Walk a Mile

Last week we passed the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide — The Twin Cities’ largest music blog ran a shockingly callous story about it, which set us to thinking a lot this past weekend about our dear friend who took his own life in the same way just a few weeks over six years ago. We can’t in good conscience link to the story, considering that a steady stream of clicks and comments (even if negative) are just what they’d like to provide for their advertisers. We’re sure you’ll find it if that’s what you want to read.

No one here is a particularly enthusiastic fan of Nirvana, but it seems a stretch for anyone writing about pop music to deny the enormous impact Cobain had in the short time he was a star. For better or worse the fingerprints of his music are more indelible than the author of this piece seems willing to concede, as is the memory of his death.

It was not the denial of a popular and influential band that set us to soul searching — after all each of us is entitled to their own opinion and that’s supposed to be the fun of the sort of pop music conversations we have around the record store. We were offended by the author’s malicious dismissal of Cobain, crippled by addiction and depression, as a “coward.”

Not so long ago we posted a track from Joe South’s last album, Midnight Rainbows. South meteoric career came to a screeching halt when his brother, Tommy, took his life in 1971. His final album struggles with the anguishes of loss and guilt with aching sincerity, ultimately silencing an otherwise extraordinary career.

It seems unlikely South’s sentiments would have an impact on a person so quick to dismiss the deceased as a “coward,” so we won’t offer to loan him our copy. Neither will we offer End the Rain, the album Brenda Weiler recorded in 2007 after losing her sister, Jennifer. It’s eleven songs are presented in the order in which they were written and performed with arresting intimacy — the result is a small encapsulation of the suffering of a survivor of suicide.

end the rain

And its a funny thing how over time the grief in us, wracked as it may be with guilt, grows into compassion. There’s no absolutes in a subject so intimate, but the survivors left behind by suicide do not see their lost loved ones as cowards. We miss them and struggle with the feeling we could have done more. Our friend was sick, he felt he had become a burden, he had isolated himself and could not overcome his depression. Whether one could have saved them with something so simple as a phone call is never far from mind. Nor is the fact he was an extraordinary person — the type you will meet only a few of in your entire life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 statistics (the most recent available) count more than 38,000 Americans took their own lives, making it the tenth leading cause of death — that is a person lost and a family grieving every 13.7 minutes. We believe, and we are not alone in this, that those deaths are entirely preventable. The first step is recognizing mental illness and addiction as the primary causes of such tragedies, and removing the stigma applied by persons like this author of this shameful piece of poor writing.

May he continue to be blessed by a life free from a grief such as ours, but may he also come to one day understand what its like to…

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