Not one of us knows the number of our days. And not one of us can know what is in another's heart.
We were in Michigan for Labor Day weekend, at my godfather's (D's) lake house with my parents, my brother and his family, my godfather's oldest son (E) and two of his sons. It had been years since I had seen my godfather, but he and two of his sons had gone out to Arizona to visit my parents this past winter, and he wanted to return the favor. My grandfather first got to know my godfather as his lawyer, then he became a family friend. My father even clerked for him for a while when he was in law school. (Dad eventually decided law wasn't a good fit.)
My godfather's family has seen a lot of tragedy. His daughter had leukemia as a child; though she survived it, she died in her late 30s from a stroke. E's wife passed away a number of years ago from tongue cancer, while their three boys were still relatively young. (Tongue cancer is incredibly uncommon in nonsmokers like her.) Within the last year or so, D's wife passed on; she was in her 70s.
It was so good to see D again, to spend time with E in a non-business situation, and to meet two of E's boys. I was reminded of how much D is like my grandfather (my father's father), warm, outgoing, charming. Husbandido and I spent a lot of time talking to E over the weekend, discussing board games, family, IF, autism (one of his sons is autistic, as is one of our nephews), the lake house. It was a beautiful weekend, peaceful and fun.
This past week we received word that E had died. There was some confusion at first - it was not D, my godfather, who is 80, but E, his son. In time we heard that it was from carbon monoxide poisoning; Husbandido wondered if it was suicide, but I firmly wanted to believe that it was an accident (perhaps a furnace malfunction?). Over time I started to see holes in my theory, but I clung to it. My parents went to the funeral yesterday; D told them that E had committed suicide. His three boys are all in their late teens/early twenties, now without parents. D has moved in with his grandsons; they will need him more than ever now. In this day and age a parent doesn't expect to outlive his children, but D has lived longer than two of his four children.
Yesterday was the first time I truly understood how profoundly selfish an act suicide is. I know what can drive someone to long for death; years ago I tried repeatedly to commit suicide; I was fortunate enough to do no lasting damage to myself. More recently there have been nights where I prayed for God to take me in my sleep, waking in tears because I was still here. Despite my brother being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts about 15 years ago and needing to comfort and calm my parents during that time, I hadn't really understood what destruction suicide leaves in its wake. I understand the despair and pain that can make you long for death, now I know the anger, hurt, and pain of those left behind.
We saw E just a couple of weeks ago; he seemed normal. Certainly not over-the-top happy, but quietly content. It is such a shock to realize how little we know about what is going on in another's heart.
Besides his father and his three sons, he leaves behind two brothers and a fiancé.
May God grant them peace.