Those who knew Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss, and those who didn’t, were stunned by the news of his suicide. Nothing in his public persona – the dancer, the entertainer, the man with a wide smile and eyes that shone – gave hint to the darkness he held close. And now we know that nothing in his private demeanor sent up warning signals to those who were close to him. He left his home and family, went to a hotel, and shot himself. 

 Thoughts of suicide coil inside you like a serpent. Sometimes they stay coiled, taking up space but resting unobtrusively. Then they uncoil, slide around your heart, and squeeze out all hope. Those of us who have been there never forget what it’s like to come to that edge, to feel hope and dreams being squeezed out of you, and to believe that death makes the most sense.

 In 1994, I came very close to that edge. I saw no reason to go on. Fleeing an abusive relationship, I had moved from California to New York, selling my house at the bottom of the market and losing almost everything. I knew no one in New York, I had no writing prospects in front of me, and I felt utterly alone. I remember walking on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, knowing that if I actually went so far as to make a plan for suicide, I would cross an invisible boundary line and actually do it. Then I was told that my father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Logically, it would seem like that would have been the final straw, but the opposite happened. I had something to hang onto, something I needed to do – I needed to be there for my father, to be present for this mysterious and scary journey that would take him far away from everything that was familiar to him and would in the end take his life. 

 I told no one about this until very recently when I wrote about it in my book Floating in the Deep End. Then I basically told the world. There was a relief in writing about it, in peeling back the curtain and saying, “I’ve been there, I know what this darkness is.” 

 Tyler Perry just put out an Instagram video following Stephen Boss’s death, disclosing that he had made two suicide attempts in his past. He spoke about how the darkness closes in and you feel like there is nothing to live for, no other way out but death. And then he spoke about his gratitude that his attempts didn’t succeed because he is the happiest he has ever been. He said the darkness, the despair can be a “buy-in” for greater things that await you. If you can get through those times, there is something brighter waiting for you to find it, to embrace it. 

 It sounds strange to say that Alzheimer’s was my light through the darkness, but it was. It gave me purpose, it gave me something bigger than myself to hang onto. There might be people you know, or people reading this, who are standing at that dark edge, ready to step over it. I want those people to consider that we never know what is around life’s corners. We never know who might need us, who might be waiting for us to find them, who might be waiting to love us. Death is never going to be easy to talk about, especially when it’s your own and you’re looking at it as an answer to pain. But that is where salvation lies. Every time I hear about someone taking their life I think, as many do, “If only…” If only they could have reached out, told someone how dark things were. If only they could have heard – really heard – what others say who have been to that edge and have stepped away from it. Tyler Perry’s words should be emblazoned everywhere: “Don’t let the darkness stop you.”


  1. my1stgradeteacher says:

    very sad. thank you for sharing your story.

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