On Friday morning, I get a text at 6 a.m. from my friend Angela informing me that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. She knew how much I liked him and knew this would be hard for me to hear. My husband was on his way out for work as I read out the text to him. He said, “I know. I didn’t want to wake you up with that news.” But he knew, it wouldn’t matter how it came, the news was not good.
The rest of the day and now, I still feel a sense of sadness as I know I am not the only one. The media has continually been interviewing his friends, showing past Parts Unknown (his show on CNN), and my social media is covered with his face. Mainly, because I follow many chefs. I have a big interest in the culinary scene due to Bourdain.
After a pilgrimage to Italy in 2006 which came with much anxiety because of fear of travel, my craving for food and travel grew. At that time, to my knowledge, there were not many travel shows other than Rick Steves and Samantha Brown. Much to my delight, the Travel Channel gave us No Reservations where I first became acquainted with Bourdain’s witty culinary ways. It right away captured for me an escape from my life in concrete Phoenix suburbia, track house living.
The trip to Italy placed a sense of adventure in me that I knew had to be somewhat contained. Let me preface here, my life is greatly blessed. To date, my husband and I have traveled abroad two more times after our first Italy trip (London, Paris, Italy again). We travel within the States quite often. However, I long for travel in the sense that I would like to discover it like Bourdain captured it. Places not necessarily on the tourist map.
On Sunday’s, I would look forward to his latest episode. Where was he now? Thailand. Croatia. Turkey. Sicily. His demeanor was also a familiar connection to me. He had a bad boy, rebellious nature. Reminded me of my youthful past and the group of friends I hung around with. His taste in music too was much like mine. A like of rock n roll and classics. His wit also had me laughing as I was amused by how no matter whom he had in his show, he never changed himself to interact with them. He had them laughing. Giving me a sense that no matter what part of the world you are in, we are all the same.
Once his show went from the Travel Network to CNN, I stayed with it. I adapted a viewer relationship via his program. This means about 12 years of fan watching. And with social media, there became another connection. It gave the fan a closer connection to his person who we all believed had the best job in the world. Travel and eat the best food. What could be better? He was the one who introduced me to taking pictures of food and share my experience of it.
He was also very vocal on Twitter about social issues. One in particular had to with the Mexican immigrant and how interwoven their culinary skills are wrapped in America’s fabric. Always pointing out that if we were to walk into any kitchen across the U.S., you would for sure find Mexicans working the kitchen, citizen or not.
Bourdain was not a believer. Often on his show, he would give a tidbit on how he couldn’t rationalize believing in a higher power. I don’t recall him ever pointing out one god over another or Jesus in particular, but he was clear he didn’t believe in any of it. Even when his close friend Eric Rippert was on his show speaking about Buddhism, you could see Bourdain wasn’t fully embracing. Despite him not having faith, I never heard him bash anyone for believing. But I know, it would strike him if he felt a religion was, in his view, destroying a people or nation.
So why do I dedicate a blog to him?
Bourdain’s suicide not only shook me, but it had my mind going. I thought of my cousin Gil who committed suicide in 2010. Thought of my Godmother who was married to him, his two sons, his family. All of us who went through that day with them. The feeling of life spiraling out of control. The big black hard depth of despair. The confusion. The pain.
Here we all saw this man Bourdain on TV just about every week or on social media, seeming to live the life we all wanted. Celebration. Laughter. Good food and beautiful environments. But it wasn’t all true. I mean, did he have that? Yes, I do believe he did. But he also had demons that wouldn’t let him go.
In his early life, he became addicted to heroin. He spoke about the struggles of it and also shared how he was ‘recovered’, yet always conveying, recovery is day to day. Each day, he worked at it as many recovered addicts do. I understand this well. My Dad was a recovered addict. Difference was, my Dad found Jesus and lived his life with freedom from it.
However, from current family who is an addict, heroin is the worst of all drugs you could ever become addicted to. This is one that has effects for the rest of your life. Now, that’s what I have heard scientifically, but I place all in God and know that if Jesus was in their life, it would be different. And you know, I’m no expert and I don’t want to go into heroin effects, mental illness, when is it not mental illness and we call it a demon, or lack of faith issues. I don’t have expertise to discuss.
But what I do want to write about is the soul and how our faith responds to someone who has taken their life.
Because Bourdain was a self confessed non believer, my thought process on his passing made me think about the soul like I haven’t encountered before. Some of his fans were leaving comments on Twitter or Instagram, saying things like “hope you have peace now in heaven or hell wherever you are’, or ‘give them hell’, etc. I thought what darkness!
In my prayer time and reflection about Gil came forth. Thinking about his time of death and what we as a family learned. Although, Gil did believe in Jesus and was Catholic, family was confused on whether his soul went to heaven. And what I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church forever changed my outlook.
2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
Bourdain stood up for the marginalized. He brought to light topics of the poor, no one else was touching in this form of media. He used his celebrity to bring witness, life that the world sees as dejected because they don’t live like we live. But in reality showed more riches in their cooking or family members. In a sense, we saw the Beatitude come to life “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. And he used that compassion, which I believe was placed in him by God. Even though, he never claim that. And it wasn’t always about the poor, but sharing stories of those living with wars around them.
In God’s mercy, we leave his soul and others who have taken their lives in such despair. For we really do not know. I for one need to be aware to check on another. From the one who we think has it all together to the one who looks like they are crumbling.
My food pics and travel will forever have root in Anthony Bourdain. For these I leave…
Help us Lord to be more aware. Help us with courage to speak to those who do not show their belief in you Jesus, so that we may direct them to your love and mercy. For we know as St. Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Heaven is not out there only in the sky, but can by the grace of God, can be attained in the heart with true joy. In how Your peace can allow them to breathe again. +++
2 thoughts on “Parts Truly Unknown”
Stef, your comments and observations reflect my thoughts and feelings when I heard of Bourdain’s suicide. 😥 Thanks for providing your thoughs in this Blog…very well done. 👍 Uncle Ruben
I was also sad to hear of his passing. I didn’t really know much about him so thanks for what you shared. It sounds like he was a great influence in your life in many ways. I had a friend who committed suicide when she was in her twenties. She was a few years older than me but we were best buddies and I looked up to her. She was smart, beautiful, talented. Working a dream job and everyone loved her. But we only found out later of her many struggles in her interior life – likely chronic depression that no one ever really knew about. And, she had fallen away from God and withdrawn a lot from social life over time. There were clues we should have seen. I still miss her laugh. She could always make me laugh when we were growing up together. I wish we could have given that back to her in the end.