I did not know him. Nick liked him, so I liked him. You know how you can get invested in another person's friends or colleagues, just because of what you hear about them?
I didn't know him. And yet, that night, when I arrived at Nick's office and he gave me the news, I had to choke back tears. I could have bawled, if I'd let myself.
I understand myself well enough to realize that it would've been more general grief that I was letting out, and I'd be crying, not necessarily for him, but for something very hard, and very close to home. I get that.
Because what you are left with is, why?
He left the office sometime Monday afternoon. His last email, sent late in the day, gave no indication. He was in the middle of work projects. Everything sounded normal.
And then he didn't come to work for two days. They called and they emailed. And they heard nothing.
And so, after barraging him with messages, they sent an investigator, a friend of Nick's, to his house. They didn't want to invade his privacy. But they wanted to know if he was OK.
The apartment door was unlocked. The keys were sitting by the door. Paper had been placed on the floor for the dog, who was ecstatic to see someone. There was extra water and food in bowls on the floor.
The investigator was the one who found the note and his body. He had to wait for the police to arrive, and tell them all he knew, which wasn't much.
The police set his time of death at approximately 6 pm on Monday.
Once it was confirmed, one of Nick's partners called the guy's mother. She was, as you might imagine, hysterical beyond words. I was standing in the hallway behind Nick as his partner described the phone call, and I had huge tears running down my face.
Writing this makes me cry.
Losing Chuck last summer, I have fresh in my mind how unprepared we all are to let go of anyone for good, even when death has been tiptoeing back and forth past their recently opened door, peeking in every so often to cast a cold, consuming shadow.
But an illness like cancer is one thing. There's a goodbye process, a decline, and some eventual relief on behalf of the person. And something sudden, like a heart attack or an accident, even these, you can understand, you can eventually come to terms with.
Suicide, suicide is so abrupt. And it invariably feels like desertion, betrayal.
It imparts, on those left behind, a sense of failure. Somehow the living failed the one who couldn't bear to continue among us. You failed him. Even if you only knew him in a work setting. Even if you were not his confidante. Even if you couldn't have known.
Mid-day that Monday, the last day any of his colleagues saw him alive, he told Nick a story about his weekend. He'd had a great time visiting old college friends. He was tired from the travel.
How, Nick wondered aloud, how could he have had a great weekend, and then, Monday night, end his life?
I started wondering how far ahead he planned.
He clearly cared about his dog. If he'd planned days ahead, maybe he'd have invented an excuse for the dog to be at a friend's house, you know? You'd want to ensure your dog was in good hands. The police were going to take him to the pound but the investigator, who is a great person, took him until friends could be located.
So did he visit those college friends as a goodbye? Or did he decide, sometime after his last work email, that he simply couldn't bear to go on living?
He said he was tired on Monday. Was this a sign of something deeper Nick should have understood?
I understand this wondering. Was there a tone you should have picked up on? An action, no matter how subtle? What if you'd said the perfect thing that could have changed the outcome? What if you'd done one thing and not another? Whatifwhatifwhatif?
Nick and the others are left asking themselves and each other if they could have foreseen this, if they could have done anything differently. They feel guilty. Somehow, they failed.
And this was someone who had worked with them for under a year.
I can only imagine his parents. His family. His friends.