September is Suicide Awareness Month. Continue to shine a light on the lives of those lost, and on mental health. In tribute to my friend, I publish this post yearly.
There are certain days in our lives that we will never forget. Where we were, what we were doing, who we were with. Nearly two years ago, I had one of those days. That was the day I lost my friend to suicide.
The day was like any other. I dropped my son off at daycare, went to work, and later headed to the gym. After about 15 minutes on the treadmill, I got a call from mom. When I played her message, she said, “Call me back. Right away.” We had been on the phone just minutes before while I was still in the car. Our chat was interrupted by heavy knocking on her door. It was steady. Urgent. Something was definitely wrong. She told me that it was your dad and she would call me back. It was then that I knew death had arrived. And I knew for whom.
My fear and worry would not allow me to wait for her call back. The first time I tried her, I got her voice mail. Another sign that something was wrong. I called right back. This time she answered.
“John’s dead. He’s gone. I’ll call you back.”
Everything around me suddenly went mute. I don’t know how, but my legs continued their paced strides. I stared blankly at the T.V. posted on top of the treadmill as I tried to process what I just heard. There had been talk that you were in a bad way since the year started. A new girl you really liked, had recently called it quits. It was suspected that during that last week, alcohol, and maybe even drugs, consumed your days and nights. Mom said that she would look out of the window and see your garage door up as usual. But for some days, things had been quiet. Too quiet.
My phone buzzed.
I reduced my speed from 5.0 to 2.5. Everything was moving so fast. But I had to keep walking. Didn’t know if my legs would hold me up if I tried to stop and get off.
“What happened?” I asked just above a whisper so that the joggers on either side of me could not hear.
“He committed suicide. I called 911 for his dad. His father is hysterical. I went over to the house with him. John is sitting on the floor. Tied something around his neck.”
“Oh my God,” I mumbled into the phone. “Was he dressed?” not knowing exactly why I asked that question.
“Sunglasses, cap, shirt, and camo shorts. He had one leg folded to his chest and the other outstretched.”
My mother’s other line rang again. The hallmark of sudden tragedy. Continuous interruption and frenzy.
I always thought that drugs or alcohol could take you away from us too soon. Never did I think that you would intentionally remove yourself from this life–from all of us. You made fleeting comments to certain people usually at drunken times, but no one thought that you would ever really do it. We all dismissed it as the deceptive voice of depression influenced by alcohol. It would pass. It always passed.
Although I ask myself why, the reasons no longer matter. As you so simply stated in your farewell note, you could no longer take the pain. You wrote you were sorry for the pain you knew this would cause.
We woefully accepted your apology, so devastated that you left us like this.
I miss you. Very much.
I miss your super corny jokes. Your annoying cop siren ringtone. Your “how you doin’s?” in your Wendy Williams voice. Your big blue eyes that you one day confessed that I, too, could buy from Walmart. I miss seeing you drive your lawn mower from yard to yard doing your day’s work–skin tanned from the scorching hot sun, sleeveless tee, tatted arms, and flip-flops. I miss those same camo shorts, sunglasses, and cap that you clad yourself in on the day you left.
You blew it off, but I knew that deep down you longed to be a dad to your daughter in the truest sense of the word. Court ordered payments were not enough. You wanted time, a relationship with your girl. And perhaps more than anything, you wanted a special love of your own. But its illusiveness left you perpetually alone. You shrugged your shoulders and said love didn’t matter when it really mattered more than any of us could have ever known.
When I last saw you that August, you showed me how to drive your lawn mower. You snapped pics of me with my baby boy on my lap as we zipped around on the lawn that you were working on. I deleted those pictures annoyed at how fat I looked. If only I had not been so vain.
But, thankfully, I still have the one of you flying that stupid kite on the night we went to touch up my tattoo. You were in such a good mood. I took pictures and recorded you running down the quiet streets of “your hood.” You struggled to keep the kite up in the air. We were like the kids we were when we first met decades ago. How you were that night–laughing, being silly, cursing the kite, running top speed, and so full of life is how I will remember you.
Tattoos were our thing. You were with me when I got the one in memory of my baby girl. You were with me when I covered the faded inked remnants of my marriage. We strolled into tattoo shops and each time, you proudly announced that your sis wanted to get a tattoo done.
In our hearts, we were brother and sister.
As the needle buzzed back and forth over my skin, you were the one to stand in front of me chatting and making me laugh. You were my distraction from the pain. Thank you for lending the hand that I squeezed to get through the stinging pain. If only you knew that there were any number of outstretched hands that you could have squeezed to get through yours.
If only you knew.
Rest now my friend and be at peace.