What drives someone to set themselve on fire?

A few weeks ago, a woman drove into a gas station a few hours north of where I live. She bought five dollars worth of gas the proceeded to douse herself with it and set her body on fire.

I read about the suicide a day or so later and ever since my mind keeps returning to it.

I don’t really understand what drives someone to suicide, even the painless kind. I guess I’m too much of a wimp or too self-absorbed to kill myself.

Or I’ve been lucky and my life has never been bad enough to warrant thoughts of suicide.

I supposed I can comprehend, if I try hard enough, that some people see it as an option. The only option.

They are in a bad place, have a mental illness, or their challenges seem insurmountable. So taking a pill or jumping off a bridge seems like the easy way out.

Setting yourself on fire? Not easy. I can think of very few more horrific ways to die.

What was torturing this poor woman so that self-immolation was considered less painful?

But I’m not only thinking about the woman who died. My thoughts have frequently turned to the manager of the gas station.

One report I read said that when the woman paid for her gas, she left her ID on the counter. The manager called after her to come back and get it.

The women reportedly said, “I don’t need it anymore.”

That made the manager curious, so she watched the woman out the window. She saw her douse and light herself.

The manager acted quickly. She turned off the pumps so the whole place didn’t explode.

But she didn’t act quickly enough to save the woman’s life which, in all honesty might have been a blessing since recovery from such severe burns would probably be excruciating.

I’m sure the manager doesn’t see it that way, though. Does she blame herself? For not going after the woman, forcing her ID back to her or asking what was going on?

Can she get the image of a women engulfed in the flames out of her head? How do you return to work at the gas station after witnessing something as gruesome as that?

I hope the manager gets has someone to talk to about what she witnessed. Although I’m sure it’s nothing she will ever be able to forget, I hope she can move on.

Of course, I don’t have any answers. But maybe now that I’ve written about it I can let the story go too, stop imagining the lives that were involved in and affected by this very public and grisly death.


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