When a beautiful, talented woman dies in the prime of life, words fail. I don’t know why the death of L’Wren Scott hit me so hard. As editor of WAG magazine, I featured her dresses in the mag’s pages from time to time. They always captured the myriad aspects of elegance, how it could be prim, erotic, even whimsical. I remember one smashing wine-colored number that I actually helped a reader track down. She just had to have that dress.
Still, I didn’t know Scott. And I can’t say I have the passion for fashion that I have for, say, the arts or certain sports. There’s something unforgiving about fashion. Maybe she felt it, too.
Suicide begs the question, Why? Why do people who seem to have considerable resources of all kinds end it all? There are those who will tell you that the suicides must’ve been overwhelmingly depressed, and indeed there is a terrible desperation, a horrific impulse in the way some people commit suicide that nonetheless leads you to wonder if they didn’t regret it all at the moment it became too late.
But I don’t think all suicides are depressed or out of their minds. There are carefully planned assisted suicides carried out by people for the most rational of reasons. Then there are people who commit suicide out of heroic existentialism. The people who leapt to their deaths from the World Trade Center on 9/11 may have done so not in panic but in defiance of terrorism. They seemed to say, You may take my life but you will not take the way it ends or my attitude toward how it ends. Which in the end is all any of us can control anyway.
Scott’s act appears to be neither a long goodbye nor a Tosca-like leap of defiance. Instead, she called an assistant to come over and then hanged herself. Did she want to be discovered, or was she planning to meet with the assistant, in other words to live?
I remember as a young cop reporter covering the suicide of a man who leapt from a building in full view of a pair of Romeo and Juliet-like lovers on the courtyard balcony. His skull cracked like a walnut and I was struck by how the color drained from him, how immediate death was. The senior police officer on the scene showed me a brown bag – the man’s lunch. He had been planning to live, at least through noon. What made him change his mind?
In my novel, “Water Music” – which is very much about how the past floods the present – swimmer Dylan Roqué is haunted by the suicides of his great-grandfather, grandmother and his mother. He concludes that suicides don’t want to die. They just want not to live.
And in those two sentiments there is a world of difference.