It's been 25 years at least since I met him. He was one of the cool kids in high school when I was a wallflower. He was a large, brash and outgoing, when I was a chronically shy, depressive/angsty teen neurotic. He was one of the most talented singers and actors in the choir and theatre groups in school. I moved in the same sort of circles, but we had different friends and though I admired him, he rather frightened me.
Later, when we were both in the medieval society at the same time, and he was way out ahead of me again in the socialization race, he was unfailingly polite. Even though we no longer moved in the same circles, and he was very busy and important, he always made a few minutes to speak to me.
He was married, with children, and in the (admittedly somewhat nerdy) context of the SCA, he was accomplished and highly respected. He had there, as in high school, a huge number of friends and admirers, his extroverted personality, coupled with a plenitude of artistic talents had served him well.
A decent chap, all 'round, and someone worth knowing, even slightly.
Last week, I got word that he had died suddenly. That was all we knew. I was surprised how saddened I was, since we had not known each other well, by any means.
Then we learned that he had taken his own life, after several years of battling serious depression, and my remote sadness took another form. Now his name, to which I had given little thought over the years, is in my mind over and over. His life, that had merely brushed close to mine for a few years, many years ago, suddenly seemed more precious.
His act will remain a mystery and a tragedy, even to those who knew him well. It will injure his children and his wife, his parents and siblings, his friends and co-workers. It has rippled out into the world, even as far as Rome, where I am sitting in sight of the great dome of St. Peter's Basilica, and the graves of the first Martyrs. His life, his existence, the reality of him, however distant he may be from me and from you who are reading this, is real. It cannot be erased. By his act, he has tried to remove himself from the world, to undo his own Reality. But this is the secret of living: it can't be undone.
This is what makes suicide so terrible. All acts of negation so horrific. It is an attempt to undo The Real, to become an unmaker, an anti-deity. This is why my old school mate's action has hurt me, even now, after a quarter century, and half a world away. He was, and is, real, and a part of the great Real that we all share. No part of it can be damaged or suffer violence without all the other parts being injured.
This is why we fight the fight we are in.
I'm so sorry, Charles, that I could not have been there to tell you this when it might have helped you.
I'm so sorry.
Requiescat in pace.