Jack Landesman committed suicide at home after a long battle struggling with depression. His family was aware of his desire to end his life and his father’s words, printed in The Independent, may provide comfort to other families facing this tragic situation.
“When someone kills themselves, they leave a body behind. They leave broken hearts behind, and they leave a question behind: why? “Why?” is the great mystery of suicide — and for many people that can haunt and torment them all their lives, robbing them of any chance of peace…
"Jack wasn’t one of them. He does not leave behind a why. For some years he had talked about wanting to take his life. And we knew how troubled, how tormented he was,” he wrote.
He goes on to explain that he and his son talked about the emptiness he felt and the torment going on inside of him.
He said his son described his mental state as a torturous form of isolation. “It’s like being underwater and looking up to the surface where you can see the people that love you trying to reach in to pull you out of the water. But no matter how persistently they try, you are totally beyond their reach as you continue to plummet to the bottom of the ocean,” he said his son explained.
The eulogy is heartbreaking, as most eulogies are, but it also offers hope. Hope for Jack’s family but also for other families. Landesman describes the decision to take one's own life in a way that may help other people trying to come to terms with why their loved one didn't feel like there was another choice.
Quoting David Foster Wallace, another man who committed suicide, he explains that people who kill themselves are afraid of death, but it is the lesser of two evils. He compares it to a burning building in which a person is afraid to jump, but they are also afraid of burning to death. Ultimately, for his son, the flames that raged in his mind were worse than the fear of falling to his death.
"Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.”
However, in death, Landesman believes he got his son back. Instead of the torment and the problems caused by his son’s mental health issues, he has memories of a sweet kid, an intelligent man and a gracious son.
“I lost sight of something precious: I lost sight of you. That mind of mine did the most awful trick: it hid the loveable you from me.
"It allowed your illness to take over and define you. You stopped being Jack and became an endless series of problems to deal with… I couldn’t see you anymore — you weren’t a person, you were a problem. But in death, your better self, the great, loveable Jack has come back to me. Reading the messages from people who knew you — the people in this room — I found you again. I found the Jack who was sensitive, so polite to people, good humoured, intelligent and so much fun.”
The words are powerful and serve as a message that suicide isn’t anyone’s fault, it can’t always be prevented and family members shouldn’t let the guilt torture them. Sometimes the pain of depression is simply a worse fate for the person suffering than the permanency of death and the hurt left behind. It’s possible to find peace after death, even a suicide, and this father couldn’t have presented that message in a more beautiful way.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the Samaritans on 08457 909090, visit a local Samaritans branch or go to Samaritans.org.
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