1. Stacey had been on the “wrong track” for a long time. She’d started smoking pot with the gang in junior high and things escalated from there. With high school came ecstasy, acid, and cocaine. She didn’t end up with a diploma, but that didn’t really matter since by then she cared a lot more about heroin than diplomas of dubious value. Her first sweetheart died of an overdose when they were both 19 and she started sleeping with his best friend not long after. That was nice at first, but he wasn’t crazy about her pregnancy. Not crazy about it at all. She gave birth alone in a hospital in the bad part of town; her parents weren’t much interested in her goings-on by then. Life with a baby proved quite hard. Changing diapers is hard when you’re a junkie, and for some reason, she couldn’t ever get reliable babysitters. Overdosing the way her first love had struck her as romantic, but her exit proved otherwise. One night, she said “bye bye, baby, bye bye” and leapt from the very top of her Section 8 apartment. At the funeral, her parents remained austere and were proud to say that they’d never lost faith in her.
  2. Allen just couldn’t catch a break. He was a nice enough fellow, but had no luck with the ladies. In the seventh grade, he’d asked a nice girl to the big dance and she said “yes.” It had really made his day and he’d felt that unique warmth that first loves always pour out. But the night before the occasion, she changed her mind and let him know via text. That was hard on Allen because he’d already told his parents all about this forthcoming event and how excited he was. The parents were nice people, just like Allen, and had bought him a junior-sized suit. Allen was too embarrassed to give them the update, so the next evening, he let his mom drive him to the decked-out gymnasium in his new duds. He was too embarrassed to go in, too, so he sat in the parking lot instead and felt alternatively bored and sad. Two hours later, his mom swung by to bring him home and he spent the whole ride back telling her what a wonderful time he’d had. In high school, he went out with a girl who was quite smitten with him, really. She was someone he didn’t feel the need to be guarded around and they shared secret after secret. But one not-so-fine day, a drunk driver clipped her in the middle of a crosswalk. It wasn’t the car that killed her; it was the impact with the pavement. The local paper did a big write-up about it and Allen was interviewed at length. After that, he didn’t feel much like dating for a while. But then came college in another state and with it, a new love. This girlfriend was smart and ambitious and Allen felt swept up by her. It was an amazing feeling until she felt she needed to be with someone just as ambitious as her, and Allen did not make the cut. Allen was crushed, to put it mildly. He proved to her that he was smart and bold by learning how to tie a noose and finding a clever way to hang himself in his dorm room. At the funeral, she said he had been the love of her life and that she would never love again.
  3. Mallory got diagnosed with bipolar depression when she was just 15. That’s a rough diagnosis. Soon after, it felt like her whole life revolved around it. Existence became a shuffle of doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and psychiatrist’s visits. With all that came a parade of medications and conflicting medical advice. Bipolar impacted everything. Her boyfriends had to know and so did parents before sleepovers. Even managers at crappy jobs for teenagers received information packets from her mom and dad. Everyone had to know, and yet nobody seemed to know exactly how to treat it, whatever “it” was, exactly. There was a night when she realized that this would truly never end, that this was her life; nothing would ever “surpass” bipolar. That realization didn’t sit well with her. In the following days, she thought about that more and more and it made her sick to her stomach. It was only a week later that it occurred to her: instead of living with this shit, she could simply not live at all. She liked the idea. For the first time in years, she could conceive of being something aside from bipolar. It took only a little bit of research to figure out what medications to take, and with so many shrinks on speed dial, in no time at all, she was picking them up at the pharmacy where everyone knew her. That night, presto, the deed was done. At the funeral, everyone made clear that she lived her life to the fullest and never let her bipolar “status” define or limit her.
  4. Steven had felt miserable for a long time, maybe always, really. It—the misery, that is—had started at some point in middle school; he couldn’t remember exactly when anymore. But he never really bounced back from that sadness that strikes so many in early adolescence. He did what he could to keep it all at bay: he ate right, exercised, took happy pills, etc. And it wasn’t as if none of that made a difference. All of it did make a difference, just not much of one. It was always a question of the margins, always a matter of ensuring he had three “good days” a week instead of one or two. In college, he’d assumed that life’s big milestones would go a long way in “curing” him. That wasn’t the case: marriage, fatherhood, professional development, home ownership, etc. It was all fine; good, even. But like all of his “best practices” from teendom, these things really just assured a greater number of “good days.” They did not elevate him to a plane of happiness he saw others operating in. And so, one day, well into his thirties, he grabbed his gun and shot himself in the head. At the funeral, there was a great deal of speculation and whispers. Many attendees posited that human beings, even ones we think we know well, fundamentally remain complete mysteries to one another.
  5. Lily had always absolutely positively believed in God. She’d been raised Presbyterian and never strayed from the faith, not even around the time most kids rebel, not even during her four years at a private liberal arts college. Then one day, after over half a century on this Earth, she suddenly realized she was wrong. There was no God. Jesus had not died for our sins. Lily didn’t think there was much to think about after that. She said goodbye to her dog Rori and her cat Miso and walked right out of her house. The bridge she had in mind was only seven blocks away and she made it there in no time. Unlike most people who go to that bridge for the same reason, she didn’t hesitate before throwing herself off of it. At the funeral, her elderly father bitterly complained that if she’d just gotten married and given him grandkids, none of this would have ever happened.
  6. Marketing had always been Nick’s life. He’d graduated college with an English degree and quickly discovered that the only good jobs he could get were in copywriting, copyediting, and promotion. In the beginning, those jobs hadn’t satisfied him much. He’d always thought he’d be a teacher of some kind. But in short order, Nick learned to live and breathe marketing. Within a few years, it was all he thought about. It made him feel like a powerful hustler, someone who could make a something out of a nothing. He liked that more with each passing year. It was a skill that made him feel better about balding, about being single, about all sorts of things. Then came a fateful night. He was binge-watching TV and a character made a passing reference to “Bartleby, the Scrivener” by Herman Melville. It sent him on a nostalgia trip to his college days and he went fussing about his apartment in search of his Collected Works of Herman Melville book. When he finally found it, he devoured the classic story for the first time in at least 15 years. The next day at work was hard. It was the hardest day of his career. He couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe he’d been wasting his whole life, every minute of it. It felt bad and he couldn’t concentrate. But Nick was usually a good employee, so he had leeway enough to excuse himself from the office early. From there, he went straight to the bar and started drinking. Every drink made him think and every thought made him drink. It was hours before he left, and once he did, he threw himself in front of the first moving car he saw. That did the trick. At the funeral, his friends and family licked their chops at the prospect of sending the driver to prison for the rest of his life.
  7. When Taylor first set foot in that casino, suicide was the last thing on his mind. There wasn’t even an entry for the word in his personal dictionary; there really weren’t very many words of any kind between “sorry” and “suck.” In any event, Taylor knew what he was there to do, and set to it. At least that’s what he’d thought. He knew he was there to win money, but losing money quickly became what he dedicated himself to. No form of gambling offered relief: blackjack, roulette, slot machines, even bingo. I know it’s unseemly for omniscient narrators to break the fourth wall, but we all know what happened. It couldn’t be more obvious what happened next, and what happened after that, and after that, and so on…so this time, I’ll spare you the details. Taylor lost big. Then his credit lost big. Soon his favors and loans and transfers lost big. Soon, Taylor felt stupid like never before. And in most dictionaries, “stupid” and “suicide” aren’t very far apart. Despite how cliché the evening had been, Taylor’s solution was rather novel. In the parking garage, he undid his seatbelt, drove to one end, and then drove as fast as he could into a concrete wall opposite him. He flew right through his windshield and his skull earned a dozen fractures. At the funeral, nobody said much of anything. Everyone was too embarrassed.
  8. Greg had gotten over heartbreak before. He was not 14, he was 26. He’d always been good with girls, really. Therein lied the problem. Cecilia had shattered his heart and left him absolutely devastated. But he knew that it would pass. It had passed all the other times; why would this one be any different? That fact bothered him, that he’d assuredly move on. It ate him up, knowing his emotions were so fleeting. Emotions seemed to guide every decision he made, and yet they came and went like women’s fashion. He hated it. He wanted to condemn himself—and all of humanity—for being so illogical. He didn’t want to get over Cecilia. And he should not have gotten over all the others. Love should be a permanent thing. But it wasn’t…so then what was permanent? He couldn’t think of anything. The idea of falling in love again came to sicken him. So did the idea of getting over Cecilia. But how could he stay in his current state? Well, one day, he realized a rather obvious answer. For some reason, he didn’t shoot himself in the head. Instead, he shot himself in the neck and bled out on his bedroom floor. At the funeral, his sister wondered if he ever really knew how much she had truly loved him.
  9. Chandler woke up out of his mind. It wasn’t the absolute first time this had happened, but it wasn’t exactly common, either. He just felt nuts. He played Halo for a while, but everything was blurry and eerily incandescent, as if he were on drugs. Then he called his brother, but per usual, the guy was busy with his baby. Mostly out of boredom, he cooked up a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, bell peppers, and toast. But eating it proved to be a chore. There was no obvious reason he shouldn’t be hungry, but he wasn’t. He tried to choke down some more of it, but just ended up puking. After that he was really at a loss for what to do. Hoping some fresh air might help, he put on his sunglasses and went out for a walk. At the nearby park, a stranger started to chat with him. Chandler tried to reply politely, but his words tumbled out incoherently. No amount of effort got him anywhere and the stranger smiled awkwardly before taking leave of him. Embarrassed, Chandler went back to his apartment. He sat on his sofa wondering what on Earth was going on. He racked his brain, but no obvious explanation came to mind. Things only got worse when he made his second attempt at eating. Once again, the ordeal ended in vomit, but much more than before. Once he’d cleaned himself up a bit, he decided to Google his symptoms, but doing so confirmed his worst fears: That whatever vision issue he was having with Halo was in effect with his phone and computer, too. He headed back to the sofa for more thinking. His brother called him back, apparently having won himself some off-time from parenting, but Chandler still couldn’t speak straight. His brother got annoyed and hung up. And then, without thinking about it much at all, Chandler went to his kitchen, grabbed a knife, and stabbed himself in the heart. At the funeral, his family wove very complex theories as to how the death had been a murder.
  10. Judy was seven years from retirement. Seven years. She marked the days on two different calendars, one at home and one in her cubicle. It was something really worth looking forward to, and she’d already finished off the majority of the wait, the prior 28 years. But then the economy crashed and Judy took a long, hard look at her retirement fund. Suddenly, there wasn’t much to wait for. Or rather, the wait would be much longer to be worth it. Judy’s plans were very much ruined. She needed a new plan. And she made one, one that didn’t require much waiting at all. There wasn’t much of a funeral. Judy didn’t have very many friends.
  11. Cassandra was a precocious child if there ever was one. She started reading at the age of three and skipped the third grade despite attending a charter school for the gifted and talented. As a teenager, she took college classes while enrolled in high school and went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy before she was old enough to rent a car. She stayed in academia, where she lectured on ethics for several years before moving to a tenure-track position at Brown University. It was there that a colleague turned her on to David Benatar’s anti-natalist classic Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence. The book fascinated her, and she began to ponder the ethics of existence itself more deeply. It was while reading Sarah Perry’s Every Cradle Is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide that she found herself, quite accidentally, pregnant. As smart as Cassandra was—and she was quite smart—for the first time in her life, she found herself doing something concrete that was at odds with her abstract thoughts. She hadn’t fully made up her mind about humanity, yet, but suddenly she had only a few months to decide before she might become irrevocably part of the problem. Abortion seemed like the obvious solution; after all, she could always get pregnant again. But that felt like cheating, a way to avoid grappling with a serious issue. What ultimately tipped the scales was, interestingly, nothing abstract, but another very concrete incident: her boyfriend died. While at times Cassandra had imagined herself as a happy mother in a happy family, she had never imagined herself as a single mother. Appropriately enough, she used her dead boyfriend’s gun to shoot herself. At the funeral, the attendees spoke about everything under the sun except Cassandra and her boyfriend’s deaths.
  12. Jerry’s case was quite unique. On the first day of July, everything in his life went perfectly. He awoke clear-headed, had a good workout, an even better breakfast, read his favorite newspaper cover-to-cover, and then met up with his girlfriend. The two of them smoked pot and binge-watched The Office for hours before stepping out to their preferred all-night diner for pancakes and milkshakes. When they got back to her place, the two fucked and fucked and fucked. It was some of the best sex they’d ever had, and that was really saying something. When Jerry woke up the next day, he realized that the last 24 hours had been the best of his life. In fact, he wagered, they would be the best 24 hours of his life. What to do when the best is assuredly behind you? Well, what Jerry did was slit his wrists before taking a long bath. At the funeral, nobody could hear anybody speak over the sobs of Jerry’s martyred girlfriend.