The obituary of Ernest Hemingway that ran on July 3, 1961, noted that “The body of the bearded, barrel-chested writer, clad in a robe and pajamas, was found by his wife in the foyer of their modern concrete house” in Ketchum, Idaho the previous morning. “A double-barreled, 12-guage shotgun lay beside him with one chamber discharged. Mrs. Hemingway, the author’s fourth wife, whome he married in 1946, issued this statement:
“Mr. Hemingway accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun this morning at 7:30 A.M. No time has been set for the funeral services, which will be private.”
I rather think that Hemingway would have appreciated the Times clean copy, the lack of adjectives, the simple sentences: “A double-barreled, 12-guage shotgun lay beside him with one chamber discharged.”
Let the words tell the story, Hem always said.
Of course, the facts were incorrect. Did the writer of his obituary already know this? That it was not an accident? In spite of what his wife, Mary, said.
He was ill. He was paranoid. And he was very depressed. So, like his father before him, he decided to end his own life. Using his favorite shotgun.
I was just a boy when he died. About all I remember is looking at a photo of his funeral in Ketchum that ran in LIFE magazine two or three weeks later. Perhaps because my grandfather had died a short time earlier and I was becoming aware of death and the ceremonies that accompany it. Or maybe for some reason I associated Hemingway with my grandfather. In any case, it made an impact on me. The death of an author whose first book I would not read for another five or six years. But when I did, it would change everything.
Fifty-two years later, I still think about him. I miss Hemingway. I think I’ve always missed him.