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Is Suicide The Final Arbiter of a Life? For Robin Williams. And Meriwether Lewis.

Robin Williams died yesterday.

Of an apparent suicide.

My Facebook feed exploded in a ‘don’t judge’ Robin Williams binge-fest.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Few people realize how hard it is to be consistently good, how exhausting it is to feed a gaping maw of an internet that can never be satisfied, how impossible it is to please people who always pass flippant judgment on every little thing one does, while never proffering something for critique themselves.

I don’t have that degree of genius.

But Robin Williams did.

And Meriwether Lewis did. They’re both supposed suicides, gone when they had so much to live for.

The next time you want to pound out a vitriolic review or hate on someone online…….


You never know where that person is at that moment.

What your words might drive them to do.




Answer to yesterday’s Meriwether Lewis Birthday Month Trivia Question: WHO WAS WILLIAM CLARK’S COMMANDING OFFICER WHEN CLARK MET LEWIS?

ANSWER: William Clark’s immediate superior officer when he met Lewis may have been none other than James Wilkinson, though Clark probably met Wilkinson earlier in his career. For a while, Clark was enamored of the dynamic Wilkinson and strove to emulate him.

Something shifted. (Perhaps Clark saw through Wilkinson?) And Clark stopped admiring the resilient general. Wilkinson served the first five Presidents of the United States, in spite of conspiring to establish a separate country and spying for the Spanish crown. He’s one of those forgotten historical figures who was bad enough to be remembered.

And I hope I’ve helped Wilkinson’s memory with my novel.


To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is just $2.99 on Kindle during August in celebration of Meriwether Lewis’ Birthday Month. Click below to find out more about James Wilkinson, the historical figure we’ve all forgotten.



To check out the entire Meriwether Lewis Birthday Month Series, follow the links below:

Lewis and Clark: Screwing Their Way Across a Continent
Lewis and Clark and Sex Bombs
Who Was Meriwether Lewis Godfather?
If Meriwether Lewis Had Lived to be 80
Lewis and Clark and Old Blue Eyes
The Lion Will Lie Down With the Lamb
My Natchez Trace Walk Featured in We Proceeded On
Dead People Follow Me And They Talk To Me


I’m in the North Carolina Mountains, finishing a book. The featured photo is from my uphill walk on Monday.

45 Comments Post a comment
  1. yes, so true andra. i wondered if you were thinking about ml when you heard about this. very sad. ps – wilkinson might be an interesting character for you to base a book on in the future –

    August 12, 2014
    • Wilkinson did get sent back to the beginning at the end of TLF……….

      August 12, 2014
      • so, maybe………

        August 12, 2014
  2. Lance #

    There is no answer for Lewis or Williams. I have an attempt on my resume and the thoughts are occasional, including yesterday before I heard the news. Mental illness is insidious and unfair. That’s all I’ve got.

    August 12, 2014
    • Someone in my family has attempted several times, Lance. I understand.

      August 12, 2014
  3. My husband told me this morning about Williams’ death. He was angry, wanting to believe that if Williams had just thought about it a little bit more … . We don’t like to let go of those we adore, no matter the pain and anguish they may be suffering. Given all of that man’s talents, his creative genius, I want to believe that he could have come up with something other than suicide. But I’m not him. I didn’t live his life. I can’t judge. I can only miss him and wish he were still here. Thank you, Andra, for the respect you’ve shown him in your post.

    August 12, 2014
    • That’s probably the hardest thing for me about this age of social media: Everybody feels like they can have an opinion about everything and take to the internet and spew off about it. We seldom know what anyone is really going through and don’t often take the time to find out.

      August 12, 2014
  4. I found this a few minutes ago as I struggled to express the thoughts I’ve been having:

    “It should be so easy, to see into another’s soul! – or our own.

    “We see, yet do not see. We fail, but continue to try. Risks abound; glorious is the attempt, this effort to know someone – those closest to us; strangers . . .Even in our closest relationships, some high levels (of knowledge, wisdom, knowing what’s in our beloved’s crown) are beyond us.

    ” From closest to furthest; beloved, to stranger – what do we know of another, whom we just encounter? How quickly do we size someone up, put them in a box, tuck them in our mental filing cabinet on an index card labeled “nice” or “uh-oh” or “meh” – all from a quick first impression?” ~ Rabbi Fred Sherlinder Dobb

    We cannot know — we should not judge. I hope he (they) find peace.

    P.S. — My own confused mind caused me to wholly mis-read the trivia question yesterday. Duh! 🙂

    August 12, 2014
    • I don’t think you misread it, Karen. Your answer was right, too.

      August 12, 2014
  5. Kir Piccini #

    I’m trying to write through this latest loss and my own feelings that I haven’t shared anywhere in a very long time.
    Mr Williams was eloquent and funny and kind , and if he couldn’t see past the hurt how can I expect to? These are the thoughts I’ve had since last evening and the answers I guess I will never really have answered.

    So soon after Ben’s (My brother) death and his own depression, remembering my sister’s attempt years ago, I am left to wonder if there is a way out into the light. Dear God, I hope so.

    XO to you.

    August 12, 2014
    • We all have our dark moments, when we think the world wouldn’t miss us if we weren’t here. But it would.

      I’m struggling with one of those moments right now. No, I’m not suicidal or even depressed. But I’m trying to work through a kind of betrayal by someone I considered a friend. Not a good friend. A casual friend. But still, a stab in the back is a stab in the back. That this person disagrees with me isn’t a problem; it’s that they undertook an individual campaign to discount my viewpoint by painting me unfairly. That really hurts me. I’ve never dealt with those kinds of things very well. I always want to tell the people how much they hurt me, but people like that never care. They’re not sorry. They’ll never apologize. So, I’m trying to figure out what to do to make myself happy again. I’ve invested a lot of myself in this particular thing, and it’s hard to realize that it may be time to let it go, to pour my passion into something else. On the other hand, my writing sure could use a big flaming dose of my passion. I’ve just never been good at pouring my passion into myself. It feels self-absorbed.

      Regardless, I know I can forgive this person, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same about the thing. It’s been building for months, but I think this is the last straw. I’m spending part of my writing time mourning that, so when I finally act, it will be measured and right for me.

      August 12, 2014
      • Kir Piccini #

        Andra. Oh Andra.
        Thank you for sharing all of this with me, for trusting me enough to tell me what is heavy on your heart and knowing that I will hold it and understand and stand beside you.

        Because I will.

        The thing with betrayal is that it hurts in a place that never truly heals. For the past few years I’ve been going through my own struggle to come to terms with a betrayal of my own. You’re right, it will never be the way I want it. I am not going to get an apology. I am always going to be the bad guy and yet, I am not the bad guy. In my heart I know that…but it’s hard to believe when all I hear in my head is them saying “You’re a bad person and you deserve to be punished” …because they did indeed say it.

        I think mourning things is a valid and important part of grieving, please do that..please know that once you are on the other side of it the people who respect and love you are waiting here for you.

        I have so much to say but it’s all the same…I’m here, I’m listening, you can be you…here.

        and I did write today…hard to hit publish,
        but I did it.

        August 12, 2014
  6. A very thoughtful tribute. None of us can understand another’s pain entirely and it seems like a waste of time to debate such an extreme action. I think we will all miss Robin and that is about all that can be said. Your caution regarding messages of scorn is so right on point and hopefully is nothing else this episode can teach us all to think first and act second.

    August 12, 2014
  7. My sister-in-law texted me about it. It’s really sad. You can be surrounded by family and still feel alone. He will be missed.
    I’m glad you wrote this. How quick we are to judge others, without really knowing what they’re going through.

    August 12, 2014
    • I always admired him. He was certainly honest about his struggles.

      August 12, 2014
  8. tarakianwarrior #

    To those who think suicide is a selfish act – on the outside, yes, it is. But the thing is – when you’re in that depressive state – you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everyone – E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E is better off without you. Better. Off. Without. You. Yes, it’s skewed thinking but that’s the thing with depression – it is skewed thinking. Someone can set you on the downward spiral, but no one can pull you out of it. Andra’s right – we should hold our tongue and listen to Thumper’s Mother’s wise words…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing [anything] at all.

    August 12, 2014
    • I’m glad you pull out of it, Lori. The world wouldn’t be the same without you.

      August 12, 2014
  9. Robin Williams profoundly affected our culture in positive ways. Suddenly, the world is a bit darker. I was going to write a letter last night, but turned to my guitar instead. I had no words.

    August 12, 2014
  10. His wife wants him to be remembered for the joy he brought the world, not his dark ending. But I think that darkness is woven into his story, and that we could learn a lot about depression and suicide from studying it. Perhaps, in dying, he could save a life.

    Tangent. Why the hell do all of these news stories that mention Dead Poets’ Society fail to mention that Williams’ character is dismissed at the end after the overbearing father blames him for his son’s suicide?

    August 12, 2014
  11. Well said, Andra! I was greatly saddened this morning when I read the news about Robin Williams’s death. We have no idea what goes on in people’s lives, even in those who appear joyous and full of laughter. So sad…

    August 12, 2014
    • From my theater background, I’ve always understood that it’s usually the funniest people who are the saddest. Not always, but that’s usually the case.

      August 12, 2014
  12. “You never know where that person is at that moment. What your words might drive them to do.”

    Too often this happens with our words. We are quick to judge and spout off without knowing the reality of that person’s life. Be kind to others, no matter what.

    August 12, 2014
    • In the age of the internet, it’s particularly important to remember.

      August 12, 2014
  13. Thank you for expressing this sad moment so well, Andra.

    One of the hardest things I ever witnessed was an epidemic of teen suicides in a district I was associated with. These were mostly middle school students and it was one of the most agonizing things I’ve ever known.

    August 12, 2014
    • Awful, Penny. Middle school is so, so hard. I think the first time my family member attempted suicide, it was in middle school.

      August 12, 2014
  14. I can think of no better thing to come out of this tragedy than for all people to be a bit kinder toward each other. As you said so eloquently above, you never know what your words might drive someone to do. A sobering thought, indeed.

    August 12, 2014
  15. Very wise words, Andra. I think we are living in the age of habitual cricism and judgment. People are very careless with words and I think our children will model those behaviors and turn right around to bully others. I’ve never liked the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (names) will never hurt me.” I think that’s crock, and with the element of bullying in todays’ world, surely not true. The Internet has really opened the floodgate of anonymous cruelty. Williams’ death is very sobering and I hope will highlight more discussion about crippling chronic depression. I appreciate your sensitive soul, Andra. We need more kindness overall. ox

    August 12, 2014
    • Sometimes, it isn’t even anonymous. I look at some of the things people in my Facebook feed post under their own names, and I shake my head.

      August 12, 2014
  16. I like that you say “supposed suicides.” I agree with that wording.

    August 18, 2014

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