The elephant in the room, the thing I am having a hard time writing about, is this: Our friend Jim committed suicide a week ago today. Jim was the ex-husband of one of my dearest friends and the father of a boy we love dearly, who has been my daughter's friend since kindergarten. I don't know how to write about it. I don't know what is permissible to write. My friend told me to write whatever I want, but how will she feel in a month? She called me last Sunday evening when she got the news and I went over there, stunned and hurt at what they now had to go through, but in some part of me not quite believing it could be true. I hugged my friend at the door and through held in sobs she whispered, "How could he do this to his son? I'm so furious at him." Is that okay to write? I know it is okay for her to feel that, and indeed healthy that she is in touch with the anger that is all tangled up with the grieving.
Her son was on the couch weeping, and when I held him I knew there were no words that could make this okay. Later his girlfriend came over, and his best friend, and one of his band buddies, who was crying too. Jim, a musician himself, used to transport the boys and their equipment to their very first gigs. There was the night when a patron at the club where the boys were playing got drunk and hostile and came at one of the boys. Jim stepped between them and pushed the guy back. The drunk then sucker punched him in the eye, a blow that doctors later said could have injured his brain. Jim had that bruise spreading down his cheekbone for weeks. This kid remembered Jim standing up for him, protecting him, taking his music seriously right from the beginning, and he was bereft. I overheard Jim's son say to his mom, "Wow, he is really upset," to which his mom replied, "Well, a lot of people loved your dad and knew how special he was." Past tense. Is it okay to report that? The other boy who was there, in an entirely organic and wondrous way, took out his iPhone and showed a picture he had of Jim and himself goofing around. They were at the lake on parents visiting day at farm camp, and Jim was shirtless wearing a big floppy woman's beach hat above all his fierce tattoos. Everyone started recalling funny things he had said, and the tears became laughs but the pain was eased not at all.
Now my friend is worried that her son won't talk, that he stays glued to his video game console, escaping his feelings. I try to assure her that the very fact that he can look up from his video game and see her there is a comfort to him. He is coping the best way he can right now. She is such a good mother. She will do what he needs. Her pain is complicated. Her own mother died when she was 16, the age her son is now, at this same time of year. My friend and Jim were separated. This weekend would have made six years since he moved out, but she never asked him for a divorce, because she feared he would hurt himself. He struggled with depression, and last year checked himself into a mental hospital. They kept him for a week, then sent him home. He didn't have the right insurance. He moved in with his mother after his father died. His mother found him when she came home last Sunday. He used a gun. Is that okay to set down? I don't know.
My daughter had a hard time at school this week. She couldn't concentrate. I had made a corn and cheese souffle and she made cupcakes for our friends and our family went over there Monday night to deliver them. The next day at school, in math class, she started crying. Her math teacher asked her what was wrong, and she told him. He asked her to share it with her class dean. They had given out class schedules for senior year that day, and that night, when she couldn't find it in her bag and realized she'd misplaced it, she dissolved into tears. She is not usually so breakable. I realized we needed to talk and process things. It was good that she and another friend went over and spent most of Tuesday night with Jim's son. They played video games and watched a movie, and they were talking and laughing together as teenagers do. And yesterday, over lunch at Ikea, we had a good talk about all of it. Today at sundown, we are getting together with friends in a roof garden for a pot-luck whose sole/soul purpose is to encircle the grieving with love.
We go on. Nothing about losing Jim is remotely okay, but we go on.