Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brian

I'd like to share what I learned in this past year. A friend took his own life one year ago tomorrow. I had seen him just 3 days before when he paced one of the races I direct. I originally met Brian through him volunteering at my first ever race on my own back on 1/1/11.

This anniversary of his death is really hard to talk about, but I feel the discussion is beneficial to put out to the world. This post formed over about 2 weeks of turning it in my head.

In the sudden shock of his death, there were a lot of tears and heartbreak, but ultimately big changes came out of it for me, many of which I feel were positive:


  • Let others know where they are valued in my life. In the aftermath of his death, I had not realized that I was in his top tier of friends. Frankly, he would have never communicated that. In hindsight, his love was in his actions and comments but never direct. Not knowing this, I had put him in my midtier of friendships (very very few being in the top tier). After his death, several of his friends along with myself waited for that echelon of best friends to emerge - when they didn't, we found out we were that to him. I learned that for me, I didn't want people in the position I was in of finding out your value in the worst possible circumstances. I want to make sure the important people in my life know where they stand at all times. In the last year, I'm more giving of my "I love you"'s and declaring to people that they are important in my life (Note: even if I feel my actions and communications already say that).

  • I want more validation of my value in friendships. I dislike this fallout. But I'm sensitive. I went from having a friend, a standard decent loved-our-routine-communication friend, to spreading his ashes. I want to know if I'm an acquaintance, a friend, a good friend, or a best friend. Not being sure where I stand is difficult. I don't want to force friends to state where our relationship is at. But occasionally in this past year it creates an additional level of stress out of my need for validation. I was thankful in the two weeks after his death when a good friend just got it on her own and sent me "I want you to know you are important in my life."

  • Family is important. There was a stress in being the only one of his runner friends who had met his widow and child (and had only done that once). And they are both wonderful. I found myself in the wake of Brian's death wanting to be more familiar with the family of my friends. One of my best friends had me meeting the spouse within a couple weeks of Brian's death and I planned a Christmas party where everyone had a chance to spend time with each others' spouses. When all your friends are runners and you see them on the run, at a race, or going on race trips, it's surprisingly easy to be good friends with someone and not know their family.

  • A cry for help gets immediate attention. The moment Brian posted his goodbye on Facebook before committing suicide, I was headed to the doctor for an appointment. I thought he was making a really bad joke at first. Then I couldn't find the punchline. Then I was leaving a message on his voicemail. Then I was asking for someone to go check on him. And then it's a blur. A really bad blur. I've had the occasional vaguebook of an acquaintance or friend on Facebook that raises my hackles. And I will check on you. I'm sensitive now.

  • Every person can have a wide influence. But you didn't know him. Half the time I feel like I didn't know him. And definitely we didn't know he was having the feelings of suicide. But for those who really didn't know him, grieve and recognize that people have battles you aren't aware of, but don't push it all too hard. It's awkward. If you want to know someone's true wishes, talk to the people who were close to him. And then respect what they tell you. Responses toward his death made me uncomfortable in not wanting to speak for him but knowing how he would have felt about some things people wanted to do in his honor, I had to speak up.

  • He lives on through us. My first attempt at 100 miles was an odd thing without him there. He had pushed me to flip the switch on trying a 100 miler, and I never committed while he was alive. Another year of the Fairview Half Marathon happened in April, but I won't forget how happy he was at his performance that day in 2013. And now I prepare to put on my first 100 miler for the North Texas community. I think often how he would have been one of my first registrations. He liked pushing the boundaries of being comfortable. He would have been proud.


There are ripples coming off all our actions. Never forget that.