Today would have been the birthday of a sweet, old friend of mine - a lovely man who, in my mind's eye, will always be a long-haired, beautiful 19 year old hippie boy tinkering with his VW Bug. I say "would have" because, a couple of years ago, on Father's Day, K decided that the weight of the world was too heavy for him to bear, and he took his own life. He left behind many people who loved him, including a little girl who will grow up without a father.
I don't know why K did this. I mean, I know about some of the negative things going on in his life just before his death - a failed marriage, a bitter custody battle, indecision over work, a reluctance to get help and take his meds....but I don't believe we can ever point to one thing and say, "There! That's it. That's the thing that made him hang himself. That, right there." The fact is, K was tortured. He suffered through something inside of his head, and in his heart, that I can't even begin to imagine. Something so troubling that even leaving the daughter he loved so much without a father seemed preferable to him than going on with life.
I really miss you, K. Even though we hadn't seen each other in many years, I thought about you a lot. You were so damned sweet and funny, and you had such a warm, open heart. I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't at least like you. Most people loved you.
I feel bad about all the things you're missing. I look at photos of us from those days and all I can think is that you should have lived to be an old man. You would have been an awesome old man, K. I bet you would have been adorable, and all the old women would have gone crazy over you. And maybe, if you'd been able to stick around, you would have been a grandfather one day. What an awesome grandfather you would have been! The grandfather who'd helped make snowboarding a popular sport. The grandfather who could take apart and rebuild an VW engine. The grandfather with the long hair and the glasses held together with a piece of tape, and the bare feet, and tie-dyed shirts. You would have been the grandfather who loved to cuddle and eat chocolate pudding and tell stories about the old days, following the Grateful Dead around.
And it's sad, K, because none of that will ever happen. Your little girl can only imagine what would have been. I hope she's old enough to remember you, and that the stories and photos and videos left behind help build a reasonable facsimile of the boy and the man that you were. You were not only sweet and funny - you were good. You were kind. You had grace. The world isn't as good a place without you.
I want you to know one thing, K. Your good nature and generosity ran deep. When you left the world you gave me a gift: your taking leave of us so damned early brought me back to people I hadn't seen or spoken to in years. The day I found out about your suicide, I heard from R, who I hadn't spoken to in almost 20 years. It felt natural, she said, to call me. She was your closest friend back in those days. You adored each other. She called me after all those years and we just talked and laughed and cried for about three hours. We even met up in NYC and sat on my uncle's stoop and spent a day talking. It was as if all the years had washed away, and we were just girls, again. This was thanks to you, K. The gift you gave us without even knowing you were giving it. We sought each other out in friendship because the loss of you left us both feeling raw that we needed to go home, again. It was like this with me and R. It was like this with half a dozen other people I hadn't really had contact with in years. If you'd known how many people really loved you and wanted you here, I wonder if you still would have taken you life? I'll never know. It is a dumb question for me to ask. You did the only thing you could think to do.
Wherever you are, now...I hope you finally have peace. Happy Birthday.