Charley’s death, from Charley Smith’s Girl, by Helen Bevington

I think Charley died of despair, as by now I have known others to do. The others chose suicide. But I am eternally grateful to Charley for not making that choice, hard as it is to say so when the only alternative was suffering–that I did not share–and in the end turning his face to the wall. My reason is simple and self-centered: the other way is too terrible an inheritance to be left with, too fearful a legacy for me and my children. It says too flatly and plainly that life is not to be borne. Charley didn’t quite say that. He bore it for as long as he had to, and no help ever came. Terrible as his measure of life actually was, he didn’t quite leave me with that silent, mocking answer.

I choose to say he died, as all people do, as Montaigne said he himself would die, of having been alive. Beyond that, he died because he was Charley. He loved life once and clung to it with a wild passion. He tried in his own violent way to live it. This was the way he lost, he finally lost. There is something even a little consoling to me in that idea …

My mother and my father–one was strong and brave and indomitable, and one withdrew in utter despair. Neither of them ever discovered how to be happy. There must be a third way. I am not sure, but I think there must be a third way.

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