Earlier this week I posted about my friend’s suicide last Sunday, and how I felt guilty that I hadn’t accepted his Friend requests on Facebook. He posthumously Friended me today (actually, the person who’s running his Facbook page did).
I got to see his wall and get bird’s eye glimpses of his life that I should’ve had when he was alive. It was filled with so much love. I tried to find some clues as to why he killed himself, but there wasn’t much information from the hundreds of people who left messages expressing shock - other than an enormous amount of love. A couple of the messages suggested that he had struggled with depression.
His photos and status updates were full of messages from someone who truly loved life, and his young son. He was the kind of man whose status update told how one of the best moments of his life was getting to watch his son through the window of his first grade classroom on his first day of school.
This is one of his photographs:
It turns out that his theme – his mantra – was:
He had a beautiful garden…
This was not someone who hated life. He wore groovy, amazing clothes (like, red bowling shoes! I don’t know anyone besides him who could get away with red bowling shoes!) He loved the Beetles, collected fine art and music, thrived at the top of his game in his career. I still haven’t found out why he killed himself, or what was going on to drive him to the point of suicide. But when I do, I hope it will help me to understand.
My mother’s father committed suicide after a lifelong battle with depression. Even though she was in her 20′s when it happened, it tormented her for the rest of her life. She would call out “Papa!” in her sleep, often. Like my friend, people said my grandfather loved life, too. And roses. He’d pluck one off a bush in his garden and give it to a lady who might be walking by.
This Love Life photo was on my friend’s Facebook page – he put these lights on the balcony of his house in San Francisco on Christmas Eve, and kept them up:
I’m pretty sure that after they die, people hang around Earth awhile and show themselves to the people who knew them. This happened to me with my friend minutes after I wrote the post about him, and it happened with my mom and dad too.
The day after my mom died, the clouds rearranged themselves into carbon copies of doodles she used to draw while she was talking on the phone. When we were little she played this game where she would look at the clouds with us and call out the shapes.
I looked the sky. The clouds were moving around fast – even though there wasn’t much wind.
I saw Zhivago, her white Samoyed and constant companion. I saw a poolside chaise lounge (she spent half her life sunning herself on one).
I saw a girl in a dress (my mom wanted to be a dress designer – she was always drawing girls in pretty dresses.)
Then I saw her face with swirly hair. She often drew her own face with swirly Marilyn Monroe hair – I’d find these drawings everywhere, on scraps of paper, and matchbooks.
I pointed this amazing sky out to my husband, the skeptic, who agreed: it was astonishing.
At that moment – just as we were marveling at the sky – my sister (who lived 3 hours away) called. She didn’t even say hello. She said:
Are you looking at the sky? Are you seeing this?
She too saw that our mom was doodling for us up in the sky.
We knew it was her.
At my dad’s funeral we used a poem about a meteor by Jack London, because that’s what he was like:
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist.
That night we were outside in the hot tub, and we looked up and saw the brightest star shoot across the sky. My husband (the skeptic) saw it too – he said,
There he goes. Blazing across the sky, of course.
We knew it was him.
We set up an impromptu memorial on our dining table – old photographs, albums, flowers that he loved, mementos, a candle lit in his honor, his ever-present pipe and a pouch of Amphora pipe tobacco.
People would stop by and sit at the table and look through the photographs.
Every day we lit a candle. Then one day we decided it was time to put the memorial away. We blew out the candle. All three of us saw that it was out. We went into the kitchen and came back a while later.
The candle had relit itself.
We knew it was him.
So we lit the candle for a few more days. He wasn’t quite ready for us to snuff him out, yet.
His funeral was the day before Fiona was born – we think they crossed paths – my dad on his way out, Fi on her way in.
When she was four weeks old my husband had to travel to the Middle East so we were on our own. The day my husband left, I checked on her as she was napping. There was the unmistakeable and distinctive scent of Amphora pipe tobacco surrounding her. I thought I had lost my marbles, so I went out and came in again. It was still there.
The scent of my dad and his pipe.
For three days and nights, the scent of Amphora surrounded her bed until on the third day, I called a friend and asked her to come over because I was starting to get a little freaked out.
The scent went away. He was there just long enough to let me know his love was surrounding Fiona.
After I heard about his death, my friend was on my mind all day, and I wrote a post about him. I wrote about how he introduced me to the Cowboy Junkies – a band you hardly ever hear anymore. I finished writing the post, got in the car to pick up the girls – and guess what song came on the radio just when I started the car?
Misguided Angel, by the Cowboy Junkies.
Okay? I haven’t heard that song on the radio since…the 90′s.
I knew it was him.
Goodbye sweet friend with your sweet smile. Even though I know you’re still around for a little while…
PS: I wish you could have reached out to some of the many friends who loved you.
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