A Humanist Remembrance

Almost one year ago, on January 1, 2016, Robert James Allen died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. To this day, those of us who loved him haven’t come to grips with his suicide. We who loved him will never understand his pain that day. The obvious is post-traumatic stress disorder. One more Vietnam War casualty.

Bob, or “Buck” as some called him, was my best friend in high school. We graduated in 1965. He was my best man when I married. A half dozen years ago, recognizing a fellow atheist, he shoved a copy of the Humanist magazine at me, saying, “You should read this!”

And so it began, my own awkward journey from the lonely comfort of closet atheism.

I have to suspect that Bob, the old soldier, fearless in the face of death and the ultimate void he proudly stared down, figured he had debts to pay. In later years, he shared a few things, but always, as vets do, ambiguously. I will forever wonder why he couldn’t reach out to those of us who loved him so dearly.

Corliss Lamont’s A Humanist Funeral Service and Celebration enabled his grieving family to hold a simple and small graveside memorial. Today his ashes lie below a perfect memorial. Bob always wore the “Happy Human” symbol of humanism on his many caps and welcomed dialogue with those who noticed. Now, I suspect many will forever be drawn to his majestic alabaster stone and will wonder at its unusual icon. But that’s Bob, forever the enigma.

It’s reported that twenty-two veterans die by suicide every day. Depression and thoughts of suicide can too easily overwhelm. We know the holiday season to be especially difficult. My friend Bob, a fellow humanist, killed himself on New Year’s Day. It shouldn’t have happened.

I wish I could have reached out! As humanists, we must be better.