Anthony Bourdain died last week - by suicide. And at least through my eyes, nothing could have been more unexpected.
For me, Bourdain had become a fixture on CNN television over the years. I always watched him in places I’ve always wanted to go to, as he traveled around the world, finding commonly held views and attitudes about life, no matter where he was or whom he was with.
He had a deeply human touch with people at all levels of society – especially those we might improperly label as ‘unfortunate’. He found the hearts and values of those people – values that were, in fact, mostly the same as ours. He was intrepid in his search for the truth - never hesitating to call out governments for the way they behaved, as it related to the health and welfare of the people. The result is that he was welcomed and trusted everywhere, as a friend.
These are the things that drew me to him. He represented the kind of life that I would have loved to have lived. And his death by any means would have affected me deeply. But, death by suicide seems an impossible ending, especially given the enthusiasm and creativity in his work.
He was alive and vital - his eyes alight with new thoughts, new food experiences, and new insights about people. His genuine smile, the personal human interactions, and that light in his eyes were his trademarks. But he took own life in spite of having an adolescent daughter he evidently loved and to whom he was close. I can only imagine how deep and devastating the loss of his sense of future or sense of self-worth, or loss of health, or loss of relationship must have been.
So his death has caused me to think about suicide - a hidden phenomenon that few of us truly understand. I know I don’t. But it’s a growing part of our lives and society.
I expect most Vermonters don’t know that one of the federal requirements of Vermont’s health care reform is the lowering of Vermont’s rising suicide rate. It’s recognized as an emerging problem, but we know precious little about it.
I mourn both Anthony Bourdain’s death, and what more he might have taught us.
Rest in Peace Mr. Bourdain. Perhaps your last lesson will be how better to save the lives of others.