Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Mark Wignall | Success, sadness and suicide

Published:Thursday | December 7, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It was quite cool and comfortable for us as the mountain air drifted by the little shop/bar where we were gathered. It was a quaint and sleepy village perched atop a gentle rise in a section of South East St Mary. Sometime in the 1980s on a Sunday afternoon.

About four of us from Kingston were visiting a friend who had had a painful divorce and had retreated to his parents' home until he could find back himself. The bar was not far from his home and he had recommended it.

The big feature was the stunningly attractive young woman serving at the bar. The disappointment was she was married to a young farmer and he was also there in the bar with us. As we drank, spoke of old times and the shock of newness, it struck me that there seemed to be a huge mismatch between the couple.

The husband was interested in goats, cattle and crops. She wanted endless trips to the towns where the lights shone all night. She wanted to dance the night away and lose herself in the gaiety that only a city like Kingston could give.




Unknown to me at the time, one of my friends from the capital was having a surreptitious affair with her. We drank and ate jerked pork and cracked every joke that was ever made. In the early evening, the husband left with a new coil of rope. He told us he had some goats to attend to and it involved changing out old ropes for new.

On Monday I got the news. The husband had hanged himself. With the very rope that he had with him. As I later understood it, he had discovered that his wife was playing around. With a man who called him friend. They found his body near to the goats, hanging lifeless from a nearby tree. Most of what I remembered about him was the constant laughter and his jovial mood.

The earth-shattering news that Lowell Hawthorne, the great Jamaican success story behind Golden Krust and its fantastic commercial ride in the US, committed suicide has taken just about every Jamaican by surprise. Hawthorne was every Jamaican's dream of a better and bigger side of themselves.

Early reports are that he was to be audited by the IRS and probably had a tax burden that was causing him more than sleepless nights.

During a five-year period in the 1980s when I was painfully separated from my wife, for just the briefest of moments I contemplated what it could be like to end my life because the daily pain was just too much for me to bear. Once I escaped from the dark cloud of despair that had enveloped me for about the first 18 months, I accepted that life was also pain.




The thing which held my focus was my children and getting the family back together again. But even when I allowed my eyes to roam again there was still a lot of laughter to hide the underlying pain until the family was back intact five years later.

It was only recently that the nation was discussing the suicide of an adolescent, and especially his telegraphing it in a viral video.

If it is assumed that all people are seeking happiness, the question that must be asked is: how is it quantified? A little old lady living in a four-room rural house with shiny floors and J$5,000 in her mattress may be 10 times happier that a man in his multistorey house and five cars parked in the expansive yard space.

It suits us, therefore, never to judge another human being, especially to the point where we envy him for his material possessions. I know of car washers and mechanics, pimps and drug dons and business magnates and parsons and all who fit neatly into 'other' and not one single category of person has a lock on happiness.

Depending on one's station in life, a call from the bank manager may be a blessing or it could be the trigger into desperate action. In the end, those left behind must bear the pain of the hurt that the deeply sad person traded in.