Friday, November 07, 2008

What you are left with. And just so you know - this one is heavy.

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.


  1. I'm very, very sorry. I can't imagine how hard this was to write. On so many levels. Give Nick my heartfelt condolences. I'm so, so sorry.

  2. I'm so sorry. Tragedies like that are just so hard to understand. I suppose the only glimmer of any kind of a silver lining is that we should all be reminded of how precious life is... Carpe Diem.

  3. Sorry to hear about this.

  4. So sad. With suicide, the not knowing bit is the worst part. The survivors are left to carry the very same weight that may have contributed to their loved one's early exit. It may be over for them, but it just begins for those who are left behind.

  5. A friend's suicide has touched many of our lives, and you're right it is seemingly so abrupt. I am so sorry.

  6. That's so sad, sorry you both had to go through with that.

    I apologize in advance for this comment: but I'm surprise that being in DC he didn't wait until after the election results, because, really, wouldn't you just want to know first who wins, just out of curiosity?

    I have been reading your blog for a while now, so I know how really close to home that is for you.

    I always have heard people saying how it takes courage to kill yourself, but I have always thought the opposite: it takes courage to live your life, is the weak that take the easy way out.


  7. Stacy - I'm sorry, too.

    Jordaan - Thank you, my friend. I will definitely pass them on to Nick.

    LiLu - Yes, very hard to understand. It is definitely a reminder that life is short and you just never know.

    Arjewtino - Thank you.

    FreckledK - You are exactly right. And it's a big weight with a lot of wondering and guilt attached.

    Maiden Metallurgist - I know it's not usually abrupt - it's been thought about for a while. But it's abrupt on the outside. I am sorry about your friend. It touches so many people, and yet so few people talk about it.

    Beach Bum - This was actually last week - I didn't make that clear. But even so, I think you get into a space where it's about finding relief, or getting out, and not about what's actually going on in the world. Maybe, even this week, he wouldn't have felt like he could hold on for one more day. I don't even know if it's courage or weakness that I think about. I think you get to a place where it seems like a very reasonable option, honestly. Not good or bad, just one of your options, and the best one in front of you. It's a state where rationality, where taking your friends and family into consideration, no longer have a place.

  8. As the older sister of a suicide, this hits REALLY close to home. My little brother didn't make it through his Senior year. In retrospect, there were signs that should have been noticed, acted on, but they weren't taken seriously. There was also the issue of easily-accessible guns, which makes things easier.
    I cry because I didn't see his pain, because, as much as he loved me, he couldn't talk to me, felt shut out somehow. And, yes, there is always "why?"

  9. I'm so sorry. For you and Nick and friends and family and the pup. Suicide has so many levels, emotions, so much unknown.

  10. I hate to think what a blow this is to the people who loved him and the people who knew him. What a terrible shame.

  11. What a punch in the gut. One of my best friends committed suicide two years ago today. She was engaged to be married to a great guy, and killed herself on his birthday. I go back and forth for being furious with her and sad for her. The impact on her family and fiance and friends will never go away.

    I'm so sorry for Nick and his coworkers, for the guy's family and friends. The hurt will never go away altogether.

  12. J - I am so very sorry and so sad for you and your family. In retrospect, I imagine there are always signs, but how do you know at the time, unless you know what you're looking for?

    HKW - Thank you. Yes, so many levels, so much unknown, exactly.

    DCup - I know - what a terrible blow for his loved ones. And he was young.

    Wendy - I'm so sorry to hear that. Sorry for all of you, and I cannot even imagine how he would recover from that.

    Slightly Disorganized - Yes, very.

  13. I'm so sorry for you and Nick and Nick's coworkers, and all the people inadvertently touched by this tragedy. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of suicides is that people can't see out of their problems to realize how many people care. There's nothing Nick or anyone else could have done, and I hope he and others move beyond guilt soon.

    I'm so sorry.

  14. So devastating.

    This post has reminded me, and I hope everyone else that reads it, that we are not as insular as we might like to think, and that to someone, friendship, no matter how brief, could save their life.

    But please, I hope you and Nick don't look back on what you could have done to change this very tragic fate. It sounds as if there was no indication, and that everyone was so blindsided. I wish he had gotten help.

    I'll be thinking of y'all.

  15. My partner and I just went through this same process a month ago. Her best friend overdosed, and, though I had only met her once or twice, I broke because I knew her so well, if only through my mate.
    It's incredibly difficult, but I assure you, like so many of your readers do, that there was absolutely NOTHING you could do. When someone really and truly makes up their mind to take that step, nothing will stop them.
    There was nothing ANY of you could do.

    And I promise you that while you will never be the same, one day, soon, you WILL be ok.

    You will be in my thoughts.

  16. That is so sad. No one can understand; he probably didn't even fully comprehend this tragedy.

  17. Sarah - I think this is true. I think you get into a place where all you want is out - and other people and their feelings take a very back seat.

    Jo - I always get teared up on PostSecret when someone writes in about someone they talked to or someone's action that actually kept them from their intended suicide attempt.

    arieljessup - Thank you. I'm so sorry about your partner's best friend. That is devastating for everyone involved..

    Brett - I think it's true that you never really know what's going on with someone else or really understand what they're dealing with and why things might get so extreme.

  18. It always pains me to read suicide stories because my ex committed suicide 5 years ago. And I was in the same position your husband and co-workers were in. The guilt I felt and the "could have I done something about it" wonderment? There are no answers, but all I know is whatever pain they were feeling, I hope that it’s gone. Whatever demons haunted them, they are now at peace. Yes, we're left holding all the questions, but it’s that hope that they are in a better place that makes me sleep better at night.


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