I've suffered more than a few bouts of severe depression myself and thus am acquainted with the dark thoughts that flow from that. I understand in general terms why she did what she did. Most people don't get it, and should thank God they don't. To understand, you have to go a place in your mind and in your soul where no one should go. It's a like circling a drain; in the end you don't see anything beyond your own anguish spinning around you. As Martin Amis put it in Night Train, in the end all thoughts for a suicide are lacerating.
Part of what saddens me is not only what she did, but the extreme, sustained level of pain she must have been in prior to that. You don't just do this on a whim. A suicide is the result of a lot of mental suffering over a long period of time. And that's a shame, for no one deserves that.
Most people are healthy and don't think it terms of sympathy for a suicide. They see the escape routes, they see the pain left behind, they see the duties unmet, the mess left behind. Most normal people get angry at suicides and at suicide attempts, seeing it as selfish. I once heard it said that all a suicide accomplishes is it takes the pain you're feeling and spreads it to the people you love, only 10 times worse. That makes sense to me. I get why others would be angry. Heck, I was a little angry ... and I was completely out of the picture and hadn't thought that much about her in years.
But let me step back for a moment and try to argue the hard position, not in defense, but just to help people understand. Last Sunday, I saw a man drive a motorcycle into a tree. I was one of the first on the scene. The man had a compound fracture of his femur, and it was obvious because his thigh muscles had cramped up. Now, no one would say the man was selfish for wanting immediate attention and help from the people around him. If no one helped him, and he just lay there day after day in the street with a broken femur, we wouldn't say he was selfish if he continued to call on others for help and attention. And if he was injured all by himself somewhere deep in the woods, and waited for a day or two in agonizing pain, no one would say he was selfish if he killed himself with a gun.
Serious depression is like walking around with the mental equivalent of a broken femur. But since no one can see it, they think you're being selfish. They don't understand why you don't get help if you need it. They think you're weak. Or stupid. Or just want attention.
Now, there are numerous caveats I'd put on this analogy ... there are many problems with it, I admit. So let's only take the analogy this far: Mental illness involves severe pain, and it can be a paralyzing pain; if untreated the pain will last, and like a broken femur, the person may be severely limited in their capabilities by the pain and thus may find it difficult or impossible to save his- or herself. Outside intervention may be necessary. The man with the broken femur wasn't going anywhere without someone helping him.
C. was depressed to the point of needing medication as early as age 17. She became a suicide at 40. I'm not saying there's a straight line of misery. More likely, it means that depression was a lifelong battle for her, with fits and starts, victories and losses. Maybe in the end she couldn't reach out yet again. Maybe she was unable to. In any case, my thoughts are compassionate toward her. This is in spite of knowing that her decision merely took the pain she was feeling and magnified it tenfold and spread it to those who loved her, particularly her children. It's a tragedy all around.
If you have depression, get help if you can. If you can't, you at least need to call for help, just like the guy with the femur. Unlike the motorcyclist, if you're not in the street, people may not know you're hurting.