thought of El Gran Adios.
Whether or not we're all in the same club of drink too much/stole too much/got caught/too late, etc matters little. The devil drinks our solitude - especially when it whittles away all traces of connectedness. Exactly what he drank as your truck hit that concrete at a very high speed.
Maybe it is not important for us to know if you were sober when you died. The cinders remaining may only add speculation to the subject and all of it is beside the point.
The numbers of those who love us, who'll stand with us to the end may be miniscule next to those who don't care or worse. It's never as personal as we think it is. Hell, just read Psalms for the most poetic accounting of being besieged by all sides. No other human can say life's not that bad when thoughts of death beckon like a holiday.
Courage is one of those things most of us never really get to wholly test. (The older I get, the happier I am with that statistic.) Until we've faced untold fear down its cold, endless shaft, until we leap right into that thing that scares us, threatens our beloved, hurts our dawg - the list is long, the options many - we won't know our mettle.
I've watched men I thought weak, own up to their sin, do the time and walk a changed path. Then, too, I've seen bastards not get the point, try to blame their own mama and whine like the little piggy going "'Weee, weee, weee' all the way home!"
Most of us probably fall right in the middle.
I'm sorry you didn't see a way out. I'm sorry the world isn't big on the story of the prodigal son. That's a hard one to forgive. Woe be into him/her who is given much and either steals more, causes harm with it or just screws it up. But, honey, every damn one of us has had a glass house at least once in our lives, and it's usually when our fat little fists are chock full of rocks. Life's funny that way.
They say folks love a comeback. Darn it, I'm truly sorry you won't get to feel that particular shock. I'm sorry you can't be the Phoenix I think you were capable of being. This time around.
Sometimes our egos are most dangerous at the bottom, under fire: To be grandiose in failure - yeah, baby, just as epic as the Everests we climb - that may be saddest lie of all. For in the moment we most need to see ourselves as deserving of mercy and understanding, still thinking we're the exception can be, as you know, fatal.
Maybe because we were close in age. Maybe I just saw another scared white person who was caught between a rock and a hard place. But too late.
Maybe mostly because I look in the faces of my sisters' children to remember I matter and besides... What if one of them is looking into their own abyss one day? Maybe, just maybe, fuck ups need to stick around.
Well, after I wrote all this, I pretty much have to sign off with what we often write casually. I'm writing this from my heart of hearts.
* we embrace you now