A mother’s reflections on the loss of her son.
In her latest work of nonfiction, Hutchinson (Glimmers of God Everywhere, 2012, etc.) lays bare her experience of her son David’s suicide at the age of 48. Part tribute to David, part memoir and part self-help guide, Hutchinson’s writing confronts the many facets of suicide and its effects on those left behind. The first half of the book is almost journalistic in tone, as Hutchinson recounts the details of her son’s death and compiles an extensive collection of interviews with those who knew and loved him. Supplemented by archival photographs, these early chapters read like an extended obituary; though a moving memorial, their relevance seems largely limited to those who knew David himself. In the second half of the book, however, Hutchinson uses David’s story as a window in to the implications of suicide more generally; these later sections are the book’s strongest. Through exposing her own volatile and conflicting reactions to David’s death, the author pieces together a complex perspective of suicide that will comfort those who have been in her shoes and enlighten those who have not. One chapter is devoted to expressing her love for David; another to telling him how angry she is; another to confronting the Catholic teaching that people who commit suicide cannot enter heaven. Hutchinson’s writing, which feels emotionally restrained in the book’s earlier chapters, becomes more vibrant here, as she relates “anecdotes that shine in the dark halls of memory like vigil lights at midnight.” What’s more, her commitment to uncovering every aspect of David’s story serves as a potent antidote to the stigma that so often surrounds discussions of suicide. The author includes confessions from others about the suicides that touched their lives, as well as extensive appendices about both how to prevent suicide and how to heal from its aftermath. “When empathy replaces judgment,” Hutchinson writes, “suicide will be ‘unshamed,’ ” and her own candid disclosures form an inspiring call to that compassionate perspective.
A courageous addition to literature on suicide.