Today, K & I heard that a friend back in England had taken his life. Still in shock, we met at lunchtime to hug each other and fail miserably at answering all the silent questions behind each others eyes.
Remembering what Martin meant to us made us mentally revisit our house-warming, Londons’ Hovis Charity Bike ride, BBQ’s and company summer parties. Martin was there at all of them, with his cheery manner and witty asides. He was the kind of guy who got involved. He loved rowing on the River Lea, cycling, Chicken Caesar Salad from M&S, and his Almighty VW Passat, (not sure if the Volvo ever reached mighty status!). He was fun, outgoing and quick to get stuck-in to whatever was going on. He bought our new baby a present when he had a lot going on in his own life. His thoughtfulness was all the more sweet as it was completely unexpected.
It’s scary when someone was there a few days ago, exchanging emails, and now… they’re not. Full stop. No more. It’s also scary when it turns out that someone you admired and looked up to for their experience and knowledge was actually struggling in the shadows, just like you, wrestling demons and caught in dilemmas, and all the while keeping that public face on. We all do it, and we all feel like we’re the only ones and everyone one else is perfectly composed and well put-together.
Taking one’s life isn’t a choice, or a character flaw, or a weakness, it happens when the pain outweighs the resources a person has for coping with it. What makes me feel the most sadness is that Martin must have been in so much pain and hid it so well that we never knew. He must have felt so alone. He must have felt he had no alternative.
It says a lot about the strength of societal constraints that he felt he had to conceal his feelings, that what he was experiencing wasn’t acceptable to be shared. It also speaks of his humility, that his own well-being was of lesser concern than staying within social boundaries. People say that those who kill themselves are selfish but often the reverse is true. Sometimes they put everyone one else first. Perhaps if we changed our attitude to unseen illnesses like depression and suicidal feelings, they wouldn’t have to.
We’ll miss you Martin.