Funeral for a friend

I got word today that a guy I used to work with killed himself yesterday. Lasse was apparently distressed by his lack of success in life. He was artistic, engaging, thoughtful, smart, hard-working, and liked by everyone I know who knew him. But that’s not enough. The word enough has passed from our lexicon.

This hit me in a place that I didn’t know I had inside me, and it has sparked something that I don’t have a name for. That he died – well, I’ve known people who died. But I haven’t known anyone who died by their own hand. And I have no place to put it, no tools for dealing with it, no nothing but this goddamned helpless flailing of the hands and this fight to hold in the scream that I’m only barely winning. I never knew what “wrong” was until now.

I will have my say. I will find the shape of this thing and give it a place to scream. Not tonight, but eventually.

But before I go to bed, this: Lasse – in the five stories between window and street I pray you felt a moment of peace, and wherever you are right now, I hope there is a place for people gifted with your kind of success. There is too much of what you lacked and too little of what you were…

…it’s a lonesome thing to be passing small towns with the
lights shining sideways when the night is down, or going in
strange places with a dog nosing before you and a dog nosing
behind, or drawn to the cities where you’d hear a voice
kissing and talking deep love in every shadow of the ditch,
and you passing on with an empty, hungry stomach failing
from your heart.

– John Millington Synge

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10 thoughts on “Funeral for a friend

  1. From One Who’s “Been There; Almost Did That”
    I got word today that a guy I used to work with killed himself yesterday. Lasse was apparently distressed by his lack of success in life. He was artistic, engaging, thoughtful, smart, hard-working, and liked by everyone I know who knew him. But that’s not enough. The word enough has passed from our lexicon.
    It … it may be more than that. Speaking firsthand here, Sam: mood disorders don’t always show themselves. Even when they do, it’s seldom apparent that they are a form of mental illness. It’s too easy to misread the signs of a mood disorder as “part of ‘s personality”.
    That’s what makes them so damned incipid.
    I was certainly in the same position as Lasse. Like, the year or two before you & I were roommates. Nobody who knew me before hospitalization would’ve suspected there was anything wrong. Not even me. Before treatment, the word, “enough” didn’t exist for me. No matter what I did, what I accomplished, what heights I reached, the illness never let me see it. Or, more to the point: never let me feel accomplishment. Or joy. Or fulfillment.
    Perhaps, then, Lasse didn’t “die by his own hand,” but lost his battle with a chronic illness. If putting it in those terms helps you, my friend, run with it.
    Regardless, we are all diminished by his loss. 😦

  2. Sam, I’m really sorry to hear about this. I know what it’s like to lose someone you know to suicide. It’s mystifying, angering, frightening, horrifying, depressing, all at the same time. You feel like you’ve been sucker-punched, and you wonder if there’s anything you could have done to help this person.
    And the answer, I hate to tell you, is no. Someone determined to kill themselves will do it regardless of your attempts to help them. The best you can do is offer a willing ear if the person wants to speak to you, but you can’t force the person to seek help. I learned this from a former co-worker, a part-time minister who had served for many years as a jailhouse suicide counselor — he was a valuable and comforting presence as I dealt with a friend who had tried to kill herself three times. Fortunately, my friend eventually found the right inpatient treatment program and combination of medications.
    Again, I am really, really sorry to hear about your friend. But please don’t beat yourself up for not being able to handle a situation entirely out of your control. Concentrate on being there for Lasse’s friends and family instead.
    –debby

  3. It’s not so much about blaming myself or anybody else. The thing is that we weren’t that close – he worked with me for awhile after I moved back to CO, and then he moved back to Sweden where my contact was the occasional e-mail. And not even that lately.
    It’s something else. I’m trying to get my head around it. I don’t know – I’ve been writing since last night, and maybe that will help me…..
    Thanks, though.

  4. Re: From One Who’s “Been There; Almost Did That”
    No, I don’t suppose it would.
    Sounds almost as if this as touched off a nerve in addition to the loss of a friend to suicide. Like hitting a string on a guitar, but having a different, untouched string resonate.

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