This past week, the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain's suicides have deeply touched many. And so they should. Anytime, celebrity or not, an individual feels so much despair to end their life, it is a sad moment for us to note and pause for. I have patients in this predicament and I have had them in my heart even more this week, hoping that they can find hope eventually. I've also seen so many articles about how this could happen or why people (even those with the proverbial "have it all" kind of life) do this and on and on.
I wasn't a Kate Spade junkie (but props to how she changed the world of fashion for sure) but I had a soft spot for her nonetheless. After I listened to an in-depth podcast with her and her husband a couple of years ago, I had enormous respect for her creativity, her faith in herself and her ability to take a challenging industry by storm, all with one sweet idea. And I was especially affected by Anthony Bourdain's death. For me, he was not only a lover of food and travel (my two favorite things) but he was someone who went with the mission of connecting with the people who made the food, with the mission of having them tell their story instead of him being the interpreter. He showed how food can connect us to each other and the world around us. He was a rare breed and I will miss his presence.
So, how, you might ask, could I possibly be grateful for their deaths?
Well, first, let's qualify this. I'm not grateful they died. And I have the luxury of just being an onlooker into their lives so I'm not their daughter or partner and I am not speaking as if I am. So this is just how I use gratitude practice for these kind of moments in life that touch me deeply but for which I have the privilege of not having to feel the impact of fully. I could never imagine the pain their loved ones are going through.
Yet. these deaths of people we have never met can sit heavily in our hearts. And it can literally weigh us down. They make us think about mortality in general and the fragility of life.
The first thing I do when I feel weighty news like this is to feel that sadness. I notice that heaviness in my heart. It's there. I can't deny it. Nor would I want to. Feeling that, especially for a person I didn't know, means I am alive. That I am a walking, feeling human, trying to connect with the world.
And for that, I am grateful.
See, there's what I mean. They remind me to have gratitude for the sadness.
Then the second step is to connect to that sadness one step further. Why am I sad? Especially for a stranger. Sure, I liked watching his shows but really, I can still watch them, right? He is immortalized on screen anytime I want.
But I'm sad because Anthony Bourdain touched my heart with his work. He reminded me how food is a way for us to connect even with those in cultures so far away. He reminded me that experiencing food as I travel is the way I find connection to culture, to language, to a way of life that may be foreign to me. Also, food is a vehicle for my family's culture. And I keep that on even today. If I really want to nurture someone, I make them food and often, Indian food. It is my way of giving them a part of my heart. Anthony Bourdain did that for me.
So, when I feel sadness over him being gone, it is far greater than enjoying his shows. It is also about how he reminded me of what I value in this life.
And for that, I am grateful.
And lastly, there's the most striking piece for me. Last week, two highly successful people, two people who could have afforded any help they needed, two people who supposedly had a life anyone of us would dream of, ended their lives voluntarily.
I am not only sad, I am moved in a heavy way. My heart aches that they felt such despair, that my patients who feel this way feel that kind of hopelessness, that in this world of such possible achievement, there is yet a way that we can feel disconnected. My heart aches for them because it aches for my own heart when I have been so desperate. It aches for all of our hearts that we could approach such unfathomable feelings. And then, I realize that in one swell, tragic, not changeable moment, they reminded me that they are only human. They, too, love, hurt, and ache. They, too, needed more than they were able to obtain.
They reminded me of this lesson and for that, I am grateful.
My heart aches for them and because all of us have the potential to reach that despair. No one's fault. No one's blame. The human condition in its darkest moments.
And so, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I am not grateful you are gone. But I am grateful you lived. I am grateful you gave. And I am grateful that I received tender, painful heart leaps and aches from you. May you and your families be in peace.
And may all of us watching on have gratitude for ALL of the opportunities life gives us to ache, learn, and grow.