The thought of death and what it means has been on my mind for over a week now. Between the very recent loss of a forever chef, hardened kitchen survivor, and great story-teller, the not so recent loss of close family and friends, and the future loss of my own life have brought feelings of mortality to the surface of my conscience.
Dark topic? Sure. But it shouldn’t be as dark as we make it out to be. Death is sad, death is final, and death leaves us with too many regrets.
Death however is an opportunity for those of us left behind to celebrate the life of a loved one or an admired one.
The sad news that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide smacked me hard. I’m not typically affected by celebrity deaths, but then again, I don’t normally identify with too many celebrities.
Anthony Bourdain was different. He genuinely lived the tough industry life. He did drugs hard, he drank hard, and he worked hard. He was the real deal, so when he spoke of the kitchen lifestyle he spoke with more than sufficient experience to have unquestioned credibility.
Those of us in the business identified with Anthony Bourdain. He was everyman. He had been through all the situations and parts of kitchen life that are there to bring us down, and to destroy us. He was strong enough to endure the drugs, alcohol, and torrid lifestyle that has taken on the appearance of urban legend.
So, we thought. In the end something wasn’t right with Chef Bourdain. I have no Idea what troubled him. I’m not sure he may have known what troubled him. I don’t know if it was an emotional issue or a chemical imbalance. I don’t know if there was a brain malady. We’ll likely never know.
As someone who has been in the industry for almost 20 years and had dealt with depression for as long or longer I can tell you that the disease is easy to hide, even from one’s self. It’s easy to function, and it’s easy to lead what appears to be a normal life. Still, something is wrong inside of you and it’s sometimes too late to find a reasonable solution. Anthony found a solution. It was his way out of something so dark that leaving his loved ones behind was the only way. It’s not cowardice, it’s not the easy way out. It’s deeply sad that ending your own life is the only way. How dark that place must be.
His death started me thinking about the reality of death. I’ve always know about death and what it means. It’s an obvious concept on the surface. You’re alive, then you’re not. In our culture however, we most commonly look at death as a terrible loss to be followed by sadness for the person we’ve lost. The sadness can last for a lifetime. Typically, the only comfort people can count on is the thought that “they’re in a better place.” Heaven is a way for folks to feel better about death, a mythical place where the deceased float on clouds in eternal bliss. I’m not buying it. As an atheist I have decided that the best way to feel better about death is to celebrate life.
While concluding that the commemoration of life is far better and healthier than the sorrow of death I started thinking about what my life means to those I’ll leave behind. I’m scheduled for a biopsy on a new mole kind of thing on my arm and with a very strong family history of cancer I have things checked out that need checking out. It’s likely nothing, but I haven’t pissed off enough people in my life, so I want to hang around a while longer.
My two favorite songs are Time, and Wish You Were Here. Both by Pink Floyd
I am thankful for those who have been a part of my life. Although I miss them I find that by celebrating the time I shared with them I can learn to appreciate the gifts they gave me. My sister, my brother, my father, Lynne, and Anthony Bourdain all gave me something in life, and even more in death. Thank you for living, and I forgive you all for dying.