I thought I would be spending time on the blog tonight writing out some of my thoughts following seeing Elvis Costello for the first time last night. But that will keep until later in the week. (I’d bet on Thursday.) Unfortunately, tonight I’m writing about the death of another friend. A friend who took his own life. There is a potential trigger warning on this one, for those who need it.
I’m going to have to be a little bit vague on this post due to some ongoing situations and also out of personal respect and decorum. I will not be naming my friend by name for reasons that will probably be clear as you keep reading. I initially wrote it with his name included, but on posting, I have replaced each usage with the phrase [NAME WITHHELD]. It is infuriating that I feel the need to protect his and his family’s anonymity. But [NAME WITHHELD] is not here to give his permission, and his story isn’t really mine to tell. I should state in advance that this person was not in my daily life at the time of his death. In fact, we had not seen one another in person in probably 6-7 years. However [NAME WITHHELD]’s death hit home.
He was a good person. He was gentle and kind. There was a time several years ago when he worked underneath me, fairly closely. At that time, he was getting regularly bullied and many of those in positions of authority over him turned a coward’s eye to it and did nothing. Some of those who knew what was going on did our best to make ourselves as available as possible. At that time, it was only possible for me to listen and say, “You’ll get through this” while he more than once sobbed in front of me. A mutual friend went above and beyond and let him stay at her house, semi-regularly when he would need a safe place to get a good night’s sleep. It was a rough time in [NAME WITHHELD]’s life. I realize now that those times never ended for him. Ultimately, when I said, “you’ll get through this,” I was wrong.
You wouldn’t have known any of that unless you were told. [NAME WITHHELD] rarely had a bad word to say to those who were uninvolved. He seemed upbeat and joyful. He always had a laugh and a story. He always asked how YOU were doing. Was there anything he could pray about for YOU? How is YOUR day going? He was kind and generous with his time, even to a fault.
We lost touch, as too often happens when someone moves. I didn’t know much about his life for a few years. It is only within the last year that I learned that he was gay. That his sexuality was a big part of the reason he was bullied even when I knew him–long before he came out. That the bullying didn’t stop when he left. That there are always more bullies when you’re a gay Southerner. That the church shamed him for being who he was, once he came out of the closet. That he struggled with it, but had to be true to who he was. That, to my understanding from things his friends have said on Facebook, all of that got to be too much sometime yesterday…
…and yet people think being gay is a choice.
The world lost a good, sweet, kind, thoughtful person. I have been trying, but I can not remember the last time I actually saw [NAME WITHHELD]. I know it has been at least six years. Maybe seven? Eight? And yet, on May 29, 2014, he sent me a Facebook message to wish me a happy birthday. “Thanks, man! Good to hear from you! How’s it going?” No reply… Maybe he didn’t want to tell me, I don’t know…
I didn’t know what he was going through. But do we ever really know? All I know is that for all of the good in [NAME WITHHELD]’s heart. For all his laugher. For all his concern for others. For all his gentleness. For all of his faith in a loving and caring God whose son died for his sins. (Yes…a gay Christian. It happens.) For all of that and for whatever else was good…the pain overtook him. The hurt won. And that should never happen to anyone. No one should have to be ashamed of who they are. No one should have to have their friends withhold their name from a blog post so that, at least for my part, I’m not the one responsible if the soulless fucks at Westboro Baptist picket his funeral. And more than that–with the question of sexuality removed… No one should ever have to feel like they don’t have anywhere to go with their pain.
He was 29. And to him that felt like it was too long.
Don’t ever stop fighting. Don’t ever give up hope. Don’t ever stop giving a shit. As Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
God damn it, I’m tired of writing these posts.