Though I haven’t read a Kurt Vonnegut book, I mourn as others do the loss of one of America’s great writers, who died on April 11, 2007 after suffering brain injuries related to a fall in his Manhattan home. He attempted suicide in 1984, by pills and alcohol, yet lived another 23 years after this failed effort.
On an epitaph on a headstone he sketched in his classic novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, the author wrote, “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.” If only nothing hurt! To live with unbearable pain and consider ending your life isn’t an option. Vonnegut’s 84 years on this earth were a testament that we all could find something to make life worth living. Perhaps his gift to us—his writing—was also the gift he gave himself that enabled him to continue, day after day despite his melancholy.
The best way to pay tribute to this great writer, a veteran who survived World War II by hiding in an underground meat locker, is literally to soldier on.
His courage to embrace life, and not only that, as an esteemed author and cultural icon, to be candid about his lifelong bouts with depression, deserves our respect. As famous as he was, he could’ve just hid this truth underground, but didn’t. He was a true ally in the movement to de-stigmatize the stereotype of people living with mental illnesses, long before other celebrities took up this crusade.
Vonnegut’s survival reminds me that the human spirit is eternal. In the end, I imagine he looked death squarely in the eye, and said, “Now I’m ready for you.”
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Published On: April 13, 2007