While hating to end this year on a dark note, there is a reality to share here. Perhaps you'll find some wisdom in it, perhaps you've experienced a similar situation. And after all, ending on a dark note after a year of wretched and miserable things, seems fitting. Maybe this will make way for a shiny, bright new year.
Please meet Mike.
Mike hung himself just after Christmas. A silent, final goodbye. A long struggle, and this final act. I am still grieving the news of this loss in the world.
I've known him more than twenty years. I was at his wedding, when he married my half sister. I traveled 3000 miles, or thereabouts to visit my half sister, him, and the new baby they had 13 years ago, and several times thereafter.
He was an executive chef for an elite private club; also a chef for several other famous restaurants in St.Louis, Missouri. Lucky for my family, he made Christmas breakfast, Christmas gourmet food baskets as gifts, could carve fabulous designs in pumpkins like no one else I know. Creativity was his genius, sensitivity may have been his undoing.
Coming from a family of more rough and tumble males, all in traditional male roles, he didn't quite fit the mold. But oh, how he worked and tried and scrambled to be accepted and loved - if not for who he was, for who he wanted to be.
An accident with his brother not long ago led to severe injuries to one of his arms and hands, forever ending his career as a chef, a manager, a trainer, and a gourmet master. The genetic predisposition to alcoholism got the best of him. And because of his love of his daughter, he went into rehab: relapsed and back to recovery, a total of four times. He told one of the group members, who had also relapsed: "I'm just going to keep at it, until I get it."
Some incident, no one knows what, happened in mid-May. He was placed in a hospital, on suicide watch for depression, and of course, his addiction.
He lost touch with friends after that; he'd been forced to leave the house he'd been living in by his parents, who wanted to rent the home for the most money they could get. Of course, Mike, unable to work, on disability from the injury, couldn't come up with whatever that figure was. And the home was in his parents' names, so he had no choice. The apartment he moved into removed him from the neighbors with whom he'd built good relationships with over the years.
His generousity, kindness, and as my mother said, his lack of any malice, made him one of the most wonderful people I've known in this world. His addiction, his injury, his isolation, worked in tandem to break his spirit.
I've spent three days considering this suicide. Thinking of the many, many, many kindnesses he showed to me and my husband. Thinking of the pain he numbed with alcohol - until even that couldn't quell his suffering.
Mike only wanted what we all do: to feel accepted, to belong, to be loved, and have the warmth of human connections; and maybe, most of all, to feel worthy and valuable.
His family is in the denial and anger stage of grief. We have no details of the date of death or even who found him. Worst of all, there is evidently no plan for a memorial to bring some closure to this loss in the world.
I am paying a tribute here. My husband and I have made plans for a small ceremony of tribute next week. I will not let this vibrant soul leave without making a clear, loud, resounding noise. He may have left this world alone, feeling forsaken, unable to cope with the struggle, wanting only release from it. Those of us left behind who loved, cared for, appreciated him, will carry the struggle of his death now. And each, in our own way, will make a wish that he is freed of the issues that weighed so heavily in him.
My final words in this post come from a favorite quote of his, listed on his Facebook profile:
May you be carried aloft to dance with the stars.
To that, I add:
May there be liberation from the struggle and sorrow of your earthly life. Your legacy is the beautiful daughter you gave to the world, and the memories we will carry of your goodness, your worth, your whole being. May your spirit shine with freedom, forever more.
Good-bye, dear man. Good-bye, Mike.