Over the Edge

Already dogged by mental illness, Paul Bear ended his life after a mean-spirited outing by a small-town newspaperman

Later that day, Sergeant Henson delivered Bear's final letter to the Hubbell House. Henson said the note contained apologies from Bear for his behavior and was "very personal" to Carmichael, who would later break the news to Steve Cross in Australia. Cross would then tell Bear's family, who hadn't heard from him in more than 10 years, since he'd left for Seattle. He said they were "absolutely hysterical."

The Central Christian Church was packed during Bear's memorial service. Whitewashed, with tones of green in its stained-glass windows, the sanctuary could hold about 100 people. Friends Michael Herrington and Charlie Hardy drove in from Fort Worth and said "little old ladies" had made food. The pastor read a poem Carmichael had written for Bear. Another friend sang the old hymn, "Farther Along."

Sitting at the picnic table, the beer bottle now empty in front of him, Carmichael dwells on the song's lyrics. Suicide always leaves behind so many unanswered questions and unknown possibilities, but for Carmichael, Paul Bear's death left behind more than most. Why didn't Bear tell him about his bipolar disorder? Why did Bear always feel compelled to run? What, if anything, could anyone have done in Seattle or Greece or Sydney or Chicago? How was it possible for Bear to be such a "monster," as Cross described him during his depressive stages, and then turn into such a loving, caring man in a matter of moments? And, finally, what if he'd never encountered the town bully in Winnsboro?

Paul Bear (left) and Tim Carmichael pose for a photo in 2002, the year before the Winnsboro News editorial that would change their lives.
Paul Bear (left) and Tim Carmichael pose for a photo in 2002, the year before the Winnsboro News editorial that would change their lives.
Bear in December 2004, seven months before he killed himself.
Bear in December 2004, seven months before he killed himself.

"Farther along," Carmichael muses, "farther along we'll understand why."

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