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Death by a Thousand Cuts

November 16 2019

Last night, November 15 2019 was the service for Toby Weir. Like any memorial service it is never something to look forward to and this was no exception. It was a celebration of his life, but what struck me the most were his mother and father; Aly and Bix Weir. In the past during the tragic deaths of children I have never witnessed parents delivering eulogies like theirs. Heartfelt – completely and utterly honest, Aly’s accounts of her feelings took more courage than I could ever imagine from any human soul. Her words to other young people in the audience were honest, sincere and profound. We are all blessed to know souls like Aly and Bix. To have our lives intersect in this way is something I would never wish upon anyone. Yet to have our lives come together at all – I now view as a blessing to my own life.

They both changed how I view my life. Thank you.

November 7 2019

If you are looking for a photography review here, please move along. This post is about suicide.

All living things be they mammals, reptiles, aquatic, or fill in the blank, does all it can to avoid pain. It’s part of the natural survival instinct. Humans avoid pain through a litany of methods. Many are chemical, loads are through behavior. Pick your poison; drinking, drugs, sex, spending, working, who we hang with, what we focus on.

So when the choice of self-inflicted death is an option that is less painful than life – the tragedy rests on all of us as humans.

I have often felt that suicide is death by a thousand cuts. Small seemingly insignificant minor hurtful comments, being ignored, feeling invisible, not good enough are just some of the the lacerations that eventually end up making the decision to end one’s life.  It can be as simple as never having a text responded to by your own children or parent. Looking at the pretend lives plastered every day on social media about peers whose lives seem so perfect. Comparing ourselves to how we feel we should be, rather than how we are.

For the past several years I have photographed for the Oakland School for the Arts Dance Emphasis. As a freshman a young man named Toby appeared before my lens. Shy, skinny and unsure of his place in the dance world his improvement over the years was remarkable. As a senior he was asked to join the Savage Jazz Dance Company which is an elite group of dancers. After the last night of the troupe’s performance he committed suicide.

I often say to people “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” when they tell me that they ‘meant’ to do say or act on anything. My point is how many opportunities have been neglected by each of us to say a kind or complimentary word to another person – DIRECTLY? Sure it’s common to bitch about someone, but seldom do I hear people compliment a person to their face, at the moment they appreciated an act, a word, an intent they found kind or helpful. Or something they admire about the person at that moment.

“I know I must have told her/him how much I admire/loved/appreciated them. Didn’t I? Gosh I know I thought it but maybe I never said it, but they must have known.”

Often those individuals who appear accomplished, sure of themselves are the ones often overlooked for compliments. “Oh they MUST KNOW how good/skilled/honored/etc. they are!”  Then there are those who feel invisible, because they are treated that way. No eye contact, no smile finds its way to their eyes. No conversations initiated toward their ears.

We so often ask ourselves “Why” after someone we love, adore or know commits suicide. In some cases the person tells us why in their last note, but in others we will never know.  Tomorrow is promised to no one, but I pledge to not contribute to a death by a thousand cuts to my fellow humans. I will say with both kindness and affection how I feel toward someone NOW. Not tomorrow, not to someone else, but to them.

Rest in peace Toby. I miss you. I miss your smile when I told you how special you were.

October 18 2019

October 18 2019

 

17 thoughts on “Death by a Thousand Cuts”

      • Thank you for sharing these thoughts and beautiful pictures. I was also at the memorial and agree 100% about the strength of Aly and Bix and the beauty of their words in this most difficult time.

  1. Beautifully written. And I’ll take this opportunity to tell you (and Tracy!) how much you’ve meant to Jaque and I. You’ve been supportive, encouraging, loving – and your work has been a huge part of our band getting off the ground the way it has. Don’t ever doubt for a second the impact you two leave on the world. Everyone is better for knowing and working with you.

  2. Thank you Mark. I too would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the work you and Tracy do for our kids at OSA. You bring out the best in them, and give them a safe space to show their true selves. And the art you create is absolutely breathtaking. Thank you.

    • Dinah, working with young people is one of the most fulfilling aspects of our lives. Dancers, actors, singers or musicians; the hopes and dreams they exhibit feeds our souls. OSA has been a blessing for me in many ways. I create imagery to show people that I love them, it’s my form of expression. Thank you.

  3. Mark, thank you for writing this and for your words about my baby boy. That smile that would always light a sparkle in his eyes. I have nothing but gratitude for these wonderful moments you have captured with and of him. They are stunning.

    • Alyson, I will simply say that Toby was a person both Tracy and I admired as much more than a dancer or performer, but as a soul. He always asked if he could help us while we were disassembling our gear after a shoot. He and I had some really fun exchanges between shots. When he was being really tough on himself during a maneuver I would try to make him laugh. “Hey maybe you couldn’t do it just the way you wanted because you have this big booger in your nose!” Immature things an old guy like me that made us both laugh.

  4. When one looks at these incredible photos of Toby,it is very difficult to imagine that he didn’t realize how talented he was/how incredible.It is disturbing to contemplate the pain Toby must have been experiencing!

  5. Thank you for this Mark. Toby was a special and beautiful person, and I love seeing his smile and the joy for what he did come through in your photographs.

  6. Mark, thank you for capturing the magic and light of my sweet nephew’s spirit. You can really feel who he was through these photos. Your words are beautiful and real. ❤️ Robyn

    • Robyn it’s incredible that Toby has brought our paths to cross. Even though he has moved to another space he continues to make me smile with gifts he never expected to share. I’m certain he knows that now.

  7. I’m a close friend of Aly, Tarn and Toby but live in England they have stayed at my house many times. Memories of Toby will live in my heart forever. These photos of Toby are amazing he was so talented. Thank you so much for showing them.

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