He was smart and adventurous, funny and kind. We worked together for over three years, during which time we grew as close as brother and sister. We had many thoughtful conversations about everything that popped into our heads. We leaned on each other when things were difficult, we laughed together during many good times.
He left the company we worked for, gave away most of his belongings and hopped on a plane to travel the world. How I envied his impulsiveness as he moved from country to country, and how I missed being able to see him nearly every day. When he came back the following summer, he took me out for Mexican food and talked animatedly about everything he had seen and done. For hours we sat outside on the deck in the evening sunshine, as he told me about his travels and adventures. Our friendship was as strong as ever, even though we didn’t see each other nearly so often. We still made a point of getting together, usually to watch a football game. No matter how long it had been since we’d seen each other, it would instantly feel as if we’d never been apart. He would wrap me in a warm hug and exclaim, “Sunshine! I’ve missed you!”, using his special nickname for me. And then we would laugh and catch up on whatever had been going on in our lives.
In November, we met up to watch a Seahawks game. He was in a cheerful mood. He ordered a huge cheeseburger as he told me stories about his new job in between football plays. When I hugged him goodbye I had no idea it would be the last time I would ever be able to do so. A couple of weeks later, on his birthday, I texted with him, wishing him a happy day. He seemed to be in good spirits.
The next thing I heard was about him, not from him. It was the first weekend in December and he was gone forever.
Losing a loved one to suicide is so much different than any other kind of loss. On top of the grief, there’s the ever-present struggle with not being able to understand why. Although knowing why he felt he could not go on would not change the outcome, I feel like it would give me some closure on things. I have to accept that there will be no understanding, that his reasons were his own and I will never know them. What I do know is that I thnk of him every day, and I miss him.
The day of his funeral was bright and sunny, bitterly cold. It’s brisk, my dad would always joke on a freezing cold morning like that one. The six of us that had worked with him sat neatly in a pew, joined by Bill, and surrounded by some people we knew and others we had never met. His mother and his best friend each spoke to all of us in the room, telling stories of his life and reading things he had written (he was a wonderful writer). After that a lengthy slideshow was played, all photos of him, of his life, with his usual big smile (and, in more recent photos, the various stages of his beard) on his face.
Since then, life has been a bit of a blur. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. I’ve broken down a few times and really cried, but for the most part I try to keep myself quiet and calm. I’m torn between desperately wanting to spend time with people I love, in case I never again have the chance, and at the same time desperately needing to be alone.
The happiest memories of him can bring tears to my eyes now that he’s gone. I was forever changed by knowing him and changed further by losing him.
My promise to myself is to try to live my life the way he lived his, seeking adventure and laughing hard and hugging people in such a warm and comfortable way that those hugs will be part of a legacy.