Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ghosts would be easier to handle

Two friends committed suicide this spring, and I just heard about the second one a few days ago, on June 1. Oddly, this has me thinking not so much about mortality, but rather about the relative immortality of our memories of those who have passed on.

Both deaths are relatively recent. One made the papers and one didn't. One had a memorial service and one didn't. I haven't been able to process much except that there are two people I will still expect to see around town or hear from, but it won't happen. A kind of circular thinking keeps me more aware of both than I might otherwise be if matters were normal-- i.e. if everyone were still alive and going about their daily affairs. Although I've gone through the motions with work and social activity, and continued posting in the comment fields elsewhere as if I didn't have a real life, some of it has been sleepwalking.

One person was a mentor and friend I checked in with and had dinner with now and again. We would talk academics and film history, and I have him to thank for my pristine copy of Donald Bogle's Toms, Coons, Mullatoes, Mammies & Bucks. Being able to call or e-mail in either direction was a given, as was receiving the occasional e-card on holidays.

The other was more of a business acquaintance, but our exchange of niceties had begun to include the personal over the past year or so, as can happen in business relationships. So we had started to discuss family ups and downs in the small talk that accompanies repeated meetings.

In suicides, the survivors (that would be us) tend to wonder whether they could have said or done anything. I am pretty sure the answer is no. This is retrospect, reconstruction of jigsaw puzzle pieces in each case, but direct knowledge is limited to what people actually say and do. When someone tells you that they're depressed, you should probably believe them. That was the case for one of my friends, who already had treatment in progress. Apparently it wasn't enough.

So the double whammy this spring will take me a while to process. I don't even do well when death is by natural causes.

My next post will be upbeat and, I hope, uplifting and on topic.

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