Mindy McCready’s apparent suicide this week has turned me into a cyber stalker of the worst kind.
I’ve sought out her music for the first time, feeling particularly drawn to the now-haunting “I’m Still Here.”
Suicide tastes similar to homicide in my throat and heart, though the flavor is slightly different. When someone chooses a violent end, it’s especially spine-chilling. I’ve downloaded a soundtrack for my sadness and confusion.
In our celebrity culture, we get to watch the heartbreak of addiction and mental illness played out for our entertainment and maybe, if we’re honest, a bit of schadenfreude.
Don’t we tend to think, on some level, that they had it coming? That they reached too far, tried to be too much, wanted more than their share?
But a death by gunshot on a porch of an Arkansas cabin hardly seems glamorous, just very, very sad.
Did she think the best she could do for her sons’ future was die young and tragically in hopes that her legacy, and the money raised from stalkers like me will give them the support she couldn’t? Or was she just too spent to face another day?
I want to believe in happy endings.
Like anyone who’s reached a certain age, I’ve been scathed by suicide. A close friend of our family ended her life with a gun. Another childhood friend met an ambiguous death when she was 17, falling improbably from a hotel window in a foreign country.
I’ll never know the truth of that one, which may or may not be worse.
Another family in our midst is being ripped apart by addiction, mental illness and violence. A stray child from that clan will be joining our extended family soon. McCready’s story has made me wonder for the first time what this young girl’s mother must be feeling as her daughter is removed to a safer, healthier environment. How will she handle that grief?
How do you unwrap yourself from the tentacles of pills and booze and bathe the hurting soul in healing light? How do you learn to love—and forgive—yourself?
On the one hand, I wonder how a mother could ever take her own life. On the other hand, I know the weight of guilt when you know you’ve let your children down, that you haven’t been the parent they deserve. When you’ve squandered their innocence.
This is hard, hard stuff. There are no manuals, no matter how popular or successful you become—only shame. Particularly in the public eye.
Maybe looking away from the train wreck and refusing to endorse celebrity bought at the cost of personal devastation is a good place to start.
So I’ll stop my stalkerish ways today. I don’t need to retrace McCready’s final steps or rewatch her final interview or hover over the details of her fiancé’s suicide any longer.
I’ll simply light a candle for her tender soul, say a prayer for her sons and then turn my eyes to the faces of my own sons, friends and family.
Because we’re still here.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger