2 recent tragedies leave friends, families in shocked disbelief
Those of us who have watched legions of friends die from a viral disease sometimes feel like we have become immune to the shock of death, but then tragedy strikes in an unforeseen way.
In the last week, two members of our community have died unexpectedly one from a suspected suicide and another from a fatal accident. It’s a lot to absorb in such a short period of time.
The charming, always-smiling guy who took his life last week left several friends behind who are struggling to comprehend the loss. Sober for eight years, he started drinking and doing drugs again at some unknown point, according to evidence his family and friends discovered in his apartment. No one knows when he started using again because he kept his relapse a secret. Financial problems evidently triggered his descent back into the hell of alcohol and drug abuse.
News of his death spread quickly, and a friend of his from Florida called to tell me she just couldn’t believe it was possible that he committed suicide. She wanted me to look into his death to make sure he hadn’t been the victim of foul play.
It only took a few minutes of talking to a few of his close friends to realize what had happened to him. Not knowing him as intimately as the others, I was not suffering from the denial they were experiencing.
Written instructions he left behind in his Oak Lawn apartment to give his pet to a friend and what to do with his belongings confirmed his intentions. He even left notes at his job for his coworkers about his duties.
Keeping his misery to himself appears to have kept him from getting the support he needed to resolve his problems and go on. He died with his beloved dog by his side, who was still there when someone came to check on her master a few days later.
It’s hard to fathom why he didn’t reach out for help because there obviously were many caring friends who would have been eager to help him. I’m guessing his despair had grown to the point he could no longer function, even though he was able to keep up the act that he was coping with his problems.
The other death last week was no easier to accept. It involved a fellow also known for his smile who apparently was managing life well. He was talented and had a promising career, but a freak accident took him away from his loving friends and family.
The Oak Lawn resident apparently discovered smoke coming from a trash can behind the pantry door of his apartment kitchen last weekend.
When he opened the pantry door, the rush of oxygen reportedly fueled the fire and engulfed him in flames. He died of smoke inhalation and burns, according to the medical examiner, and it all happened in a matter of seconds. Just a few minutes earlier, a neighbor had seen him walking his dog.
His dog and cat survived the fire and firefighters found them hiding in the apartment. One of his friends now has his cat, and his sister took his dog.
The deaths of the two men have left many people in mourning. Their loved ones’ misery appears to be the only common threads running between the two men’s deaths, but it is a poignant reminder for everyone about how quickly life can change or end.
Keep your friends and other loved ones close because you can never know for sure what tomorrow will bring.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007