I had a friend of mine (Alex) from school commit suicide a couple of years ago. I received the news from Alex’s ex-wife , Laurie, whom I had been friends with when Alex and I were in school (’96-’98). I was shocked and stunned when I heard the news. Laurie explained how Alex had done it, when and where he would be buried and promptly hung up so she could continue her list of people she needed to tell. All the while being emotionless as we spoke.
I wondered if this really impacted her at all or if she was really that cold. I mean I knew they were no longer a couple but they had spent a good deal of their life together up until recently. Once I had thought about it I could tell how Laurie was talking and realized it was not her that was being unemotional but rather I was deadened to all but the words she was saying.
I was numb for several days after I heard the news and even began to wonder if I was immune to feeling something about my old friend whose life had become too much for him to be bear.
After a few more days I was able to start to process what really HAD happened. That my friend was gone and never coming back. I thought back to the last conversation I had with Alex several months earlier and how I greeted him when he called – “Scoundrel.” More specifically “Hey there Scoundrel.” You see Alex was always thinking more with his Johnsonville Braut than with his brains. It landed him into some crazy situations, most of them pretty harmless. But not always. Thinking how I greeting him and how maybe he was looking for some help I broke down and began to cry. I honestly felt I had pushed him away when maybe all he was doing was trying reach out to me.
I remembered the way Alex called me Kraft because he said I was the cheesy-est. I remember helping him pave part of his driveway. I remember going to Fat Daves in Vancouver Washington staying up all night drinking coffee and talking the night away. But I remember most the story of how I met Alex.
It was the first day of class at ITT in 1996. My friend Leonard and I plus another guy, Joe Duncan, whom we had just met were seated at the last remaining table with any seats left at it when in walks Alex. He came in, quickly scanned the room and came to rest his eyes on the table we were sitting at. He glanced up to meet me eyes with a question on his face of, “is it okay that I sit here with you guys?” I gave him the universal shrug and head-shake “I don’t own the damn thing and you can sit here if you want to” look in return. He immediately sat down and slumped over his arms and let out a deep sigh. (Universal sign for “ask me what’s wrong”)
We asked what was wrong with him not fully realizing what we might get for an answer. We certainly were not prepared for the answer we got. I still laugh today when I think about it. He began by saying that the “cops beat my ass.” This got the attention of all seated at our table. He continued by saying he was the passenger in his brother-in-laws truck when they were cruising MLK Jr. Blvd on Friday night when his b-i-l pulls up to a lady walking along the sidewalk slow and suggestively. He said his b-i-l asks the what-he-believed-to-be-a-prostitute-but-really-turned-out-to-be-an-undercover-cop “How much for a B.J.” She announced her identity and tells him to pull over to be arrested. Of course that is not what happened.
The B-I-L cranks the wheels of his truck, hops the median divide and to avoid cars and what not drives into a vacant lot with police in hot pursuit. The truck stops and both Alex and his b-i-l get out and make a break for it. Alex over a chain link fence and his b-i-l to parts unknown. Sadly for Alex he ran. Had he stayed put he might not have been charged with anything as he was the passenger and had done no speaking. But that isn’t what happened. Alex ran for the fence and was halfway up it when a police cruiser rammed the fence, knocking him off. Once on the ground they then proceeded to beat on him for good measure. They took him down to the station where he was processed and charged with solicitation. He was sentenced to a crap ton of community service. He was kept over the weekend and only released earlier that Monday and had to rush to make it to orientation.
I am pretty sure I immediately liked Alex from the start. He was a character and always was laughing at something or in my case, someone.
Over the next couple years, Leonard, Alex, Joe and myself started playing D&D together and hanging out regularly as our schedules permitted. You see Alex was getting his schooling paid for and on unemployment as part of a re-education program he received from a wood mill that had closed down while he was working there. Alex had lots of time for socializing. Once done with his commuinity service had been fulfilled that is.
As school got closer and closer to being done we all started applying to various companies. Alex was fortunate enough to land one of them in Vancouver. One of the new high-tech companies that had no idea what was just around the corner…the .com bubble and the end of the golden era we were enjoying. Alex was let go from that job and moved on to others before school was out.
My friend Leonard already had a job in the internet conferencing industry doing tech support when we all graduated. Alex had just hired on with a company called DCE for low-voltage cable installation. I was desperate and all my interviews had yielded nothing so I asked if they were still hiring. He got me in touch with them and I interviewed that day and was hired on the spot.
Alex and I worked for DCE for about 4 months before he was let go or quit, I don’t recall anymore. He moved on to other jobs doing support etc…never lasting very long. Soon thereafter he moved to Texas for a job. Laurie came with him. We still kept in touch by phone and email but we didn’t see each other any longer. (I actually only saw Alex one more time)
He eventually said he was joining the Navy where his AA would allow him to join and not start off at the lowest pay grade. He worked fire suppression and maybe the Navy equivalent of M.P. eventually. He did some traveling, being in the Navy and on a boat and stuff.
He made friends, as Alex was always able to do, with his work partner, an older gentleman with grown kids of his own. (I digress to say that Alex and Laurie have split at this point.) He lived off base and often had Alex over for dinner and other activities. Soon Alex and the young (legal age) daughter of his partner got romantically involved. I believe they got married in there somewhere. Soon thereafter she had twins. Not long after they separated or divorced.
I believe it wasn’t too long after that, a couple of years at the most, that my friend Alex took his own life. I was told their was a bottle of hard liquor found at the site where he was found. No mention of a note.
The last time I saw my friend Alex was when he and Laurie came to visit from Texas on what amounted to be the worst feeling day of my life. I was running a teperature of 103+, I had sweat, cold flashes, body aches and a splitting headache. This all from tonsilitus. I tried to talk with them but after about 5 minutes I had to go to a nice cool, dark place to think of happy thoughts.
I retell this story so that I can remember Alex for his strengths and not for his weaknesses. And to let people know that there is help out there if you feel that life is too much to deal with. I was reading Wil Wheaton’s blog, specifically an article where someone had written in and talked about depression and suicide.
If you are thinking about suicide or are depressed there are many organizations that are available to help. Please whatever you do if you are feeling depressed or suicidal please talk with someone who can help you find the answers you need. Suicide is NEVER the right answer. There are people out there that care about you. I wonder if maybe I had been a better friend and more willing to see if there were problems with my friend would he still be around today. If he had sought help would he be around today? If somebody was there to listen and let him feel safe enough to express how he was feeling that he might still be here with us today.
There are a ton of organizations that are available to help people deal with depression and suicidal thoughts. Please for all that is sacred, seek help if you are feeling that way. People do care about you and love you.
You should research online or go through a doctor or trusted friend to find a hotline to call if you are experiencing these issues. There are many out there but I have not researched any of them myself to share with you. This more out of not wanting to say one organization is better than another. Not because I didn’t want to do anything to help.
More to come…