Spade/Bourdain & the questions we should answer

Kate Spade.

Anthony Bourdain.

Two celebrities who were admired by many.

Two celebrities who “had it all,” so-to-speak.

And two celebrities who hung themselves within days of one another.

Spade was 55. Bourdain was 61.

This is hard, friends. This is really hard. For any who have lost a family member, friend, or loved one to suicide, you know the grievous struggle it is to attempt to make sense of it all. It doesn’t make any sense. 

And yet, when they are gone, our love for them does not end. We hurt because we love them… so we find ourselves seemingly endlessly racking our heads and our hearts in the middle of our grief in desperate search for solution — for any solution…

Why would someone we love choose this? 

Why would they intentionally end their life?

I wish I had some profound, good answer… an answer that could somehow smooth over the wretched remnants we’re left to deal with. I keep thinking of actor Booboo Stewart’s character in the excellent “Hope Bridge” movie (released in 2015) — in the young man’s quest to find answers and understand why his father took his own life. The answers are so hard to come by. Again, it doesn’t make any sense.

With Spade and Bourdain in particular, no less, I find myself wrestling with two questions… 

Let us first acknowledge the response of Bourdain’s mother, in an interview with NBC News. Gladys Bourdain, a former editor at The New York Times, said that there was never any sign that anything was wrong with her son.

Let me repeat that: there was never any sign.

As we rack our heads searching for answers, we look for those signs… what did I miss? … why didn’t I catch this?… And then we often settle on the thought of mental illness, as our search ends in unsettling ambiguity. 

I wonder if there are deeper questions we could be asking — questions about loneliness… self-worth… and fulfillment.

We see in Spade and Bourdain, for example, two people who had it all… 

Spade was a world renown fashion designer. She founded the euphonious “Kate Spade New York” in the early 90’s and came to be known as an incredibly creative, successful, and sophisticated businesswoman. She had been married approximately 24 years and has an adolescent daughter. Her net worth is estimated to be around $150 million.

Bourdain — a celebrity chef — “built a business outside the kitchen,” coined Town & Country. He was a successful author, travel documentarian, and TV personality, and he was considered articulate, insightful, and keenly influential. The Smithsonian Institution once declared Bourdain as “the original rock star” of the culinary world. He has one adolescent daughter, and leaves an estimated net worth of $16 million.

Both Spade and Bourdain seem to have “had it all,” as one might say, and yet for both, “all” was not enough.

This is heartbreaking, friends; there is zero judgment. There was an emptiness in Spade and Bourdain that celebrity and success could seemingly never fulfill; wealth and influence were nowhere close to enough. Hence, left with more questions than answers, today I ponder only two:

What are we pursuing that is potentially unfulfilling?

And what can we fill our heads and hearts with that is of greater, lasting value?

Respectfully…

AR

serious

He was described by one LA Times pop music critic as follows: Chris Cornell “was one of the great rock ’n’ roll singers — an octave-jumping belter who rose to fame as part of the 1990s’ scruffy grunge scene but whose powerful instrument put him in league with the grandstanding rock icons of an earlier era, including the Who’s Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin… Almost as impressive as Cornell’s voice was his musical curiosity, an open-minded spirit that set him apart…”

Cornell, talented as he was, reportedly took his own life last Wednesday at the age of 52.

Closer to home, multiple teens in my town, also reportedly took their own lives last week… one on the last day of his last year in high school… another at the end of only year one.

My heart grieves when one intentionally ends a life… another’s or their own.

Let me clearly state that the Intramuralist is no expert. I am thankful to have peers and professionals who actually are experts in dealing with suicide prevention and mental illness, some who have advised me regarding the contents of this post. This post is not enough; it won’t come anywhere close to doing the topic of suicide prevention justice. But one of those peers boldly encourages us to “speak 2 save” (see www.speak2save.org for more info), empowering people to speak up in order to prevent suicide. With a sobered heart, for at least now, this is a humble attempt to speak up…

First, this is serious. On average, there are 121 suicides each day in this country. For every death, 25 more attempt it. Suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. With something this prominent and this serious, we need to be talking about it. We need to share the God-honest, sobering truth. And we need to especially be talking to the young people around us.

Second, there is no place here for shame. For those who struggle with mental illness — or for friends and families who have numbingly walked through this gut-wrenching heartache, they do not need nor merit any shame. What they need are our fervent prayers, our generous grace, and a willingness to walk alongside them, whatever that may look like.

And third, so many say they “had no idea” intentionally ending one’s life was even an option for their loved one. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we need to watch another’s talk, behavior, and mood…

If they talk about…

  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Experiencing unbearable pain
  • Having no reason to live
  • Killing themselves

If they behave like…

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression

And if they display moods such as…

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety

We need to be aware of various, significant suicidal risk factors — health, environmental, and historical factors. These include mental health conditions, stressful life events, and exposure to the suicide attempt(s) of another.

This is hard. Time to speak up.

Respectfully…
AR