At the risk of getting lost on caveat lane, I do want to say that I don’t think it’s any less sad or terrible when someone not handsome, not nice, and not smart passes away, let alone takes their own life. In the search for a reason, though – a reason that is sorely lacking when you haven’t talked to someone since high school – it’s that much more baffling when the person seems to have had a great life. Mike had a girlfriend, as far as I can tell from Facebook. In a lot of photos there’s a dog, a black lab. I know he had good friends, because I kept in touch with some of them. I know he had a good job, because I have been Googling. And I know how depression is, because I have been close to it. But still. But still.
Mike played the Beast in our sixth grade performance of Beauty and the Beast. My best friend Stef played Belle; I played a plate (the head plate, I was told, but I later learned that was just because I was the tallest). Later, when we were in high school, I thought about getting my pilot’s license. Mike, who later wound up at Embry-Riddle, an aeronautics college, encouraged me. He convinced me it was the best thing I could do. My parents disagreed, and I lost that battle. But over the last week and a half I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the teenage boy who checked in with a classmate in the halls on a dream, who handed her pamphlets and told her she could do it, that she’d love being on the wing. It was a much greater show of care and energy than was seemly at the time, and I can’t shake it now.
From what I’ve pieced together, Mike did not become a pilot, as he had wanted in high school, but went into the Marines. He did a long tour of duty in Iraq, where he continued to be nicer than was even close to required. He came home and got what to me appears to have been a fancy job in DC. His girlfriend (again based on Facebook stalking) clearly adored him, and he her. When she changed her profile picture a few days after he died to a photo of him kissing her, someone commented, “Who is that movie star smooching you?” Enough people changed their photos last week to pictures of him that I thought he had gotten married, until I got the news.
I know this is how life goes sometimes. We get older, life gets complex, sadder in many ways, and people pass away. This one rankles though. It really does.