We can think more and better, or worse or even, perhaps, differently, if not a bit sadly today about Ernest Hemingway.
If we think of him at all.
It was on this day in 1961 that Hemingway committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho.
Is suicide a reason to think more or better or worse or differently of someone? Is suicide a reason for anything at all?
Do we need to qualify our quality of thinking?
If not a bit sadly…. is suicide a reason to be sad?
Here’s what Hemingway had to say about returning home from war: “[It’s] as though you had heard so much loud music you couldn’t hear anything played delicately.”
(That last quiet space between two ears: gone, consumed. The writing goes with it…)
Hemingway went on to travel Africa after the war and then back, always writing, always trying, sometimes crashing, mostly mentally, then physically. He thought often of the sea and of water. His work, The Old Man and the Sea, was just a fraction of the book he had planned. It won the Pulitzer Prize.
Seeking help, Hemingway checked into the Mayo Clinic, America’s premiere medical facility. There he underwent electroshock treatment. It did not, evidently, help to alleviate his depression. And he hated it. A note from a letter at that time, so much echoed by other writers, other people, who have undergone the same:
“What is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business?”
On the morning of July 2, 1961, Hemingway woke early. He walked out of his bedroom and picked up a shotgun in the foyer of the Idaho house that he shared with his fourth wife, Mary Hemingway. Sometime around 7:30 am Hemingway shot himself.
After a preliminary investigation Frank Hewitt, the Blaine County Sheriff, remarked that the death “looks like an accident” and that “there is no evidence of foul play.”
Alone with his gun, it remains unclear if the writer had been simply cleaning his weapon and inadvertently shot himself. Hemingway was a skilled hunter and knew weapons.
His father, Dr. Clarence E. Hemingway, was equally devoted to hunting. In 1928 at the age of 57, Hemingway’s father also shot himself to death, also at home, in Oak Park, Ill. He used a Civil War pistol.
The fact of his father’s suicide never left Hemingway. The fact, this thing, permeated much of his work. See: For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Hemingway’s wife, Mary Hemingway, was still asleep in bed at the time of her husband’s death.
It was the bang woke her.
She later likened that sound to a large drawer slamming shut.