David Buckel — destined to be remembered more for the cause of his death than its stated purpose

The New York Times reports:

Two weeks before he died [through self-immolation on April 14 in Brooklyn], Mr. Buckel seemed particularly agitated when he came to work one day. “I asked if he was stressed,” Mr. Morales said. “He dismissed it.” Then Mr. Buckel started sending him emails — lists of contacts, instructions for how to complete annual reports, forms to be turned over to officials. He began labeling everything on the site, every switch and key, and showed him how to work the solar panels, the lights.

“‘What, you going to retire on me?’” Mr. Morales remembered saying. “‘Naw, you’re stuck with me forever.’”

In those days, the news had broke that Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump, wanted to end Obama-era standards on vehicle emissions, a devastating blow to anyone fighting climate change.

If the agency rolled back the rules on emissions, it would wipe out all the efforts made by people like Mr. Buckel — walking to work, processing hundreds of tons of food waste without a drop of gas.

Mr. Buckel’s husband and the women with whom they lived said he had been increasingly distressed over the environment and the state of the national debate, but had not been ill or shown signs of depression. To honor his wishes, they said in brief telephone interviews that they wanted to focus on the message he left behind.

Mr. Buckel’s suicide letter was a few pages long and touched on many subjects, revealing a man who had grown deeply despondent. But it made his cause clear: “Pollution ravages our planet,” he wrote. “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result.”

He concluded: “Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded action.”

The last time that Mr. Morales saw him, Mr. Buckel looked exhausted. The next morning he said nothing to his family before leaving home.

Later, when Mr. Kaelber was asked what had precipitated his husband’s suicide, he said, “I think a lot of it, unfortunately, was all that’s going on with the Trump administration and the rollback by Pruitt.” [Continue reading…]

In spite of David Buckel’s explanation for why he took his own life, perhaps it was ultimately mostly an act of despair.

The mistake by anyone who presumes to attach significance to their own death is that this will be decided by those who survive. Death’s meaning — or lack of it — is outside our control.

Everyone, to varying degrees, harbors the hope that our life matters, but in that hope is the kernel of a desire for some form of immortality.

Better than anyone choosing to take their own life is to realize that life never is something we own.

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