It’s a taint in the breeze, the foul reek of decomposition and finality guised as a film forming on the tongue, tasting of sulfur and sadness.
Four times in the past two weeks, I’ve received word of suicide. These were people I either knew or knew of, good people with little in the way of fatal flaws or deal-breaking character defects. They were pretty people and ugly people, young people and old. They sang beautifully, or not at all, occasionally took second helpings yet starved themselves of care.
Some wore fashionable clothes — skirts and fedoras, knee-high socks and lace accoutrements — and blushed when these garments fell as a beautiful mess to the bedroom floor. They made love, made fun, in some cases made babies.
They made us love them.
In the end, though, they made their people into sad phantom mourners standing beside an earthen mound, aloof and drenched in shadow, as hollow as new graves when diggers ease the coffins down.
They had ambition, hope cradled near to the chest like a life jacket in a storm-addled sea. But somehow, in the final waning months of their lives, they let go of these survival tools, somehow stopped loving themselves and in the meantime damned the rest of us to a long list of searing, impossible questions.
The short answer to all of these, though, takes blame off the table. The grief keeps you company.
A good friend admitted to my wife recently that she too has entertained the idea of suicide. Times get dark, she said, and sometimes the most lonesome hours linger long after they’re welcome.
Yet despite these occasional fantasies, moments long and dreadfully clear, there always arises in her a resistance to the act. Some feral part of her yearns to survive. It fights for her. Maybe it’s a reflex driven by millions of years surviving and passing along our sacred 23.
Or maybe it’s the fear of what’s unknown — death beckons but who really know what lies beyond the veil?
Are you willing to bet your life on a existential time-share in the clouds?
Or maybe it’s the God-fearing part of her. Maybe all those Sunday school lessons about the wrathful God of men and his lake of eternal fire — no houseboats allowed — turned her stomach at just the right moment.
Truthfully, who knows why many will occasionally dream of ending it all and do nothing while others decide on an exit strategy and carry it out like so many ballers executing a winning game plan?
Some do, some don’t. And no matter who you are and who they were, how the two of you came to care for one another or not, nothing in the whole sad deal will ever make their bad choice into your damn fault.
So, be sad. Be angry. Miss your friend, and recall only the best parts of them. In the end, though, they made the decision and they chose to die. You, however, have a lot more living to do.
James Faulk is a writer living in Eureka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.