But that’s not what happened. My friend woke up, got dressed, walked into his bedroom closet, and shot himself. Everything people say about losing someone to suicide is true. There’s no end to the “should have’s” and “if only’s.”
On Monday, I texted him, called him, and checked in at his office. (Oh, he called in sick this morning. Can someone else help you?) I felt uneasy. He’d told me at lunch last week that he wanted to die. (Really?) (No, but I feel nearly as bad as I felt when I first got sober. Why would God make me go through this?)
I met him about a hundred years ago and worked for him for 7 years before the company he and his partner owned went belly up. The 4 months of shutting down were concurrent with his first 4 months of sobriety. We had mini-AA meetings, said the Serenity Prayer together, and took care of the legal business of closing the company. Daily, he remarked how God was giving him the strength to keep going, how he couldn’t believe the miracle of walking through this trouble and staying sober.
I moved on to another job and my friend went home for a few months. He started back to work for a small construction company just before Christmas that year. (I can’t believe I’m working for someone else. I thought I’d always be the company owner.)
It took awhile to adjust, but he did, bringing his calm and steady ways into the new job. I was a little jealous of his new staff. My friend was such an easy boss, conscientious about making sure that everything went out correctly but never micro-managing or critical. After a few years, though, the company began to struggle. Bills were late paid, creditors filed liens, co-workers left to take other jobs. (I can’t go through this again.)“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.” Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story
After my 4th or 5th call, I went to my friend’s house. I saw his truck parked in the driveway, the garage door open. I knocked, rang the doorbell, and called, letting the phone ring until it rolled over to voice mail. I tried the doors. Locked. I roused his dogs but not him. (Fine. I will leave you alone if that’s what you want. Call when you want company.)
An hour later, I got the call that he’d been found dead.
I cannot reconcile the thought of his goofy smile and gentle ways with the black desolation that poisoned his thoughts and brought him to the place where ending his life was better than going on. I am sad for all of us who couldn’t somehow snatch his life from the edge. There’s a chasm in our lives that was occupied by him. Our love wasn’t enough to shield him from his anguish.Grieving, like being blind, is a strange business; you have to learn how to do it. We seek company in mourning, but after the early bursts of tears, after the praises have been spoken, and the good days remembered, and the lament cried, and the grave closed, there is no company in grief. It is a burden borne alone.” Ursula K. LeGuin, Gifts