Sunday, March 14, 2010


I reconnected with an old friend who I haven’t seen in years.  He struggles with depression.  When I told him about my brother, this is what he said:  “Forgive me, but when I hear about someone killing his or her self, all I can think is...peace. You can be angry, sad, frustrated, etc. And it is certainly understandable. But that person is now at peace.”

Peace is something Mike wanted, something he believed he could never have so long as he was alive.  Who knows, he might have been right about that.  I’m not sure if he was ever at peace in his 37 years on this earth.  He said he wanted “a place where there was no self, only calm.”

My guess is that Mike, my brother, the guy who loved to fish and build computers, the guy who deep-fried turkey and barbecued ribs, the guy who cared for the elderly and the homeless, the guy with an eye for photography – that guy is gone, and lives on only in our memories.  Also gone is the guy who worried incessantly, the guy who suffered and was in pain.  His talents and his worries, his beauty and his pain – all gone.

I know that his body is gone.  His body was reduced to heavy ashes, now being stored in a funeral home in West Virginia in a black and gold box, which will be interned in a cemetery on March 30.

Then there’s the question of his soul, his spirit.  It’s the part detached from the body.  It’s the part detached from the mind, and from the troubles and joys of human existence.  It seems that this detachment from body and mind must bring peace, because it’s the body and the mind that keep us from peace.  But what is this peace?  Is it heaven?  Is it nothingness?

It’s clearly not a question I can answer until I meet my own end.  So the idea that Mike is now at peace does not bring me much peace.  

I have been thinking of Mike’s suicide as something that happened to me, something that keeps happening to me.  Perhaps that’s the inherent selfishness of grief.  This tragedy happened to Mike a long time ago, and kept happening over and over until the end.  He found peace, or at least tried to find peace, the only way he thought he could.  Now the tragedy lives on in us, in this black hole of sadness.  I would give anything to go back in time to try to shoulder some of that pain for him, to help him find another road to peace.

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