I got a call yesterday. I can’t stop feeling the shockwaves from the news that was delivered by the somber caller. “John* passed away on Wednesday.” My response, “Oh my God! What happened?” In an instant it flashed before me…he died of a stroke, he was a heavy smoker. He had a heart attack; again…heavy smoker. The answer was more shocking that the original statement, “Lisa, he took his own life.” It was like a record scratched in the background. As if time stopped for a moment. I feel like it hasn’t restarted yet.
In an effort to process the news, I spoke to friends who knew him too. None of us could comprehend how someone who seemed so self-assured could do something self-injurious. Maybe he was in debt, maybe he had cancer. Then, just a short time ago, another friend who knew him called to tell me that she knew how he had done it. In my head I had pictured a gun. He was a man’s man. A rugged guy, I had just imagined him with a gun and a bottle of booze. She told me, “He cut his wrists.” I now envision him alone on a Wednesday night (why Wednesday??) finally so overcome with desperation over whatever it was (she heard he was in debt), that he slipped into a warm bath and ended his life.
I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of sadness for him. For his family too. He was a larger than life guy with a strong personality. We had some heated arguments over the time we knew each other. I never could have guessed that he would be the kind of person who could be so desperate. His outward appearance was that of someone completely sure of himself, no sense of self-doubt; simply unflappable. If his armor could develop a chink like this, it seems like it could happen to anyone. He was a business man, and business may not be good right now. There are probably people all over the country, the world even, who are in similar dire straits. It’s like the stock market crash of 1929, only it isn’t traders throwing themselves from windows onto Wall St., it’s a guy on “Main St” who just couldn’t take it anymore.
I am trying desperately to process this event. To have it make sense. To find something in it that my brain can tolerate. It’s not there. I am enveloped by a sense of sadness that won’t seem to ebb. I feel sad for his family, but most of all I feel sad for a man who seemed so strong, but in the end felt alone, desperate and out of control enough to end his life.
*name has been changed to protect identity