Thursday, June 29, 2006

That's All That Matters

During the years that I've been working with high school music students, I have been fortunate to maintain long lasting relationships with some fabulous young people. I've been to weddings and baby showers for several, attended many concerts in which others were performing, and even done some accompanying for one who now has a choir of his own. I admit to becoming quite attached to them, and caring about them in ways that would probably surprise them if they knew.

That's why it hurts so much to lose one. On January 31, 2006, one of the very brightest, compassionate, fascinating, and talented young men I have ever known, took his own life. Jeff was a writer, an actor, a musician, a mathematician - he was "off the wall" gifted in every area. But, unlike some extremely gifted people, Jeff was very socially oriented. He loved people, was fun to be with, had loads of friends, and was never afraid to make a fool of himself in the course of having a good time.

During Jeff's high school years, as well as those of his younger brother, his parents also became my friends. Gary and Vicki are lovely people, who have a strong marriage and have built a stable home. Watching the family together, it was evident that there was mutual respect, love, and lots of laughter in their relationships.

I had lunch with Vicki today. Whenever I am with her, I wonder how she can function at all. How can she get out of bed, take showers, put on makeup, prepare food, clean house, pay bills - all those ridiculous tasks that are just necessary in order to exist. I sit and stare at her, at the raw pain that is still etched in her face, the tears that well in her eyes at the mention of Jeff's name. And it's impossible not to talk about him, because his presence is there between us as real as if he were sitting in the empty chair at the table. We remember Jeff and the things he said and did. She talks about the plans she made to take him to see his favorite plays at the Shakespeare festival in Ontario this summer. Somehow, she does all the mundane things she needs to do and goes on living, even though her life is now defined by this huge "Why?"

I have not written about Jeff's death until now, although it has weighed heavily on my heart for the past four months. I wonder why the God I profess to believe in would allow a young man with so much promise to become so full of despair that he found life no longer worth living. I wonder why I, whose talents and potential are so miniscule in comparison, have always been able to overcome those dark demons that have haunted me from time to time, and continue to "soldier on." And why, oh why, couldn't anyone see this coming and do something to stop it?

The last time I saw Jeff was at the wedding of one of his classmates, just about a year ago in Florida. "Do you think Brian is happy?" he asked me, watching his friend dance with his bride.

"Yes, I do," I answered truthfully.

I remember he smiled at me before he replied, "Well, good, that's all that matters."

Jeff, I wish you could have been happy here with us.


Blogger Susannah said...

oh my goodness, Becca, i feel this post down to my roots. the loss, the grief, the whys - his poor poor mother. That you shone light in his life i'm sure meant so much to him - suicide is soemthing i don't think we can ever understand, it's such a personal choice for the one who is suffering... but those left behind must carry such a heavy awful weight - i feel for you, and his family...

Blogger Star said...

You have my sympathy for your loss. It doesn't take parenthood to bring about those ties that bind us to others, and when they make such a permanent choice it shakes everyone connected the person to the core.

I think this type of death is so hard to grasp because it doesn't fit into any of the slots we have carved for such things: illness, disease, accident. And just as we identify with these things we are more accustomed to (what if I contract that illness? what if I get that disease? that accident could have happened to me...), we try to identify with the underlying thoughts that must have brought him to the brink that day.

Somehow, the wondering we do about how we could have helped ease discomfort or noticed a symptom earlier or given a warning that might have prevented an accident, seems so much more personal when the thing that might have held them back may have been a smile, a nod, an acknowledgement.

It sounds like you contributed in a very positive way in this young man's life. He sounds incredibly gifted.

And it sounds like you've taken your first steps down this road to acceptance and recovery.

Blogger Madeleine said...

Becca, this is such a sad, sad story. One without answers and yet so many questions.
My cousin, sadly, took his own life some 15 years ago now, at the tender age of 18. His parents found it so difficult to continue, as did his dear brother and sister.
They still struggle now, from time to time, but somehow have managed to forge ahead with their lives. I still wonder, as you did with your friend, how this is possible. I think I would find this near to impossible.
Thankyou for writing this :)

Blogger deirdre said...

I'm so sorry to read about this. I can't imagine how suicide survivors continue on. It's wonderful that you're spending time with his mother. It really does help to be distracted and comforted at the same time, and to talk about the loss. And talk and talk and talk.

Blogger paris parfait said...

This is a beautiful, touching post, Becca. The tragedy of the good dying young is always so hard to fathom. Such heartbreak for his family, friends and all those privileged to know him. My heart goes out to all of you who are mourning the loss of such a bright spirit. Thank you for sharing this story - a reminder once again to really live every moment and to appreciate those around us and never take them for granted.

Blogger AnnieElf said...

There are not enough words and not enough confort to be given. There is only the warm embrace of friends and their loving support. Take care.

Blogger jzr said...

It's so sad when a flame goes out, but it is being relit and carried in your heart and in the hearts of his friends and family.

Blogger Caty said...

I am sorry, this is very sad.......I imagine his mother continues doing all this things because in a way he is with her.

This is a difficult to understand situation, but we never know the interior feelings of somebody taking its life, specially if "everything seems ok", usually people who have gone through very difficult situations in their lifes, somehow keep going more easily sometimes...


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