When One Man Dies

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how you well you think you lived your life. It doesn’t matter what happened before. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, known or nameless. It doesn’t matter if your friends number in the hundreds or less than a handful. When you die, pain and sorrow permanently alter life for everyone who knew you.

When one man dies, neighbors become friends. April, Leroy, and their family are my neighbors a mile to the north. They were here within minutes of my 911 call and spent the first four hours with me, directing the state troopers and coroner, rubbing my hand, and holding me close while I slowly came to understand what had happened. When Gary died, my landlords came with green chili stew and bottles of wine. They traveled 90 miles to feed and comfort me. The 88-year-old neighbor brought beer; he had to find someone to drive him the four miles.

When one man dies, grief crashes in. People who didn’t know Gary cried with me when they heard the news. Usually they were remembering their own loss, the person they loved who died. Old sorrow returned to linger, to sit on their shoulders awhile. People who did know Gary were stunned, wordless, until the reality set in, then they too cried, remembering the man they loved. Grief tastes like ashes; words are no longer eloquent; colors are dull; time is warped. Pain is real, though, and weighs more than you could ever imagine.

When one man dies, family expands. I called everyone I knew who knew Gary. Each of them gave me strength, each one wept, each one called me back to check on me. Each one called another person who knew Gary. Now all of us are more than mere acquaintances. Now, Gary’s grieving mother is part of my family. I know things about her child that she does not know but that she needs to know. I know that he was a kind, gentle, strong man. That his kindness blessed many people. That he still wanted his body used by scientists to possibly unravel one more mystery. That he was diligent, brilliant, laughing, caring, and still tortured. That he built beautiful stone walkways, altars, and fire pits. That his final days were spent in a beautiful place and that he was surrounded by people who cared very deeply about him.

When one man dies, grudges are forgiven. Most of Gary’s family and friends had not spoken to him in years. He cut off his relationships one by one, methodically, in the last few years of his life. That angered and hurt his friends. Somehow it helps to understand that he did that to everyone. His friends understand more about the pain he was carrying, the weight of the decision he was making. They also know that carrying grudges is foolish and can rob you of precious time and sweet memories. Friends who have not spoken to each other because of some previous hurt have called each other this week and sought some common ground for forgiveness.

When one man dies, everyone becomes a storyteller. I have learned that Gary spent a month building stone walkways for a friend in Missouri. I have heard details of his childhood, stories from his days in the solar industry, tales of his propensity to make every project into a scientifically elaborate experiment. I know that he could be bone-headed stubborn and I know that he could be child-like in his enthusiasm. I know that he loved deeply. And, I know that many people loved him.

When one man dies, love floods your world. My mother and her dear friend, a priest, came to help me bless the home where Gary lived and died. They came laden with flowers and prayers. They soothed my spirit, and Gary’s. Friends with whom I work, called me, wept with me, and did rituals for me. Their notes poured love over me like a honeyed salve; their calls allowed me to grieve and to be held in love. That soothing allowed me to comfort Gary’s friends and family. They in turn poured love on his mother and on me and on each other. The richness of the love given to Gary, and to me, cannot be described but will always be remembered.

My friend Gary took his life on Solstice. His own grief stilled his heart and turned him away from the beauty of life. He no longer knew how to live in this world. His pain broke his spirit. His choice is almost impossible to understand; it was his choice. We sit in quiet sorrow, remembering when we chose to continue but so wanted to die. We all know now that the answer of suicide is a gut-wrenching answer for those who remain behind.

He came for solace; he died in peace. I will remember Gary Lee Moore.

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5 thoughts on “When One Man Dies

  1. Thanks for your compassionate understanding and fine words, Judy. I felt the essay might have some heart-healing to share with all the people losing loved ones right now. He was a gentle soul with deep hurt and I hope I showed some of the true love we shared with him. Thank you for reading my words, Judy.

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  2. It seems the sorrow never dies, does it, Jeanne? I think the survivors of a suicide remember when they had to make a choice for themselves but they are left with terrible guilt that they could not save another human being from their choice. Beautiful writing and he would have appreciated how you portrayed him.

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