Reflection on a theme

by jexmas on July 17, 2010

I am surprised and moved by the response to the piece I wrote about Grace Autio’s death.  Eighteen comments have been posted and the piece has been viewed more than 500 times. I was glad to have unwittingly provided a place for strangers, friends and colleagues to share their thoughts about her. Her death and the shock and sadness it generated led me to muse about the ways in which we are connected as human beings. I often write about random events I experience traveling around the Bay on public transport. So when I think about all the people who wanted to know about Grace’s death, I imagined us all on a BART train going to her funeral.

I often notice, when I look around the BART carriage in which I’m riding, how everyone quite assertively tries to deny their connection to each other. Last Thursday, returning from Oakland to the city, I was struck by how many people in this crowded car were not looking at any anyone else. They were looking out the window, looking down, looking at their phones, reading, anything but making a connection with their neighbors. I know I do the same thing because it feels weird to start chatting to someone you do not know unless you make eye contact and it seems safe to venture out, so to speak.

At the same time, somewhere between 19th Street Oakland and West Oakland stations, a middle-aged man decided to surprise everyone by taking off his tank top, bearing his chest and pulling on a clean white T-shirt he had taken from a backpack lying at his feet. I have been unable to decide if he was oblivious to everyone in the carriage and thought he was in his own bathroom, if he did not care,  or if he did care and he did it anyway.

These musings take me back to Grace. There have been a number of pieces of information publicly available on the internet that make me think she was facing a harsh future. I also heard about her twin brother, Philip, who apparently committed suicide on the same day nine years ago.

I think about all the people who knew about her death either as a stranger or knew her as a person. If we were all traveling together on a train to her funeral, would we talk to each other and allow our collective humanity to flourish?

Based on the response to my piece, I feel there were many people who could see her and felt connected to her, but in the moment she chose to take her own life, she could not see us. Like the man on the train changing his shirt in a sea of people who are not looking at each other, perhaps she felt it simply did not matter.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: