I just got the news that my friend Chuck committed suicide. This is a truly tragic loss. I am in shock and grieving.
Part of the grieving process is feeling guilty. I knew he was going through a difficult time, but I wasn't as available as I should have been and wanted to be. I spoke to him a couple months ago, and meant to stay in touch. I thought of him several times the past few weeks, and intended to call, but I didn't call. Why didn't I call? I let my own worries and life distractions prevent me from calling. I wish I had called. It might have prevented it, it might not have, but at least he would have known, in his last moments, that I cared about him.
Part of the grieving process is anger. But it's mostly anger at the systems and the people who tormented him and drove him to take this final action. His wife for being really nasty in the divorce process and alienating him from his kids, who were his life's joy. The legal system that makes divorce 100 times harder than it should be and allows people to torment other people. Our fake, materialistic culture that punishes creative and moral souls while rewarding those who are shallow and egotistical. Our mental health system for over-relying on drugs and profit while neglecting the human and compassionate approaches to treatment. The American economy that doesn't look out for the weak or for people down on their luck. The American Evangelical Christian culture of judgmentalism and brainwashing, creating presumed insiders and outsiders to God's love. (I shudder to think what those horrible, evil church people are telling his beautiful children. "Because your daddy didn't accept Jesus in his heart, he is now burning in hell!" Those idiotic, narrow-minded, nasty, brainwashed people! They have absolutely zero concept of true spirituality or the nature of God!) I know Chuck made a choice, and the ultimate responsibility is on him. I'm sure he regrets it now. But I'm not angry at him. He had a terrible moment of weakness. I'm angry at everything that drove him to feeling that he couldn't cope anymore.
I'm also a wee bit jealous, to be honest. His suffering and struggles are over. He can find peace now. I know it's terrible to say it, because this means his adorable children will suffer horrifically from losing him. There's nothing that will make that easier or better or right. But as far as Chuck is concerned, he is in a better place. He doesn't have to struggle to find money, to find shelter, to shush the voices tormenting his mind, to worry about the legal strategies for getting to see his kids again, to worry about pleasing a boss or clients, or worry about anything else.
I can't afford to travel to Chicago to attend his funeral, and I'm feeling helpless to do anything to alleviate the situation. I don't know his family or most of his friends to be able to commiserate. Chuck and I met through the online Atheism for Lent course, and have been good, distant, online friends ever since, but our daily-life circles didn't cross. I don't have money to contribute to the gofundme account for his children. I can't do anything.
I can't do anything, but I can honor the person he was, at least in my own small way.
I knew him as a truly good man. He was a devoted and caring father, and a survivor who overcame horrors most of us would be decimated by. Despite all the difficulties in his life, his intelligence, creativity, wit, and profound morality shone through. He was wise and self-aware. He had not only a deep mental intelligence, but keen emotional intelligence as well. He was not afraid to express his feelings, which is a rare trait for a man in today's world.
Physically, he was gentle and unimposing in appearance. But mentally he was formidable. His knowledge on a host of subjects was vast, and his ability to navigate complicated philosophical subjects with deft ease was simply amazing. I looked up to his intelligence, and greatly admired his ability to express it. And yet, unlike many whose intelligence is far to the right on the bell curve, he was compassionate and never arrogant. He would put you in your place if you needed it, but he never did so just to feel superior or to boost his ego. He cared about truth and beauty and morality and experience, and was never shallow enough to play any kind of ego games.
Chuck also had great insight into the human psyche. He was a playwright, and his plays he gave me the honor of reading explored tapestries of emotions without ever approaching either melodrama or kitsch. He practiced meditation and non-judgmental, body-based emotional processing, and was not afraid to share his feelings openly with his friends.
The world is truly a worse-off place without Chuck to brighten it. I miss him, and wish I could have at least said good-bye.