I lost a friend.
He took his life to escape whatever pain he felt.
All we know of him is his smile That amazing smile of his - a permanent fixture on his face.
And his hugs. Oh, he hugged everyone. Holding them tight. Giving them his full attention.
I am trying to hold onto that image of him.
Not the image of him taking his life.
I recall the day at the munch when he told me about his military service. He tipped his hand, I made my smart ass comment, and he laughed before telling me his secrets from war. When he started telling me, I was surprised. I have enough war veterans in my family to know it is not something easily shared. I knew that stories were hard - I recognized all the signs of him opening up.
And I let him talk.
When his eyes shone with tears, I hugged him - helping him hide his pain from those around us. He would laugh, tell me he was not sure why he was talking - only it felt right. And he could continue. Continue he did.
I won't reveal his stories. Only that they were not unexpected, but to hear them from his mouth made them even more horrific. Let's just say the stories from the news are true.
Later that night, I sent him email - checking in with him. I felt like our conversation had awoken demons. And I couldn't help but think of him - worry about him. I didn't want these demons to haunt him. So, I checked in. He reassured me over and over again he was fine.
Now that he's gone, I can't help but worry that I missed a sign - that he was not fine.
One thing he said to me later that rings in my ears that he often didn't talk because people wanted to, not listen, but express their political opinion about it. He told me I was the first who listened in a long time. He thanked me for it - and reassured me he was ok.
Clearly - he was not ok.
A lot of sadness hid behind his smile.
I only wish we had the salve to sooth it.
RIP, my friend.
May your demons finally be at rest.
You will truly be missed.