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Every 79 minutes, someone over the age of 65 commits suicide.

Henry was one of those someones. They talked about what Henry did for a long time afterward. They all had an opinion.

But no one really knew.

No one knew that aging and depression are not a given. You cannot say, “He got old and that’s what happens when you get old.” You cannot say that depression in the elderly cannot be treated, that seniors who live alone, like Henry did, are the only ones at risk for suicide and you cannot say that if and when an elderly person chooses suicide there is nothing that can be done to prevent it.

No one knew.

A lot of them said, “He was old and sad and that’s what happens when you get old and sad.” But no one knew that there is a corroborated difference between grief and depression.

No one knew that a hug or a funny memory or a word or two of love and kindness could loosen the stranglehold of the deepest grief.

You can mourn the loss of a life partner, you can mourn the loss of your freedom, your health, your home. But the sun will rise and fill you with a sense of hope and tomorrows. None of that, not a child, not a puppy, not a joke, not a sunrise or sunset can push aside even an iota of the emptiness and hopelessness of depression.

No one knew.

No one knew they were looking depression in the face and did not know what they were looking at. They knew Henry didn’t seem as interested in the things he had always been interested in but isn’t that just a part of getting old?


Henry said he wasn’t sleeping well and not even a little shot of bourbon now and then was helping. But it felt good. Sounds harmless, doesn’t it?


One of his boys had noticed that their dad was shuffling, not walking. He was barely interested in eating and he was struggling to remember people and dates. Didn’t all of that mean that maybe he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s?

No one knew.

There were other signs. He felt he was just taking up space on the planet, a useless old man who couldn’t even cut his own toenails. He’d had a mild heart attack and things like that, cancer for example, or a stroke, can be so dehumanizing that depression and often suicide, is almost a given.
But no one knew.

And because no one knew, Henry is gone.

Too soon.


William McDonald/Author/Old Friends (Endless Love). Available at

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