You know which two moments really mattered at the Oscars this year. You know because they jumped off the screen with their audacity, authenticity, humanity and courageous, revelatory love.
The first occurred when Dana Perry, hefting her award for best documentary short, dedicated it to her late son, Evan. “We lost him to suicide. We should talk about suicide out loud. This is for him.” The second came when Graham Moore, hefting his own hunk of Oscar for adapted screenplay, revealed that he had tried to kill himself at age 16. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do.”
The suicidal urge and action are a mystery. What form and depth this darkness takes, no one can imagine. Answers will always escape us, just as answers always elude the living in the weeks and months and years following such a death. The whys, the what-ifs, the how-could-this-bes. The what-could-we-have-dones. All were asked after Robin Williams took his own life. All are asked after every suicide. My husband’s, my sisters, everyone’s. We ask the questions. We cup our hands to our ears. There is no reply to be heard. There isn’t anything we can say — to each other, to the dead — to satisfy the urge to know why it happened, the need to nail down its cause and meaning.
But we can still say something. Maybe there’s no answer to hear, but we can still fill the void with our love and electric impulse to connect. We can still speak of the unspeakably hard, because only by talking can we ease our pain and the pain of others.
Perry was right: This needs to be discussed. Moore was right: We need to make room for eccentricity, difference, all that makes us singularly and miraculously who we are.
Let’s talk to each other. And then let’s listen.