We're in the middle of National Suicide Prevention Week. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It's a good cause, but a sad topic. Too many people exit their lives in this manner, and whatever we can do to prevent it is worthwhile. Many folks who commit suicide (or attempt to do so ) aren't really looking for the finality of death, but more so for help. A release from their pain is often what drives them, and that can be something we can try and help them with. We may not always be successful, but the least we can do is try.
I am reminded during this time (not that it takes much) of my late friends who chose to end their own lives. The immeasurable sadness the news of their deaths -- and the absence of their lives -- brought to me is no doubt dwarfed by what their families continue to feel to this very day. It is true that suicide is a very selfish act. While the person who commits it may be thinking that others will not miss them, or that the world would be better off without them, it is almost always the case that nothing could be further from the truth. And then their loved ones are left with gaping holes in their hearts forever.
Bret was someone I met at C-Street, the local gay bar, during the mid-1990s. He was attractive, intelligent, and a bit stuck-up, but then no one is perfect. He was from Lafayette, IN and he went to school to be a nurse. I remember attending his college graduation in Indiana. A few carloads of us from Champaign-Urbana made the trip across the state border, watched the ceremony, and then we all went up to Chicago for a night of celebration. Then there was the time a few of us stayed over at Bret & Jason's apartment for a weekend, and went to a great haunted house in Lafayette. We also watched Batman & Robin (bad) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (good).
When Bret got a job at one of the local hospitals, he came to stay with me. That probably wasn't the best idea. My tiny abode (and I do mean tiny) really wasn't big enough for two people. And sometimes the old saying of "familiarity breeds contempt" can be spot on. Our friendship ended badly because of this arrangement, although it didn't change the fact that I thought of Bret as an overall decent human being. I learned last year, as some of us were planning a C-Street reunion, that Bret had committed suicide in 2008, due to relationship difficulties. That it made me sad is an understatement.
Tracy was a mutual friend of mine and Bret's (and many others). We bonded quite a bit as friends, with both fun times and serious moments interspersed throughout the years we knew one another. Tracy, Terry, Amanda and I would often hang out before, during and after nights at C-Street. We did lots of stuff that young twenty-somethings get up to, and it was immense fun. Trips to nightclubs in Indiana, Gay Pride weekends in Chicago -- Tracy was part & parcel of those experiences. He ended up in a beautiful little house in Hoopeston, IL, and I enjoyed it when Terry, Ashley & I visited him in the Summer of 2004 and he showed us around his garden and inside his home.
In December of 2004, one of Tracy's close friends called and informed me that Tracy had killed himself -- carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. Ashley, Amanda, Terry and I went to his funeral. Afterwards, we had a bite to eat at a restaurant in Paxton, and reminisced. We all grew up a little bit more that day.
I miss Bret and Tracy, quite often, actually. Death is final. There's no going back. And the death of the young, vibrant and healthy, who have so much life left to live in this world, is perhaps one of the worst occurrences we face. My friends aren't out there somewhere, available for a phone call, or text, e-mail, or visit. They're gone. They, and others like them, needed help. Many who are alive still do. We all have to go sometime, but let's help our friends get every ounce of quality time out of their lives as possible. Let's be there for each other. Let's not wait until it's too late.
I miss my friends.