I saw Lord of the Rings: Return of the King last night. For those of you who've enjoyed the trilogy up 'til now ... this one rocks as much as you hope it will. It's awesome, the best of the three.

I do wonder, though, if we're going to see an unusual increase in deaths in the coming weeks.

It's well-documented that the holiday season is hard on sick and depressed people.

Sometimes the very ill are hanging on just so they can see their relatives at one last Christmas. And once their goal is realized, they give in and pass away. For others, of course, the stress of shopping and trying to meet the huge expectations of the season is more than their systems can bear, and they succumb to sickness or heart attacks.

And practially every day in December is a cruel reminder to those without homes and friends and family just how alone they really are. The subtext of every holiday display and TV Christmas special is that if you don't have a family, don't have money for presents or anyone to give them to, then you have no place in our society. So it's no wonder that Christmas cheer drives so many lonely, sad folks to hit the bottle or pull the trigger.

So how does the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings fit into all this?

I had a friend who went through a very bad bout of depression this past year. He, like me, is a huge movie geek. He was suicidal, and had a laundry list of very serious and legitimate problems.

"Why should I keep living?" he demanded. "What do I have to live for?"

Oh God. What to say to him that wouldn't be trite, a facile hang-in-there-buddy platitude, or just downright silly? What to say?

"Return of the King comes out in eleven months," I replied; it was the first thing that popped into my head. "You want to see that, don't you? I mean, it's gonna rock like no movie has rocked before."

To my suprise, he agreed. And in the past 11 months, his depression has lifted and his life has improved dramatically. He has about a dozen other things to look forward to besides Peter Jackson's latest.

But I know good and well there are geeks out there who haven't found jobs, who are still broke and sick and sad and whose depression hangs like the clouds over Mordor.

And I wonder, what will they do when the only thing keeping their spirits up was seeing the conclusion of the trilogy?