Let Me Finish....
I've just finished the most extraordinary book, called Let Me Finish.
It is a collection of suicide notes collected by an academic and journalist called Udo Grashoff. Such a peculiar collection of bathetic misery! What comes across overwhelmingly is how absolutely petty most of the reasons were for suicide. And how self-important the letter-writers appeared to be.
Mr. Grashoff's minimalist commentary follows each letter and sets out the circumstances of the suicide and the events leading up to it. Mental illness seems to be a dominant factor, followed (or accompanied) by job loss and relationship breakdown. Each letter serves as its own stark little story and moral lesson.
What is most remarkable is how the people writing the letters, just before they swallow the poison or leap off the bridge, make the time to note the most mundane necessities for those left behind. Details of unpaid bills, instructions to keep up a scrapbook of film-star pictures and discussions of insurance cover are still of monumental importance in the final moments.
There were two letters that particularly affected me.
One closed with a simple, but heartbreaking, postscript:
"You couldn't help me."
And another was from a man in prison who'd fallen in love with one of his cellmates, but who felt this love was unrequited. "I've wanted to talk to you but I didn't dare because I was afraid of what your answer would be," he wrote.
It's hard to imagine being so desperate that the only attractive solution would be to drive your car into a pylon or jump off a merchant ship into arctic waters.
And yet people do that sort of thing all the time.
Tonight I send out a prayer to all of those poor, lost souls.