How do you move on after such a massive disturbance in the force?

i have no fucking idea.  But i can tell you some of the things i’ve found myself doing over the past few days…

Therapeutic Vandalism:  Dropping a bottle opener into the casket at the visitation. Because he was never very good at removing the twist-off caps…

Blasphemy:  As a militant atheist, he would have been unhappy about the full Catholic mass funeral.  But it wasn’t for our benefit, and certainly wasn’t for his, so we sat in the back and tried to contain the snark as best we could.  i made quiet hissing noises as the priest splashed drops of holy water on the box at the front of the church.  When the priest said “He loved animals…” Studley muttered “… but he was acquitted!” under his breath.  Mouthing the words to the “Gilligan’s Island Theme Song” as the congregation sang “Amazing Grace”.  There were no lightning bolts.  THAT was amazing.

Bipolarity:  Smiling and crying simultaneously while seeing old photos of my dead friend.  Pictures of him as a young boy shown at the memorial service.  Pictures of him as a graduate engineering student.  A goatee?  Facial hair?  Really?  Whoa…

Doing puzzles:  Not the cardboard variety, but fact puzzles.  Locating bits of information. Sorting out what is true, versus speculation.  Without stepping on the grief of others, this is a delicate operation – and patience is required.  For each nugget of truth unraveled, we answer one question, but uncover five more questions.  This is a losing proposition, but we can’t help it.  Why, why, WHY the fuck did he do this?

“Eastwooding”*:  i had a rather extensive conversation with an empty chair on my deck yesterday afternoon.  Called that chair a Dumbass.  Asked that chair “why?” and “how did we miss the depth of your despair?”  Eventually told that chair i was really sorry he’d suffered so much.  The chair remained defiantly silent.  i decided i should go inside.  Put some clothes on, too…

OCD-Zombie:  Spent today excavating The Girl’s bedroom**, to make it habitable for The Boy when he returns between work assignments on the road.  “Clear the shelves on the bookcase in the theater room.  Haul the books from the bedroom to the theater room.  Arrange books on shelves, tallest to shortest.  Repeat.  Stare at dog.  Start a load of laundry.  Move more books.  Haul trash to dumpster.  Return to laundry room to put detergent into washing machine, after cycle is nearly complete.  Stare at cat…”

Get out:  Studley and i both needed to get out yesterday.  Went to a local Reggae festival.  Danced half-heartedly.  Mostly hung on each other.  Got rained on.  Barely noticed.

Use your passport:  Preparing for a vacation with my best friend, dive buddy and lover***.  Remote island in the Caribbean.  Diving.  Reef sharks, rays, technicolor fish.  Private beach.  Drinking ourselves into a benign, mind-numbed stupor. And crawl inside our heads a little bit…

* In case you missed it, Clint Eastwood was the surprise speaker at the Republican National Convention last week.  An improvised monologue with an empty chair – an implied conversation with the President.  Link to the video is here if you need help staying awake at night… This is some creepy shit.

** Nothing depressing about THAT, is there?  She was in town for three weeks before returning to her home in Turkey.  Loved having her with me, and miss her now that she’s gone.  Won’t see her again until… our next Skype date.

*** No.  Only one person – not three different people.  Although that would be a helluva vacation, wouldn’t it?

There Are No Answers – Again…

Well… i guess i’m not quite done with this blog thing quite yet. Seems i still have a few things i need to say. And tonight’s message?

Don’t kill yourself, ok? Seriously. Don’t do this.

This is like walking out during the first five minutes of a shit movie. You know it won’t last. There’s always the slightest glimmer of hope that it might get better.  Or at least you’ll be able to entertain your friends by telling them about the shittiest movie you’ve ever seen….

There are no answers when a young man decides to check out.  Whether he’s 16 or 37.  The common thread, at least from my point of view on this particular night, is the herd of numb, bewildered and heartbroken humans… Shocked.  Angry.  Confused.  Comforting each other as best they can…

Scotch and kleenex.

i am an extrovert, and have an extensive collection of friends and acquaintances.  i never meet a stranger.  Truth is, i have very few close friends.  Last week, i would have put that number at seven.

Today?  Six.


There are no answers

At the funeral this morning, i was doing a decent job of keeping my shit together.  Until i saw the group of about five young men – wearing ill-fitting suits, or dark shirts and wrinkled ties with their nicest blue jeans. 

They were standing in the back of the church, waiting to offer condolences to the family… and one of them was sobbing uncontrollably, as another held him tight, and rocked him gently.  A third went for kleenex, as they comforted the weeping boy.

Processing the death of a 16 year-old is never easy.  When the cause is suicide, that challenge is multiplied a thousand fold.

About eight years ago, i was on a business trip with JB when he got the call that his father had committed suicide.  This week, the call came when he was in a meeting on Wednesday morning.  This time?  His oldest son. 

Happened in the middle of the night.  Discovered in the morning by the 13 year-old brother.  Nothing could be done. 

When hearing such news about a friend, first you recoil at the depth of pain and shock for the family.  There is no way to conceive of such pain.  Then you extrapolate, and the haunting thoughts creep in from the sides – trying to imagine the pain, you wonder what it would feel like to get such a phone call… and you shudder, and try to push the thoughts away, but you can’t.

JB has very few close friends, and since he’s relatively new to the group, not many people in our organization know him.  He and i worked together closely for about 20 years, but have been on different projects for the last few.  After his father’s death, he leaned on me as his work confidant as he navigated his grief gauntlet.  

The three of us who do know him fairly well converged at work on Thursday morning to compare notes and strategize…

What do you say?  What do you do?  How can you help? 

There are no words.  There are no solutions.  There are only hugs, tears, and thoughtful gestures. 

The visitation was yesterday.  Two hours of an endless stream of family and friends.  People who had known the parents since high school stopped by to offer condolences.  Work colleagues.  Neighbors.  Students who knew him.  Students who didn’t, but wanted to comfort the family.

One young man, with his father, both wearing their best suits, approached JB toward the end of the afternoon.  The young man spoke awkwardly to JB, stuttering slightly as he said “I went to pre-school with your son.  Because I was different, people made fun of me.  Your son was the first person to be nice to me.”  As JB thanked him for coming, and shook his hand, the young man’s father leaned into me and said “Lucas has Tourette’s…”

Since most of JB’s work is on the road, many of the people he’s closest to are from out-of-town – and several came to town for the visitation yesterday.  At the end of calling hours, there were four of us left when all of the family and friends had gone.  i found myself in the back of the funeral home lounge with JB and two close colleagues who’d flown in for the day.

Asking about their return flight, JB said “I think we’ve got time for a drink.  I’ve got some of that amazing hooch my cousin makes at the house.  Want to hit the bar?” 

And so the three of us sat at the bar JB built with his own hands, drinking apple moonshine.  JB stood behind the bar and read the suicide note his son had left on his laptop.  A highly intelligent and articulate young man, he was not confused about his decision.  Acknowledging what felt like faulty wiring in his emotional circuits, he apologized to his family, and held them blameless. 

So we drank a toast.  JB said “God Bless KB.”  Taking perhaps a bit of comfort in friends, apple moonshine, and the thought that his son was in a better place.

Today, as i left the church and saw those young men grieving and comforting each other over the death of their friend, i wanted to hug them tightly… and tell them that the sun will still rise tomorrow, that they will laugh and smile again, and they will never forget their friend but will go on with their lives.

But they were doing a pretty good job looking out for each other.  Sucks that they have to learn to do it so soon.