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A Suicide

Someone I know committed suicide this week. When I got the news on Wednesday, I felt surprised but not surprised. “Oh, my!” I thought, and within a few minutes, “Oh, well.”

Even though I knew him for nine years and had coffee with him pretty much every week,  I’m reluctant to call him a friend. He was friendly to me, and when we teased, we aimed past each other in sarcastic harmony. He revealed incredibly personal details through stories that seemed a muddled combination of truth, fiction, and cries for help. All of us in the kaffeeklatch understood he was not seriously inviting us to advise him, although sometimes we tried anyway.

Before falling asleep Wednesday night, I started thinking about how he had planned his suicide. At some point, he decided to do it. Maybe he had decided by the time I saw him last Saturday and already knew that my casual “See you next week” would not end up being true.

He had to acquire rope. Did he have some in his garage, or did he have to buy it? How did he know how much to use and otherwise set up his ad hoc gallows? Of course, he could have looked all this up online, or maybe if you want desperately enough to kill yourself, the logistics come to you easily.

His family will hold a private memorial. With no public way to pay respects, those of us who were definitely not family and not exactly friends sat around today at our weekly gathering, considering why he did it. His exact reasons elude us, but we’ve come up with possibilities based on his tales: unrequited love, drugs, HIV status, debt, shame. Years of comments about killing himself had numbed us to the likelihood that his problems were so serious that he would harm himself. We assumed he was venting. Even in hindsight, which usually provides so much clarity, it’s hard to find a sign or pattern of signs that could have helped us change anything.

I’ve been on the verge of suicide a few times in my life, but didn’t or couldn’t commit. With survival comes time. If you’re lucky, time brings opportunities to figure things out and thrive, and somehow you realize that the opportunities are, indeed, opportunities, and you have the right balance of nerve and support to take advantage of them, and the choices you make lead you someplace where you can stay alive some more.

If you’re not lucky, then I suppose the commitment seems worth making, and perhaps it’s your only choice. Maybe at that point you feel lucky not to have to choose anymore.

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