When I was little my father had a magic trick. He would light a cotton ball on fire and put it in his mouth to extinguish the flame.  It never failed to impress.

Then one day, an actor who was famous at the time for his role in Grizzly Adams had an accident. A flaming drink set fire to his beard and he was hospitalized with severe burns.  News of that accident caused my father, who also had a beard & mustache, to stop performing his magic trick. It turns out that trying to swallow fire could be far more dangerous than he believed.

I think of that trick often these days as I reflect on my father’s suicide. Depression is the flame not extinguished when swallowed. Rather, it grows and festers in the darkness. And in time, it was the depression that consumed my father.  Like a sweeping brushfire its power was overwhelming, it progressed too fast to be put out; anxiety an added accelerant, fanning the flames, further & higher. A wildfire bent on destruction of spirit and soul. Still, he kept the full truth of it contained.

No, depression is not meant to be swallowed. It needs to be exposed to the light. Because left to smolder on the inside, its flame will smother the embers of hope and ignite despair.

Once upon a time my father knew that swallowing fire could be dangerous. Until one day, it was the fire that devoured him. And we who loved him most are left standing in the ashes.

swallowing fire