I heard the news today, oh boy…

It was the last thing I expected to hear on an ice cold Friday morning. Last time I saw you, you had a smile on your face, happy to be out of a job that you hated and in a new one that at least kept you busy. Aside from a random text now and then, we’ve hardly spoken for a year. Sad, I guess, that we didn’t stay in touch.

No one ever knows what to say in these situations. We all retreat within ourselves, standing in a circle, eyes fixated on our feet. It’s a fickle human trait — grieving. We all deal with it in our own way. Rivers of tears, anger, confusion, frustration, rage, sadness, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. For the most part, I think that’s what it turns into for nearly everyone. “Etcetera”. It has to, doesn’t it? If we linger on the number of people that we’ve known who have passed, we’ll never get over it. Add to that number the friends and family lost by those you hold dear and it becomes overwhelming. By the time I’m done counting them on one hand I’m already starting to tear up. We’re born, we live, and we die.

Death is a cycle that none of us can escape. It’s the way we go out that makes it hard. Too early, too old, too tragic, so unexpected. These days, when someone goes peacefully, it’s almost surprising. The way we see our friends leave us is the root cause of our grief. Especially in circumstances where death is the only release from a lifetime of suffering. And still, we are selfish for our losses.

We all know the drill at this point, there’s no reason to ask the who? what? why? and when? Ultimately we understand none of those things matter. What matters is that you were a part of our lives and you made a difference. Some of us you’ve known your entire life. Others only for a short time. And still there are those you may have passed in the grocery store, or on the sidewalk, who may not have known your name, but felt your presence nonetheless. I can only speak to the impact you had on me. I cannot speak for others, but I would guess their experiences were similar.

The jokes, the pranks, the YouTube videos…it’s funny how depression can be masked by an overcompensating sense of humor. The positive side of that is it is how most of us will remember you. And I think that’s the way you’d prefer it.

Still, it makes my stomach turn. I’ve been fighting the tears ever since I heard the news. Oh boy… Your death is personal for me. Not because I feel responsible for it, or that I feel like I could have done something differently. It’s because I’ve been in that black pit. I’ve sat in the darkness and spoken to the same demons. I’ve crawled around in the dark, looking for a hint of light. Overwhelmed not just by the fear of being stuck there, but also by the possibility of not being able to find the light at all. I cry this morning because I’m sad for you. I cry because I know exactly what was going through your mind when you finally decided to press the red button. Those spinning thoughts are my greatest fear.

I am selfishly sitting here, thanking my lucky stars that I climbed out of that pit. I’m relieved that I was able to spare my family the grief of not knowing, of second guessing. I spared them the horrific process of thinking for the rest of their lives that they could have done something to prevent my death. I’m grateful that I was able to find the strength inside myself to want to overcome it. I know your girls were your entire world, so I know that if you couldn’t climb out for their sake, you were too far gone anyway. There was nothing anyone could have done to bring you back, but they’ll never understand that.

My grieving is for you, and me, and everyone else that has or is dealing with depression. It’s the greatest war of our time. This lack of purpose is choking us all to death. Rather than mourn you, I’m choosing to keep you in my memory as a reminder that I will continue, everyday, to fight against that impulse. In your death I’ve sharpened my sword and hardened my shield. I find strength to keep going. I promise not to suffer defeat in the jaws of the jabberwocky.