Miriam Toews has written a lovely piece, published in a recent New Yorker. She described on incident from her past: “ . . . how my father died. He stepped in front of a train.“
That is so much more elegant a way to say that one’s father took his own life than it is to say that one time my father drank an unusually large amount of whiskey, then ate all of his prescription medication, and finally, woke up dead next to my mother, sleeping beside him. Except he didn't wake up. Like Elvis, he’d left the building, but unlike Elvis, he had left behind a corpse for my mother to find, cold and lifeless beside her in the bed.
So my mother called me up - I was living about an hour's drive away from Primrose Drive, in Lake Elsinore. She told me a long story - took at least five minutes, describing in great detail all the events of the previous evening, finishing up with "and I think he's dead."
That was the first point in the story that she got around to the most salient detail . . . "I think he's dead."
My hair stood on end and I said something to the effect of "Oh my god, Mom, go take his pulse! Call 911!"
She corrected herself and said, "I know he's dead. He's dead."
And we proceeded from there.
But I think compared with stepping in front of a train, overdosing on pills is a much more polite way to leave this painful vale. What a mess to leave for someone else to clean up. How selfish.
My father was in charge of his own boat the whole time I knew him.
He didn't get into anyone else's boat.
He didn't let his boat just wander down the stream, unmoored and unsteered.
He commanded his life story, right up to the end.
And he was generally very polite - as can be seen in his summary actions.