When love is not enough
In his last Christmas letter to me, he wrote that within the last year particularly he seemed to have lost his “zest for life,” but he went on to muse that is was perhaps an expected outcome of the last quarter of life. At the time his comment struck me as sad and a bit melancholy. Because however he included his Christmas letter with a chronicle of events and travels throughout the previous year and his looking ahead to the next year, I missed the subtly of his musing.
This is man whom I have known since my college days; we met in an introductory speech class-a required class, which we both dreaded. After class one day, we walked down Iowa Street in Iowa City, Iowa, and rarely missed a day after that walking home together.
On Fridays, we went to the movies, either downtown or at the Union. We saw our first ballet together — on film from Covent Gardens — and ate our first pizza at a downtown dive.
We hung on at coffee houses, where he played his guitar, and walked home afterward to sit on the roof of his apartment house and watch the moon rise and the stars come out.
In the winter, we went to the army-navy surplus store and bought matching pea coats: blue, wool, doubled-breasted, warm coats. We bought gloves, lost one pair, and so shared the remaining by each wearing one glove and shoving alternating hands in a coat pocket, sometimes his, sometimes mine.
He was a kind, loving and gentle boy; grew into a kind, compassionate, gentle man.
We parted ways after college but never lost touch: yearly Christmas letters, stop-over visits in our respective national and international travels. He left college to serve in the Peace Corps as a teacher, came home to serve in international banking, which became his lifetime career.
He survived 9/11, the loss of his life’s partner, aging parents. When he retired, he moved to Florida where he devoted his life to sailing, volunteering, making new friends, and reestablishing his relationship with his extended family. He was a much-loved man.
But love was not enough. Out of the shadows crept a darkness that finally overcame him, and he took his own life. His death is a battle cry against alcohol and prescription drugs, and for early detection and treatment of depression. It is a cry often muffled by stigma and fear. Depression is as black ink on wet paper, begins as a drop and spreads insidiously, and often undetected by those close by. Anxiety is often depression’s companion.
Each of us had a piece of the puzzle; none of us had the entire picture. It is only in retrospect that it all becomes so clear and so painful. It is sad ending to a beautiful life; it could have ended differently. We loved him dearly; it was, simply, not enough.