I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of a friend/acquaintance from college. We weren't close - we weren't even friends on a certain social networking site. I found out about his death through the alumni class notes (which should say a lot). But at a small school with 1200 students, you pretty much know everyone, or know someone who knows them. And we had friends in common.
I'm struck by two things. First, I'm struck that he was really the last person (or one of the last people) I would have expected to suffer from severe depression and to take his own life*.
So what does that say? Evidently just because you know someone's public persona (and you've debated philosophy with them once or twice) doesn't mean you know anything about their inner life - who they really are.
*Let me explain what I mean. David Foster Wallace suffered from severe depression and wrote about it eloquently. I was saddened but not shocked by his death for that reason. It may sound callous or crass to say, but that's my take. When people suffer from a disease, it's not unexpected when you lose them to that disease.
So I return to - how much did I know anyone? The news had me wondering "WTF" all last week - I initially thought it was some sort of elaborate joke.
Second, I question my own perspective about my friends from college - many are all stuck in my mind permanently where we were fifteen years ago. I've changed - a lot - but I keep expecting this nebulous "they" to remain just where they were.
Sure, some people have gotten married (and divorced) and had kids - and I see lovely photos of their lives on fb.
I don't know, this guy seemed so put together and successful. I could have easily seen him running for office, a professor or successful businessman, just about anything. Fifteen years ago, the future seemed wide open.
Things change. What the heck happened?
My husband says I have to get used to this, the first set of friends dying from 18 -25, the second set after 35. I don't think the losses will ever not be shocking.
Finally - suicide in itself makes people sad and uncomfortable - we've changed from the 1960s where it was taboo to discuss...But even today - it does seem taboo to discuss.