The ultimate reality of death is never a pleasant subject to confront. With the exception of Hitler and Disco, it is always tragic in nature. Recently, the passing of two people was deemed worthy note: Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, and the reactions to their passing gives pause.

Such is not the same with the coverage of the suicide of Robin Williams. This story is best grist for the contemporary media mill. “Suicide,” writes the noted English poet and critic A. Alvarez, “has permeated Western culture like a dye that cannot be washed out.” By taking the action he did, Mr. Williams joins Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain in the group who decided to end their lives on terms of their own. They died neither by accident nor mistake. The line between depression and despair is vague but decisive. While we mourn the loss of Mr. Williams’ external talent, we must remember those he left behind to cope with sorrow and unresolved questions. 

By contrast to Mr. Williams, Lauren Bacall truly passed away. Ms. Bacall traversed the world of celebrity at arm’s length. She managed to age without becoming old. One cannot help but think of her in the next reality reminding Bogie about the need to whistle. Hers is not so much a death but a valedictory to a life fully lived.

Joseph Smith

Oak Park

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