A couple of days ago, a man I knew fairly well but wasn’t particularly close to killed himself. His name was Jimmy. He and my brother had a very good friendship going back many years. Jimmy left three children including his youngest, a ‘wonderfully handicapped’ teenaged boy, behind. He is also survived by both of his parents. And of course, by my brother.
Jimmy lived down the street from me, in the estate I live in. Easy walking distance from my place to his. I have no reason to think I could have helped Jimmy; we were not tight at all. But my brother was good friends with him for years. Wednesday afternoon, Jimmy didn’t see fit to call anyone. Not his dad, not his mom, not my brother… no one. He just took his life. He got inside his head in his little house and decided the best way forward was a world without Jimmy in it.
He was a skilled guy. A welder, a plumber, a shipbuilder. This was not a hipster who hung out at Starbucks all day charging his tablet and trying to look cool. He was a seemingly steady fellow whom I never recall seeing what I would consider angry or depressed. He had some issues, as we all do. But he seemed like a normal cat. Being a not-particularly sensitive guy, I tend to think of normal-seeming people as normal. Jimmy drove a pickup truck, loved his children like he loved… he doted on them. He was a decent fellow. A regular guy.
Jimmy was a hard-core leftist. He was also obnoxious about being an atheist, the type of person I think of as an ‘anti-theist.’ He was a cantankerous individual. As mentioned, he insisted there was no God (or any other deity), and he’d argue that all day every day. He was one of those people who insist they are smarter than any believer. He was irritating. But he was a good man. If I called him about some problem with this old shitty house I live in, he’d come help me figure it out. And if he was out of town and needed me to check on his place, I’d go make sure things were OK down there. We weren’t buddies. Just good neighbors.
I hadn’t seen him in months. Probably a couple years, really. I never thought of him as particularly unstable. We all make bad choices, and Jimmy was no exception. But he was making good money, had people who cared about him, people who counted on him. He was doing alright from my perspective. Again though: I didn’t know the dude very well. We weren’t what one might think of as friends. We also weren’t enemies. Just men with different opinions.
And last Wednesday, he shot himself in the head. I’d like try to explain to you why he did that, but that would be a fool’s errand: I don’t know why. No one ever knows.
We did split the cost of a couple PPV sports events over the years I’ve lived here. And he helped me with a couple plumbing issues I’ve had in this house since I’ve been here. I also showered in his house a couple times when my ancient plumbing failed and I couldn’t get (hot) water in the showers. Occasionally I’d get word that he’d forgotten to do some mundane task when he had left town on some job or other and I’d go down there and take care of it for him. In short, me and Jimmy helped each other out. Just dudes. And we got along well enough when we were around each other.
Jimmy was in his late 30s as best I can figure. He had been making good money in his trade(s) over at least the past decade (the time I knew him). He worked a lot at shipyards and other industry all over the region. And Friday afternoon, an EMT vehicle came into the estate as they often do. Lights, noises, then turn into the estate and shut down all the noisy bubbles. A couple hours later, I learned that this particular EMT vehicle had been coming for Jimmy.
I guess one reason I’m writing this is for catharsis. Or maybe as a way to help myself understand a thing I can never understand. Jimmy had problems, obviously. He couldn’t see a solution any longer and he made a final, permanent decision.
You know people, and people care more than you might think. If you think there is no other way out than to take your own life, call them. And if you have the wherewithal to access this page on the internet, you have access to other resources to help you through whatever temporary problem you may be having. You are not alone. There are no permanent problems; problems evolve, and solutions are always accessible. Suicide is not a solution. It solves nothing.
To that end, one of those resources is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They will answer the phone at 800-273-8255 all 24 hours of every single day, all year long. They also operate an online chat if for whatever reason that would suit you better. All you have to do is click: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
We who still breathe can never help those who have made and implemented that final decision. The best we can hope for is to try to help others in the future who might also find themselves desperate and who can’t see a better way out than to end themselves.
I have known other people who have made the same dreadful, final decision that Jimmy just did. Each of them seemed normal and well adjusted, at least to those not very close to them. If someone you know well seems to have changed quite a lot in their behavior recently, or if he or she starts giving things away that you thought they treasured (sounds obvious, but it does happen)... I’m no psychologist, but if someone you are close to changes drastically enough that you notice and it concerns you, please ask that person about it. You could be the difference between life or death. Seriously.
Requiescat in pace, Jimmy. I will pray for you and your family. But you knew that.
P.S. In the first paragraph, I used the term ‘wonderfully handicapped.’ This is a reference to the fact that Jimmy’s son is still alive because of the outstanding work of the folks at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I will be donating to that organization in memory of Jimmy and for all they do to help kids with sometimes seemingly insurmountable disabilities.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.