Dallas resident's brave Christmas letter addresses 'irreversible mistake' of suicide
12:00 AM CST on Sunday, December 19, 2010
If there's one place where life is perfect, it's in Christmas letters.
Holiday letters have become something of a joke for their relentless good cheer.
So Carol Yancey's letter must have come as a shock this year.
This is the most painful Christmas letter I have ever written because Will was usually the one to write our letters.
This year has been a very difficult year for our family as Will is no longer with us. In February, Will died by suicide.
We have talked here in recent months about suicide and about the shame, stigma and secrecy that surrounds it.
Carol, a 51-year-old Far North Dallas resident, dealt with all of those after her husband's death. But as the holidays approached, she decided that Will's Christmas letter would be the place to put them behind her.
How can I explain it to you when I don't truly understand why it happened? Will was always such a positive, happy and strong person.
Indeed, Will Yancey, 53, seemed to have a charmed life. A brilliant man, he held five degrees, including a Ph.D. in accounting. He was a consultant specializing in statistical sampling.
He was an Eagle Scout and the proud father of an Eagle Scout. He and Carol had just built their dream summer home in Maine. It was to be their eventual retirement home.
Upbeat Will never even got down in the dumps, Carol said. But in the late fall of 2009, he fell into a depression.
Their home here had been flooded and badly damaged by a plumbing leak, putting their lives in chaos through months of repairs. Carol wondered if that led to his funk.
Will saw his doctor and began taking an antidepressant. He talked with a counselor. Carol thought they were doing everything right.
And then on a snowy February morning, she found him hanging in the guest bedroom.
Will was a good man with strong values and impeccable character who made an irreversible mistake.
I miss him so much and still love him from the depths of my heart.
Carol's letter then goes on in more typical holiday fashion to talk about son Michael's accomplishments, family activities and so forth.
But one word in the letter stayed with me – mistake. Will's irreversible mistake.
It's kind of a modest word to describe something so profound as suicide. But the more I have learned, the more appropriate it seems.
For so many, suicide is simply the momentary mistaken belief that other options are gone.
One reader questioned the value of the previous columns. It's pointless to talk about suicide, he said, because anyone intent on it will eventually do it.
But another reader directed me to a study that proves just the opposite.
San Francisco was considering expensive modifications to the Golden Gate Bridge to prevent suicides. But a practical question arose: Would intervention there simply prompt successful suicides elsewhere?
A study was commissioned. It found that only about 10 percent of people stopped in a suicide attempt would later complete a suicide.
Or to put it more positively, 90 percent of people go on with their lives if they can be helped in avoiding that momentary mistake.
Erasing the secrecy and stigma around suicide could do so much for prevention. And Carol Yancey's brave Christmas letter goes a long way in doing that.
Your patience, kindness and love have been a tremendous help in carrying us through this challenging time. I truly believe Will is at peace and in God's care.
I am wishing you a wonderful holiday season and time to cherish every moment with those you love.