Every year on March 17th, New York City gets a coat of green. Revelers don whatever green-hued fabrics they own, Irish and non-Irish alike raise green glasses of beer toasting the legend they associate with leprechauns, proclaiming “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” despite whatever their Ancestry.com search revealed, and before noon even rolls around the sidewalks of Manhattan begin being coated with green food-dye tinged vomit.
While St. Patrick’s color is actually blue, not green, I’m not sure if hydroplaning on more historically accurate colored sidewalk vomit would make me feel better about how New York celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, honoring a saint with representations of mischievous leprechauns which according to folklore were the offspring of an evil spirit and degenerate fairy. I mean, come on, leprechauns keep their gold in cauldrons instead of a safety deposit boxes like less vindictive mythical figures, they are prepared to mess you up if you screw with them. Not cool, people.
The true story of St. Patrick is far more interesting than the patchwork version born from legend, lore and liquored-fueled free-association. St. Patrick was actually of British decent, not Irish. Captured by Irish pirates at the age of sixteen, St. Patrick credited his spiritual growth to his six years of slavery in Ireland during which he converted to Christianity. After escaping and returning home, he had a vision that compelled him to return to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. No parade with cute cops and spectators adorned with green beads and shamrock-painted faces awaited St. Patrick’s return to Ireland, instead his mission to spread Christianity encountered numerous obstacles and oppositions. None of which were snakes, though. Snakes never existed in Ireland, not even back in the 5th century (there is zero scientific evidence of any Snake Crashers, the Ice Age made it too chilly up until 10,000 years ago, then the slithery reptiles couldn’t get there because Ireland is an island and snakes are notoriously inept when searching for travel deals online), which is a good thing, St. Patrick already had his hands full. As a humble servant of God, St. Patrick could not be tempted by riches dangled before him by kings which got some royal knickers in a twist. In between baptisms and ordaining priests, St. Patrick was beaten, robbed and jailed, but still he persevered. Because of his conversion of the Irish people to Christianity, he became greatly revered as one of Ireland’s patron saints, the 17th of March solemnly marks the date of St. Patrick’s death and is a holy day of obligation in Ireland.
Despite the annual drunken debauchery besieging New York City, a veil of black fell over it muffling its sounds because the day marked another death, the apparent suicide of fashion designer L’Wren Scott, who was found dead in her Chelsea apartment.
Learning of her death was particularly surreal for me. I had just gotten a funeral announcement for Wednesday at 2pm e-mailed to me from a funeral home which is near where someone who is very important to me lives. It sent me into a state of panic, I’ve been concerned she could be nearing the end of her life because of something confided to me and my tendency to worry about people I care about. The e-mail from the funeral home whose name I recognized indicated that a loved one had passed late Sunday night, with a link provided for further information. I frantically muttered, “Please, please, please, no” as I clicked on the link leading to a blank page, which I tried to reload, rationalizing to myself that it was a mistake, a mix-up, I was in their database and got the e-mail by mistake. I called the funeral home and was informed their system had been hacked, don’t open the link. I thanked the woman, hung up and burst into tears, I don’t know what percentage were tears of relief, I was suddenly overcome with thoughts of the grief someone I love so dearly is already experiencing, I felt his pain cut through me, and I sobbed uncontrollably at the idea of him enduring any more.
At some point it occurred to me that by clicking the link, I had potentially exposed my system to malware, but in my emotional fog I could only post a Facebook SOS query. One of my high school friends answered my post with reassurance and gave me a link for software I could download for extra piece of mind. As I started to download it, I suddenly remembered of all of the security measures I already had in place. As I returned to Facebook to thank him, the Newsfeed was filled with story after story about the death of L’Wren Scott, the incredibly talented fashion designer whose work I so greatly admire, she had hanged herself with a scarf from her own collection, a highly symbolic gesture that left no room for doubt in my mind that her death was indeed a suicide. She had texted her assistant to stop by the apartment, which I feel she did because she was afraid she wouldn’t be found possibly for days. L’Wren was a perfectionist, but the quick discovery probably had less to do with her meticulous nature, she was probably thinking of the additional horror her being in a state of decomp would be on those she was leaving behind. She chose her assistant, someone who took care of her in life and someone she trusted to take care of her death.
At 6’3” the leggy beauty was larger than life in more than just physical appearance, she exuded confidence, had an innate understanding of how to make women of all body shapes feel like a bombshell in any silhouette, was driven, an entrepreneur who understood fashion as tableau vivant. To those on the outside she appeared to have it all, including a relationship with longtime love Mick Jagger. As those who knew her best reacted with shock that she would take her own life, it was clear L’Wren kept everyone outside.
L’Wren’s business had financial trouble which embarrassed her, maybe things weren’t perfect with Mick, but those who take their own lives do so because their vision is isolated, they can see only one way out, death. There’s a saying that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But it’s not a solution at all. Our lives do not end when our Earthly bodies expire, our souls live on, where they end up depends on whether we are at peace and able to move on and the purity of our hearts. When I was eight years old, I was hit by a speeding car and died. I’ve been in the light, I was told it wasn’t my time, that I was going to help a lot of people and I was given the choice to stay or return and fulfill my purpose.
Even with having such a profound experience at a young age, I’ve still spent much of my life living in a glittering bubble. I’ve always known there was so much beauty in this world and I wanted to experience all of it. I made a list of everything I thought I wanted in life and got pretty much everything on it and suddenly one day I discovered the life I built was hollow as it all came crashing down. When I was lying in the wreckage, looking at the pieces surrounding me, I realized none of it had made me happy. Movie premieres, galas, meeting celebrities, all just shiny shards. I had surrounded myself with a lot of noise to distract myself from the emptiness. The glittering bubble didn’t protect me, it isolated me. No one bothered to check on me and why would they? I had spent so much of my life pretending I was okay, I even believed it. It was the first time in my life I experienced loneliness. I think that’s what happened to L’Wren and she got pinned under the rubble and decided there was only one way out.
My biggest weakness is stubbornness, but in some ways it’s also my biggest strength, it’s kept me from giving up. I stood up, only to get knocked down again by illness. It’s been a slow stubborn crawl back from nearly dead, but the illness itself was a gift. I’ve had spiritual experiences that have humbled me, transformed me, and set me on the path I’m intended to be on. I don’t need any of the pieces of my old life, there’s not a single remnant of it I would even want.
To anyone who has been knocked down, please don’t ever give up. If you still aren’t convinced that suicide isn’t a solution, think about all the people you leave behind. Google L’Wren Scott and read the quotes by her friends. Think about the grief her family is now consumed by. Everyone who wonders why she didn’t reach out to them for help, feeling like they somehow failed her. A friend of mine committed suicide a few years ago and if I had any inkling of his despair, I would have provided him with lots of reasons to not give up, I would have pulled every last crumbled piece of his troubles off of him until he no longer felt like he was being suffocated by them.
Right now a lot seems to be falling apart in this world. An entire plane full of people is suddenly gone reminding us all that we’re not as secure as we think. A gas leak in Harlem leveled two buildings and took eight lives, and while the rubble is still being sifted through, the first two lawsuits have already been filed, a woman who was over a block away claims she fell because of the blast and was injured, a twenty year old high school student is suing for $10 million stating he was thrown on the bus he was on and tore ligaments and blood vessels. Meanwhile, a cop in South Carolina shot an elderly man, thinking his cane was a shotgun. But at least his chances of survival are greater here than in the UK where tens of thousands of elderly die each winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes. America has once again inserted itself in an international dispute, this time between Russia and the Ukraine when no one asked for our opinion and problems within our own borders remain unaddressed. In Benghazi, ten people were killed by a car bomb in a military base, no one has “claimed responsibility” but an extremist Islamic group is suspected, with all the daily violence, sometimes terrorists forget to sign their work. Human rights violations around the world are chilling, a North Korean prison camp guard has had told horrifying stories of prisoners, including children, being buried alive. And despite all this suffering in the world, Mila Kunis is trending because she and Ashton Kutcher were so super cute dancing at a birthday party.
Not to go all 1985 on you, but we are the world. We need to stop snacking on spiritual junk food, if we don’t start picking up the fallen debris from those around us, all of us will wind up getting knocked down. The solution doesn’t involve military strategy, social media or pots of gold. Plain and simple, we need to think about what we were told around two thousand years ago and live our lives with love and compassion. Saint Patrick believed so much in Christ’s message, he returned to the people who enslaved him and converted them to Christianity. One man, one message, was able to change a nation. That is the power of a single voice.
The shamrocks that are associated with St. Patrick’s Day? That part has historical foundation, St. Patrick used the three leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist as one.