Another interlude from my sense of melancholy

There’s this columnist I’ve been following since I was twelve or so. She was brilliant and funny and her writing was like dynamite. In May 2000 she wrote a column on the “right to die” and said she didn’t think that only terminally ill people should have the right to die. To quote the relevant part:

Let’s say you are eighty-five years old and you’ve had a rich, fulfilling life. Your marriage was long and loving right up to the day you were widowed, six years ago. Your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have for the most part turned out to be loving, productive people. After a struggling beginning, you were and still are financially well off. In your own small way, you’ve helped to make this world a slightly better place than it was when you arrived here. It has been a life well lived.

You are relatively healthy, but now you can find no enthusiasm for anything any more. You are very lonely and never found a successor to your beloved spouse. You are experiencing the many infirmities of age that take much of the joy out of life. Your hearing no longer allows you to enjoy the symphonies you once relished. Food has no taste any more. Sex ceased to be a consideration many years ago. The wine you used to enjoy now gives you indigestion. You haven’t the energy to get involved with your grandchildren’s activities–and, frankly, you’re not all that interested anyway. Although you can remember your high school years vividly, you cannot recall what you did yesterday. It’s a struggle to remember names. You’ve seen more politicians come and go than anyone should rightly have to endure. You ache when you get out of bed in the morning, and sometimes you ache all day, which is why you can no longer take care of a pet. Your friends are mostly in the same boat you are, and you envy the extremely rare exception who still plays tennis. You and your friends unintentionally bore each other. Your days are clones of one another as you go through the motions of eating (which you often forget to do since you have no appetite) and sleeping–which you now do only four or five hours a day. You fill the spaces in between with game shows and magazines that are no longer relevant to your life. You have some wonderful memories, but now you are weary. It is time to say good-bye.

I hope I haven’t depressed the hell out of you. But my point is that this person, and any others like her/him, should be “allowed” to die if that is what is desired.

[…]

I’m not ready to go yet! But if the time ever comes that I have simply had my fill of life, and no longer have the desire to force myself to get out of bed in the morning only to sleepwalk my way through another empty day, I would hope that I would have the right to say good-bye to the world at a time and place of my own choosing. And I would wish the same for everyone else.

Last June this writer died. She was 65 years old, relatively young. It was very sudden. She died alone at home. And her site’s webmaster was all like “Until I get permission from her family, I don’t think I should talk about what happened.” I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have been saying that if it had been a heart attack or something. I could read between the lines and I had my suspicions as to what must have happened, and it made me much sadder than I would have thought. I didn’t know this woman, but I felt like I did, from having read her column all those years. I wished I’d written her to tell her how much I liked her work, because now I’d never get the chance.

The other day, while looking for something else, I stumbled across confirmation of my suspicion: yes, her death was a suicide. Surprisingly, given the people I hang out with, this is the first person in my life who died in this way. And she was such a small part of my life.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot since then, strange soft feelings, and remembered that passage from her column. From what little I know, I think it happened the way she wrote above. I know her husband had died suddenly a few years ago — she found him facedown on the floor, already cold — and she was so grief-stricken by his death that she took a year off from writing. I know she didn’t have much to do with her family. I think she was tired and she’d had enough of this world.

I was talking about it with my dear friend Wendy the Minister, and saying, do you think what she did made sense? I have often said I’m tired of life and I’ve had enough, and everyone — including me, eventually — always dismisses such statements as irrational. But this woman was much older than me. Wendy said she thought this woman probably had alternatives she didn’t consider, that she didn’t have to do this.

I asked her if, given my own history, if I were to do what she did, would people be as stunned as this writer’s friends apparently were. She said it usually takes people by surprise, no matter what, and is devastating on the people you leave behind. That I would hurt everyone. She reminded me, “You have been affected by her suicide, and you didn’t even know her.”

“Why do you think I’m still alive?” I asked. It’s true that in the depths of my depression I don’t think about my family being devastated; rather, I assume they’d be better off without me. But during the Great Headache Crisis, when I was sometimes in so much pain that I would have done literally anything to stop it, the only thing that stopped me from taking my own life was my responsibilities to my family and friends and the thought of how much they would miss me.

I wonder if she gave any thought to the people who would miss her. Maybe she thought no one would. Maybe she figured they’d get over it. Maybe she didn’t care.

Well, I miss her. Maybe I have no right to say so but I wish she hadn’t done it.

I hate it when this happens, version 115,823

I posted a case today out of Montana, using information from their missing persons database, which said he disappeared last January. I was unaware that the person was also on NamUs. NamUs, however, gave a different middle name as well as a different date of disappearance — last December. The wonderfully useful Carl pointed this out to me, and I wrote Montana to clarify.

Turns out MT DOJ got the name right but the date wrong: the MP disappeared last December, not January — that is, eleven months after they said. Which means he hasn’t been gone nearly long enough to be profiled on Charley. Which means I’ll have to remove his case. Which means that I essentially wasted a perfectly good slot in today’s updates, where I could have profiled another case. I mean, there’s always tomorrow and everything, but this was a waste of my time.

*kvetch kvetch kvetch*

Canadian MWAB case

A suspect has been arrested in the 1993 disappearance of Christine Harron from Hanover, Ontario. She was 15 at the time. Anthony Edward Ringel had actually been arrested for Christine’s murder back in 2004 and confessed, but he was released on a technicality in 2006. Now they’re giving it a second go.

I hope it sticks this time.

Five hours just on updates for today

Worked on updates last night and then this morning. Not sure for how long last night — let’s say an hour. That’s conservative, probably, but whatever. Then I woke up at eight this morning and began to work again, writing up new cases. At around noon, I finally posted everything.

Last night’s work was mostly involving updates I’d already written previously — I was just rechecking everything and then listing it on the updates page and stuff. I don’t know how much time the original update-writing took. Probably not long, since most of them were little updates off NamUs. Stuff like adding something about a tattoo or whatever.

So five hours of updating today, and now I’m working on tomorrow while simultaneously writing up little case updates to add in the distant future. (Right now, for updated cases I list big updates first, and once I run out of those I reach into my folder of little updates and grab some in the order they were written in.)

And tomorrow I get up and do it all over again.

I LOVE this job.

Why do they do it anyway?

I was writing up a new MWAB case today, a man who was murdered by a co-worker in a dispute over money. The victim bought used cars, fixed them up and resold them. He paid the defendant to repair and refurbish the cars. Anyway, the murderer accepted money to fix a car, never did the work and never gave the money back. And when the victim started bugging him about it, the murderer went to his house and shot him.

This was a clearly premeditated crime: the bullets used in the murder had been purchased five days beforehand. And it couldn’t be chalked up to a youthful indiscretion either: the killer was in his fifties. Now he’s going to spend the rest of his life behind bars, and good riddance.

So many of the murders I hear and write about were committed for similarly stupid reasons. Now, outright murder (as opposed to killing someone in self-defense) is never acceptable, but sometimes I can understand why someone might be tempted to do it. Like, if there was a lot of money involved, for example. If you set morals aside (and a terrifingly large percentage of people can do so), weighing all the odds and so on, it might be worth risking a very very long prison sentence for a million dollars or so. Or if the victim had done something really, really bad to someone you loved. I’d hate to see what Michael would do to Rollo if he ever got his hands on him. (Or maybe I wouldn’t hate to see it after all…)

And there are also the completely random murders of strangers, committed by serial killers. Those are incomprehensible to me and belong in a class by themselves. Fortunately, those are quite rare. As are other murders committed for similarly psychopathic reasons (Josh Powell anyone?), and murders committed by people who are truly crazy. (I should note that people with severe mental illness are much more likely to become VICTIMS of violent crime than commit violent crime themselves.)

I read about homicides being committed for the dumbest reasons, by people like you and me, people who are troubled perhaps, but certainly not psychopaths. The Elizabethan-era poet Christopher Marlowe was murdered at age 29 in a dispute over a bar tab. (Maybe.) But, assuming it happened the way the “official” story says it happened, that was what they call a crime of passion and his killers were probably drunk. But premeditated homicides are also committed for stupid reasons. Like the dispute over car repair money I mentioned above. Dude, just give the money back. Or, if you spent it already, set up a payment plan. Or if the person wants to press charges, let him. You’ll probably get probation or whatever. Or go to jail for a few months. It’s better than going to prison forever, or even facing the death penalty. (The murderer in that case didn’t get the death penalty, but his crime was committed in a death penalty state.)

A few days ago I read a book, Among Murderers: Life After Prison, about three guys who’d who were each convicted of first-degree murder and spent decades behind bars. It was a true story about their reentry into society. It was very interesting. One of the men didn’t actually commit the murder himself; he planned a robbery with some other people, one of whom killed two men during the crime, which made each of the co-conspirators responsible for what happened. Another strangled a female friend after an argument. He could never explain, even to himself, why he did this. He was just a very angry young man, eighteen years old at the time of his crime. The third guy killed a stranger on the street. He’d gotten into a spat with the victim and his explanation went like this: The victim kept sticking his hand in his pocket as if he had a gun, which made the other guy (who DID have a gun) reluctant to try to hit him or anything like he wanted. Then he realized the victim was not really armed and was just messing with him. And he was like, “You don’t pretend you have a gun when you don’t really have one. That’s just not cool. I HAD to shoot him.”

What. The. Eff.

And none of these men were psychopaths. Neither did they suffer from mental illness. The first man felt terrible about what happened and actually had hallucinations of his victims in his cell. He said he had never committed a violent act and wouldn’t have gone into the robbery if he’d known any of his partners was armed. The other two were also quite remorseful — okay, the third one not so much, but he did acknowledge he’d committed a terrible crime, and when he explained why he did it he was only describing his state of mind at the time and not trying to claim the victim truly deserved his fate. He felt like he had to atone for what he did by being extra-good from then on and doing all sorts of good things for society. When the three killers were released from prison, they probably weren’t any more dangerous than the average person. Statistically speaking, if you commit murder, the odds that you’ll commit another murder are only about two percent. Compare that to other violent crimes like rape and robbery, which many of the perpetrators do over and over again.

So why do they do it in the first place?

Anyway. This is a bit of a pointless entry. I just don’t get what goes through those people’s heads.