Sunday, January 5, 2014

Look out for one another, please.

It's always a shock when someone you know dies "before their time," as the saying goes. But when you learn that this person purposefully ended their life, that adds a new dimension to the sorrow.

I went to high school with J. We occasionally hung out in the same circles, saw each other at parties from time to time. He was a quiet kid, but almost always had this impish grin on his face, like you knew he was up to something. When he spoke, there was, oddly, both a playfulness and a wisdom to what he said; if he cracked a joke, it was likely to be one similar to what your parents might tell.

Naturally, when people leave home and go away to school somewhere, there's a tendency to drift apart. You meet new friends, they meet new friends, and like an oak tree reaching for the sky, your lives diverge farther apart, with more and more filling the space between you. So, I hadn't seen J since I was in university, easily... but his dad and mine went to high school together, and would run into each other now and again, and I'd get updates from time to time about what he and his older brother were up to.

The last time our dads saw each other was just before Christmas, and naturally when I visited over the break, I got another update. But, since I don't visit terribly often, my parents choose to use this time to update me on every single person I know, and many I don't. Oh, did I tell you Gracie McWhatsherface is in a home now? You probably don't know her, she's your grandpa's barber's cousin-in-law. So, you tune out. Hell, I even mentioned to them, after about the third hour of updates, "Hey, so, all I get when I come home is all this stuff about people I barely know. What gives?"

To be honest, I can't remember what my dad told me J's dad told him about what J was up to. I'd probably already tuned my dad out by that point, or was trying to do a crossword puzzle, or something equally inconsequential. But another old high school friend of mine called me up late on Friday night and told me the news, so I felt it proper to let my parents know on Saturday afternoon. They're going to the visitation.

Here's the point I'm trying to make. J was a pretty shy guy, and it's incredibly easy for people like that to fly under most peoples' radar. It's easy to forget about the quiet ones, and I'm probably as guilty of that as the next person (despite being a quiet person throughout most of high school myself). If there's someone you know who's a little on the reticent side of the spectrum, drop them a line. Give them a call, poke them on Facebook, do what ya gotta do. I'm not saying something like that could've saved J, but it certainly couldn't have hurt.