To this day, almost twenty-three months after Rob’s suicide, I still can’t fathom the horror of it. It’s unimaginable yet I re-imagine it regularly. It’s unspeakable but I want to talk about it. It’s unthinkable yet here I am…
In 2003 one of my employees killed himself. He chose to end his life by carbon monoxide poisoning in his parents’ garage the Friday before Mother’s Day. His coworkers and friends were devastated. I worked with this incredibly talented, thoughtful artist for years so I felt like I knew him, but I wouldn’t say that I knew him well. He was much younger and much cooler than I was, and I was his boss, so I’m sure he had some strong opinions of me that varied from one day to the next. But I was wrecked by his death. It was months of grieving the loss of him, the sadness over his final act. At the time I remember thinking, If I’m this affected, I cannot imagine how obliterated his parents, his sister, his girlfriend, his close friends are.
Rob’s horrific death feels surreal. And it feels a million miles away. My life has moved on. My life will continue to distance itself from that life that I had with him, and away from his memory. It is what it is; I can’t hold on to him and move forward at the same time. It doesn’t diminish his life, our marriage, our love for each other, or his great big heart. It just allows me to continue living, which is what he wanted. And it’s what I want.
I knew even right after he died that I wasn’t going to stay in my grief forever. I knew that I couldn’t allow his death to be the end of my story, or serve as the downward catalyst for my life. It had to make me better. My life had to get better. I had to do whatever I could to make it true. I had to stuff my grief deep down inside; thanks to an incredible therapist I was able to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Sounds simple. It really was, but that’s not to say that I wasn’t a wreck or hell to deal with. I’m me after all…
I call his illness and ultimately his death a horrible, beautiful gift that I’ve been given. It’s a gift I never, ever wanted and one that I wouldn’t choose for me or wish upon anyone else. The gift is that I know what’s important now. For the most part, I no longer am affected by the mundane irritations of life. He taught me some of that when we were together, but when he got sick and I only wanted him well and happy and home with me, everything else melted away. No one’s opinions mattered, none of the disagreements with others mattered, and I knew without reservation that relationships were important, people were important.
I feel free in some respects. To repeat, I would NEVER choose this path. I would bring him back in an instant and go back to sweating the small stuff if it meant he’d still be walking among us, sharing his incredible humor and intellect. But I’ve got to leave the past behind. I can’t think about what I would do if I could. I have to think about what I will do, what I can do.
But of course I miss him. I always will. The way he kissed me at every stoplight, the way he held my car door open for me, the way he knew what I was hungry for without me having to tell him, the way he called me “babydoll,” the way he tucked me in every night, just the way he loved me.
He was my biggest cheerleader. He knew I could do anything. And I believe it too.