A classmate of mine from business school committed suicide on Sunday.
I only knew him for a long weekend. That was the first time I met him and the last time I saw him. I was the one doe-eyed first year, tagging along with the second years, excited to partake in the Jazz Fest mayhem. A few hours after landing in New Orleans, we were all shit-faced drunk on super-sized hurricanes on Bourbon Street, partying it up like MBA rockstars riddled in debt but with dreams of a financially secure future.
All of the second years were nice to me, but particularly bespectacled Todd and his crew. They were like dorky, but lovable older brothers. “Where are you off to? Stay here.” They kept a watchful eye as I snaked my way around the crowds. We clinked glasses at bar after bar. Snacked on beignets at Cafe du Monde. Swayed to gospel at the festival.
I was awestruck watching them crack open textbooks and HP calculators on the flight back home. Midterms were approaching, but all I could think about was getting home and putting my drunk self to bed. Most of those guys I never saw again.
On Monday morning a friend emailed that Todd had committed suicide. My heart fell into the pit of my stomach. I immediately asked if he was married with children. I tapped my toe impatiently waiting for the response at my desk. Please God no. Please.
He was married but had no children. I asked for details on the memorial service–set for Friday–or a scholarship fund–one was established at his undergrad, University of New Hampshire.
I couldn’t help scouring the web for more information. He had fallen from a high-rise in New York City. Maybe the balcony railing had been faulty? Maybe he had been pushed? But no foul play was suspected. I think this is the only instance where you wish foul play had occurred. No alcohol, no drugs. Maybe hallucinogens? Please? Anything but…
No longer wanting to live.
In death, I have tried to find reason to celebrate. The celebration of a full life. The celebration of a short life. Because even when life is cut short or suddenly, there’s joy in the memories. But in suicide, there’s the harsh reality of extreme despair.
I’ve personally known two people who have killed themselves. In 1998, a friend shot himself in the head. This week Todd jumped 17 floors. In the aftermath, there are so many questions, so many what-ifs. However, in time, the hurt gives way and what emerges is the beauty. Singing songs by the campfire. Playing hide-and-seek in the redwood forest. Jamming to the beat of Preservation Hall. Stopping for a slice of pizza. Dancing the night away at the Cat’s Meow.
Despite the sad ending, there are reasons to celebrate.