Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Teenage suicidal ideation in Romeo and Juliet

Most are probably familiar with this tragic play.  As young "star-crossed" lovers, unable to be together due to a long-standing feud between families, Romeo and Juliet would rather die than be apart.  The expression of their love is excessively romantic:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep.  The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite (II,II, 133-135).
Heaven is here,
Where Juliet lives (III,III, 29-30).
They are idealistic, romantic, "all in", and willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for their love.  

I find, however, in the suicidal ideation quotes below, their self-annihilating thoughts come from immature teen brains: impetuous and impulsive.  The tragic and irrevocable deeds are fueled by a black and white perspective, typical of teens.   If they can't be together, they don't want to live; it's as simple as that. 

It begins with Juliet.
If all else fails, myself have power to die (III,V, 243).
When Romeo hears of Juliet's "death", he goes to the apothecary for poison.
Let me have a dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear
As will disperse itself through all the veins
That the life-weary taker may fall dead,
And that the trunk may be discharged of breath (V, I, 61-64).
He is a young man and yet describes himself as "life-weary".  How can this be?

Profound speech by Romeo as he leaves with the poison:
There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls,
Doing more murder in this loathsome world,
Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.
I sell thee poison.  Thou hast sold me none.
Come, cordial and not poison, go with me
To Juliet's grave, for there must I use thee (V, I, 82-88).
He has turned away from life, for who would want to live in a "loathsome world" where gold truly is the root of all evil?  He longs to be reunited with Juliet.

As he opens her tomb:
Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,
Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth
Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,
And in despite I'll cram thee with more food! (V, III, 45-48).
The tomb has "eaten" Juliet and he will soon give it more food - himself.

After Romeo opens the tomb and sees Juliet; a haunting speech in which he justifies suicide:
Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair?  Shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee,
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again.  Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber maids.  Oh, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious starts
From this world-wearied flesh.  Eyes, look your last.
Arms, take your last embrace.  And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
(kisses Juliet, takes out the poison)  
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark.
Here's to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary,
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavory guide,
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die (V, III, 101-120).
He imagines that Death desires his beloved and so she needs his protection.  Once again, he describes himself as "world-wearied".

Juliet - after she awakens from supposed death and sees a dead Romeo:
What here?  A cup closed in my true love's hand?
Poison, I see hath been his timeless end...
I will kiss thy lips,
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make me die with a restorative.
Thy lips are warm. 
O happy dagger,
This is thy sheath.  There rust and let me die (V, III, 161-170)
I find these passages haunting.  Although fiction and written over four hundred years ago, I think it shows that when desperate, the teenage mind can fixate on death as the ONLY solution.  

In order to prevent teenage suicides in our time, this is what needs to stop.  We must get it into our youth's developing minds that suicide is NEVER an option to their problem.  What if Josh had known this?  Would he be here today?   

Thoughts for grieving parents from Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet

In these two plays, the loss and pain of grieving parents is captured by Shakespeare with succinctness and compassion.  I find the words relevant and authentic which attests to Shakespeare's ability to connect and convey deep human emotion using his unparalleled mastery of the English language.

The following two quotes are taken from Macbeth.

These words are spoke to Macduff by a fellow Scottish nobleman after they are told of the horrific murders of Macduff's wife and children at Macbeth's command. These two sentences articulate why I write in my journal and on this blog.  See this post for more thoughts.
Give sorrow words.  The grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'refraught heart and bids it break (IV, III, 211-212).
In the last battle of the play, a father loses his son.  These words articulate why a parent's sorrow over the loss of a treasured child will never cease. 
Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end (V, VIII, 44-46).
In Act IV, Scene V of Romeo and Juliet, the anguish expressed by Juliet's parents along with her nurse when they find her "dead" ring true.  

Capulet - Juliet's father
She's cold.
Her blood is settled, and her joints are stiff.
Life and these lips have long been separated.
Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field. 
Death, that hath taken her hence to make me wail,
Ties up my tongue and will not let me speak. 
Death is my son-in-law.  Death is my heir.
My daughter he hath wedded.  I will die,
And leave him all.  Life, living, all is Death's.
O child, O child!  My soul, and not my child!
Dead art thou!  Alack, my child's death,
And with my child my joys are buried. 
Lady Capulet - Juliet's mother
Accursed, unhappy, wretched, hateful day!
Most miserable hour that e'er time saw
In lasting labor of his pilgrimage.
But one, poor one, one poor and loving child,
But one thing to rejoice and solace in.
And cruel death that catches it from my sight!
O woe!  O woeful, woeful, woeful day!
Most lamentable day, most woeful day
That ever, ever, I did yet behold!
O day, O day, O day, O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this.
O woeful day, O woeful day!
What stands out to me is the repetition of words.  This makes me think back to that horrible morning when I found Josh.   My brain froze and these phrases looped over and over in my mind for hours and even days: "I can't believe this is happening.....this is just a bad dream.....this can't be happening to us.....why, Josh, why?"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

3rd Annual Running to Remember Josh on March 17, 2012

It is hard to believe that it is almost three years since Josh's passing.  While his absence is acutely felt each day, it has helped to channel our pain into something positive - the Josh Anderson Foundation, dedicated to promoting youth mental wellness.

After working in the corporate world for two years, our daughter Lauren, moved home in August 2011 to devote all her time to establishing the foundation and identifying programs that we will support with donations received.  We have raised about $16,000 the last two years and have a goal to raise that much in this year's 3rd Annual Running to Remember Josh.  (See pictures and YouTube video from the first year and the second year).

In her note below, she shares more details about the foundation's mission and links to the on-line giving page.

We are so grateful for all the love and support received,
The Anderson Family

Dear Friends,
The Third Annual Running to Remember Josh is coming up and all who are running are in training, motivated by what the foundation intends to accomplish in Josh's memory.  We have set the bar high on the amount of money we wish to raise for this year's fundraiser - and we hope you can contribute in some way.  Your contributions will go directly to The Josh Anderson Foundation, which works to promote youth mental wellness in our community.

The Josh Anderson Foundation was formed in the wake of Josh's tragic death on March 18, 2009 - and it has been a positive avenue for my family and I to channel our energy.  Our vision is to use creative programming to reduce the negative stigma that is associated with mental and emotional challenges, to increase the dialogue between youth, their peers and adults, and to provide youth adults with the knowledge that they are not alone and resources exist to help them.  Our hope is that teenagers know suicide is not an option.  We have quite a few events in the pipeline that will move us toward accomplishing this goal.

While I am running the marathon, my sister Gillian is running the half marathon.  Please visit our  fundraising pages (Lauren and Gillian) and consider sponsoring us this year.

We also accept checks made out to The Josh Anderson Foundation, sent to 1300 Carpers Farm Way, Vienna VA 22182.

My sincere thanks for your continued support - without it, we would not be where we are today - closer to helping create a more just and safe world for our youth.

Lauren Anderson
Where there is a Will, there is a Way