The sudden death of Anthony Bourdain by suicide hit me hard. I’m the last guy to get on facebook and overblow what the death of a celebrity meant to me. I didn’t lose my virginity while reading Kitchen Confidential or become a half ass blogger because of him..I just respected the hell out of him.
On the heels of Kate Spade’s suicide this week, it is clear mental illness has no limitations and does not affect any specific phenotypes. Anthony was the manliest of men and Kate the girliest of girls and I would almost argue that 90% of humanity falls somewhere in between. In other words, we are all targets of this malicious disease.
In comparison, Gord Downie’s cancer was another tragedy which hit me hard. Gord filled my ears while Anthony filled by belly. Unlike depression, however, Gord was given some time and allowed to close out his life with an epic concert series and the ability to say goodbye to his friends, family and fans. They raised thousands for cancer research and the whole Canadian musical community came together in a full blown and multi-city memorial. What happened to Gord was not his fault…for whatever reason cancer picked him and made him the weak member of the pack just like a lion would target and attack the injured antelope in a slow and methodical way.
Anthony, on the other hand, didn’t get to celebrate his life; he just took it. There were no celebrations or unification of the culinary community; he was alone except for the darkness that told him the best solution was to take his life. He was the head lion in the pride; successful, confident, respected and almost invincible but unlike the slow and methodical hunt that is called cancer, he was taken out by depression in one swift and ruthless attack.
It seems then that cancer and depression are not much different but last time I checked, there is no chemo for the soul. However, reactions continue to be very different. We empathize for Gord’s loved ones and ask “Why did the cancer do this to him?” and yet with Anthony, Kate and others the first reaction is “How could he/she do that to them?”. Depression is not a fake disease made up by pharmaceutical companies to make money. It’s not treated with St. John’s Wort or ignorance. It doesn’t go away when things in life get better nor does it prey on the weak alone. It’s not classified in stages and doesn’t come with a ominous prognosis like “he only has 3-6 months to live”.
Like many, I perused the net while reflecting of Anthony’s life and found an article from US weekly called Anthony Bourdain: 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me facts that struck me:
7. I haven’t worn an earring or thumb ring since my daughter was born. Dads shouldn’t have earrings. Or thumb rings.
12. I love nothing more than cooking with my daughter.
13. I recently bought her her very first chef’s knife.
23. It’s really me handling my Twitter account.
24. I am afraid of clowns, nurse’s shoes and pressure cookers.
25. I have very rigid criteria for what makes a good burger. And a brioche bun is not part of it.
I always thought Anthony was invincible and if anything, his fate would be at the hands of a venomous scorpion or a stray bullet striking his Achilles tendon during a trip in a war torn country on the other side of the planet. Instead, he was killed by something much more global than the slums of Vietnam and something much more lethal than the sting of an arachnid. I think I will celebrate his life eating a greasy smash burger on a Wonder bun that I made with my daughter while watching “It” or Nurse Jackie and thanking the Lord i don’t live with a disease scarier than a floating red balloon that might pop at any second. RIP Anthony.