Just after school let out for the summer, I found myself sitting in my van. The light was red and the van idled. The sun was an eerie blaze ahead of me – one of those just before sunset glares. There I was, suddenly unhappy. I gripped the steering wheel and studied my wrists; And my mind conjured up this image of little droplets of deep red trickling down each. I shuddered, shaking off the morbid vision and mashing the gas as the light turned green.
That evening, I felt a bit out of sorts. Where’d that thought come from? Was I so burdened by stress of money issues? By stagnation of my career? Or, more likely, by the desolving structure of my childhood family? Truth, I’d recently realized just how human a man I trusted was. And disappointments in his actions, his continuing lies, and his blatant rejection were fresh injuries to my spirit. But I shouldn’t have been thinking about slit wrists and endings.
I scrolled through my newsfeed. Facebook nonsense, as usual, was mundane and trivial. And then I saw a link to a newspaper article. My graduate school classmate turned friend turned colleague had been found dead. The report said she’d committed suicide. I let out a cry and tried to stifle my quickly intensifying sobs.
She’d been a distant friend – or acquaintance, even – as our families had increased and our jobs evolved. Nevertheless, every time we saw on some another, we’d take a few seconds to smile, compliment, promise to meet for longer. I had a standing invitation for her fantastic Austrian coffee and easy, welcome conversation. Then rumors began. Then assumed truths, accusations. There were articles, evening news reports, and speculation. Somewhere in the madness I faltered. I didn’t call to offer comfort, didn’t email a quick “you’re in my prayers.” Privately I worried about the woman I’d known and publicly I spoke concern for her young children, the elder of which who had so happily played with mine. I wondered, no, I still wonder what actually happened.
I’ve thought a lot about that awful moment in my van. About my children without me. They’re resilient, they’d move on. They would enjoy productive, happy lives. Someone else would take my place at their important events, would console them in sadness and disappointments, would cheer them on in daily tries and triumphs. I’d be a memory. It wouldn’t be enough for me.
On Monday, I celebrated my 35th birthday. I embraced getting older. I reflected on changes I’d like to make. I evaluated my goals, determined which to tweak and which to let go.
And I resolved to live, even as reports about Robin Williams taking his own life began to take over the day.