At this same time last week, I was sitting in a Santa Barbara courtroom. Seated directly in front of me were Dr. Andrew Bourne and his wife, Gilann. They were holding hands, occasionally sharing a whispered thought back and forth.
The following is what I wrote on my legal pad:
“Standing by a loved one in the eye of public humiliation. Others perceive it as pathetic. How can you stand by someone who broke your heart in that way? And yet … there is something profound about it. Noble. Simple. Real. It strips away everything that one’s life has been adorned with. It’s just two people, partners, lovers, trying to get through something. Just waiting together. Holding hands. Just like it was in the very beginning. In the moment in a way they might not normally be in everyday life. It makes me want to go home and hug my wife.”
Today, I have someone to go home to and Gilann does not, and that is a very wrenching thought.
I have heard more rumors and secondhand information about the Bourne/Walker case than you can possibly imagine. I have no idea how big the iceberg is, or what part of it still remains hidden beneath the surface. I don’t know whether the case is relatively benign or wildly salacious, whether the case is isolated, or whether it reflects a pattern of behavior for either man.
I do know studies suggest a clear link between high-risk teen behaviors and subsequent depression and even suicide. According to Dr. Jane Anderson, writing for the American College of Pediatricians:
“In the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, 13,491 adolescents in grades 7 to 11 were interviewed in 1995 and again one year later. The authors differentiated the cause and effects of depression and found that early high-risk behaviors, including sexual activity and drug use, were linked with later depression.
“Clearly, the adolescent years are a time of rapid brain development, a time of susceptibility … High-risk behaviors encountered during these vulnerable years can have lasting adverse consequences and should be avoided.”
I also don’t believe the police just invented the whole thing. Wrong was committed on some level. Wrongs. I ask myself what if it had been my daughter? What is a just punishment? Could I forgive?
They say that in life, there are no coincidences. So perhaps it was no coincidence that I watched Sir Richard Attenborough’s film “Gandhi” on Monday night.
I last saw the film in the theaters when I was 14.
In one of the later scenes, just before Gandhi’s assasination, Hindus and Muslims are engaged in Civil War, slaughtering each other, and Gandhi undertakes a hunger strike to stop the fighting, vowing not to eat until the violence stops.
And a Hindu man, clearly anguished, visits him, and tells him that he is trapped in a personal hell because he has murdered a Muslim in retaliation for the Muslims killing his son.
Gandhi suggests to the man that there is a way out of his hell – and that is to adopt a young Muslim boy and to raise that boy as a Muslim.
As Gandhi said, “The only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts. And that is where all our battles ought to be fought.”
We traditionally look upon doctors as gods, not as flawed individuals. In some respects, I have great pity upon doctors, because they carry this great weight of expectation. To elaborate on what Hartley says in his column this week, the ethical standard required to be a Republican candidate for President is a helluva lot less stringent than the standard required to practice medicine.
May 17, 2003. I had just finished publication of the fourth-ever issue of The Sheet and drove home to Sunny Slopes and on the way stopped in to have a few drinks at Tom’s Place. And on my way across the highway I was stopped by a CHP officer who had been laying in wait and claimed that I had crossed a double yellow-line making a left turn.
So he put me through the various tests which I passed without a hitch and … he let me go. But if I’d stayed a bit longer and had a few more drinks, maybe The Sheet would’ve ended before it began.
I vowed that night that if I wanted to become anything more than a historical footnote – if I really wanted to remain in the community and have a voice in the community – that I needed to adhere to a higher standard. But it was easy for me to crawl inside the boundaries of my little self-imposed box. It can be cold and dark out there in the wilderness. And I had spent enough time out in the wilderness to know.
It makes me want to go home and hug my daughter.
I think about Andy Bourne and that straight-and-narrow path of a doctor. Maybe he never spent enough time out there in the wilderness of spectacular failure, unrealized dreams and general uncertainty. Maybe he just got claustrophobic, temporarily insane …
I’m just trying to understand.
That’s why I find his apparent suicide so frustrating. I find that it provides an enormous blocker to a conversation that needs to occur, that should occur. How does a community heal, understand, reach closure, look itself in the mirror when that mirror’s been effectively shattered.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the past several weeks where women have told me about adolescent sexual experiences they had with significantly older men. Experiences that they undoubtedly never shared with their parents. For some, it was nothing more than that – an experience woven into a mosaic of experiences. For others, it had longer-lasting impact, longer-ranging repercussions.
I hope this teenage girl is okay, that this does not affect her ultimate life’s arc, her ultimate fulfillment.
My wife recalled the other day one definition she heard about forgiveness (sorry, no attribution), which is to “waive the right to hurt someone because they hurt you.”
Or, as Gandhi said, “For myself, I’ve found we’re all such sinners; we should leave punishment to God. And if we really want to change things, there are better things than derailing trains or slashing someone with a sword.”
A fund for the benefit of Gilann Bourne & Family has been set up at the Eastern Sierra Community Bank in Mammoth Lakes. In lieu of sending flowers, contributions may be made to “FBO Gilann Bourne & Family” (Account # 5015553) and dropped off or mailed to:
Eastern Sierra Community Bank
307 Old Mammoth Rd.
PO Box 5069
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
ATTN: Yvonne Martin
A Celebration of Life Ceremony for Bourne has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4, from 2-4 p.m. at Cerro Coso. All who were touched by Bourne’s life, talents and energy are encouraged to attend.