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Marie Lisette Rimer. Photo by Jim Goodwin

Marie Lisette Rimer grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and gravitated to the New England countryside for a BA and MA in Secondary Education at the University of Connecticut. She was a publicist in the Connecticut legislature and an award-winning English teacher at Rectory School in Pomfret, Connecticut, where she started the school newspaper. The joy of three children and country living with her husband, Robert Wood, were shattered with the suicide death of her youngest son, Patrick Wood. She went from teacher to student to learn why—at first through Patrick’s life and then through the ravages of depression and her mother’s similar death. Back From Suicide is a nearly two-decades-long search that explores mental disease and the difficulty of coming out. It’s about the enigma of self-destruction after a lifetime of success. Rimer traces Patrick’s journey through the misery of depression and the deception of permanent relief. She learns what she should have done, what she should have said, what parents need to know, and, in spite of mistakes, how she emerged Back From Suicide.

Back from Suicide Reveals Tragedy

Suicide was nothing more than a statistic for the Wood family in Pomfret, Connecticut. It became reality when their son Patrick killed himself in 2006 when he was twenty-three years old. He was, or so they thought, the least likely person to die by his own hand. He attended Pomfret School on a full scholarship, winning nearly every book award possible by the time he graduated as valedictorian in 2001. He was a National Merit Scholarship winner and an AP Scholar with perfect SAT scores. The Norwich Bulletin noted his years of piano study at Tanglewood and his love of math, history, and foreign languages in a 2001 “Profile of a Newsmaker” article. He graduated from Stanford with honors and was a programmer at Siemens in Berlin. 


Patrick’s mother, Lisette Rimer, said she wanted others to know how a beautiful person could turn on himself. “I couldn’t let Patrick die without telling his story. It’s been a long time in the making,” Rimer said. “I had a lot to learn about sexual orientation and suicide and how depression can lead to death if it’s not treated. I wanted the book to honor Patrick but also explain how a person, who seemed to have it all, can plummet. I wanted to share my journey of understanding with other parents. They may not perceive their children’s chronic sadness as a medical issue. Neither did I, and that meant I had to learn about it after it was too late.” 


The result is Rimer’s memoir, Back from Suicide: Before and After the Essential Patrick, completed eighteen years after Patrick’s death and available on Amazon this summer.


“I never wanted to write a book,” Rimer said, “but I couldn’t let Pat die without telling his story, without keeping him alive somehow. I felt like I let him die once, and I wasn’t going to do it again. The book had to be written, and it had to be done well. It had to go beyond other suicide stories, which describe the tragedy but not enough about the reasons behind it. My book had to go further so that readers could understand depression. The most important answer I came up with is that depression is a physical disease. It changes your brain. If it’s not treated, suicide can creep in as a solution.”


Patrick is survived by his twin sister Libby Wood, his older brother Colin, and his parents Robert Wood and Lisette Rimer. Libby became a therapist in Santa Cruz, California. She said, “It’s been a coming together of my life and Pat’s so that both of us can go forward. But I’m still suffering. Daily. Grief is not something we go through in the past. It is today. It is yesterday. It is tomorrow.” Colin is a software sales executive. He and his wife Jennifer live in Londonderry, New Hampshire with their two daughters, Addison and Raegan.


From BookLife Reviews

"We rationalize depression and suicide when they are not rational" she writes. "We look for logic instead of anatomical disease. We settle for thirteen excuses why. We need to insist on more." -BookLife Reviews

Rimer's deeply pained and beautifully written exploration of her son's death from suicide, is at once a celebration of a life, a reckoning with a death, and an impassioned inquiry in how why the inconceivable could happen—and what more can be done to prevent it in other cases. Before his death in Berlin in 2006 at the age of 23, Patrick Wood had been a young man of extraordinary promise and charisma. He earned the highest of academic accolades, had developed into a dazzling pianist and programmer, and seemed to thrive, after coming out as gay, among new friends in Berlin, where he served an internship with the engineering company Siemens. Despite an earlier hospitalization as a student at Stanford for depression and suicidal ideation, the news that he had ended his life came as a total shock. "Why?" Rimer asks.


Rimer, an English teacher, writes with grace and precision of complex feelings, as she recounts her and her family experience of the aftermath, including their efforts to understand Patrick's, such as tours of his Berlin, tearful meetings with friends, and, later, the jolting revelations of reading his medical records. Rimer discovers that Patrick's depression had been much more debilitating than she had known, and she makes an impassioned call for awareness of how parents and schools are ill-equipped to "detect the severity of the disease and, therefore, the likelihood of a completed suicide."

"We rationalize depression and suicide when they are not rational"" she writes. "We look for logic instead of anatomical disease. We settle for thirteen excuses why. We need to insist on more." That spirit of bold truth telling is matched throughout by Rimer's frank account of holding herself to blame despite understanding that she's not and her agonized search for answers in literature, family history, and science. It's also matched, with rare power, by love for Patrick. The book pulses with moving testimonials, in memorial encomiums, song lyrics, conversation, and his twin sister's tender, sparkling foreword. It's above all an act of love.

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