Skip to content

Do Something: Tom’s legacy (my remarks at my best friend’s memorial service)

On Christmas 2012, my best friend from high school committed suicide. He sent a final goodbye email to many people. In that email, he didn’t blame anyone. He was incredibly considerate for other people’s feelings even in death. I didn’t hear Tom say anything bad about anyone else ever, even when they were very nasty to him. But that was just Tom.

The email was timed so that it was received after he had already died, so that no one could stop him, so that no one could help him.

These are my comments at Tom’s memorial service:

I met Tom 4 times in my life. 33 years ago. 28 years ago. 24 years ago. 3 years ago.

33 years ago I had just transfered to Tom’s high school. I was in 10th grade and Tom in 8th. Just a few months ago I had discovered that the computers in science fiction books were real.

I was shy, Tom wasn’t as much. Through the magic of study hall we played with the Trash-80s together, played startrek. Tom showed us the perfect way to say NO-O-O-O. Mr. P. was our bechalked benevolent god. We came in 2nd at a programming content. I became a janitor because it gave me the power of keys and late night access to the computer lab. I wasn’t the best janitor.

I remember him as my best friend for those 3 wonderful years in high school. But he was also very private about his home life. He would come over to our house – but for some reason or another I could never go to his. I never saw his family – there was some secret there. But being in high school, it was enough that we were friends.

I graduated and left for college. I am not very good at keeping in touch and neither was Tom.

28 years ago. We got back together. I remember Chicago and LA Origins. Late night games of Pit.

24 years ago, Tom invited me to LA after I had gotten laid off. I packed my bags and headed west. Tom’s offer pulled me to where I would thrive.

He then disappeared trying to help Kristina. He stopped answering the phone or the door. For 2 decades my best friend cut me off and disappeared trying to save another. And died. And I mourned. I moved on.

He then reappeared 3 years ago. He was both the same and different. He was desparate and trying to not be desparate. He need help getting his mother’s things moved.

He needed money. After 20 years of no contact I was both happy and wary. People change after 20 years. Tom’s personality and heart hadn’t. I helped him and his mother’s things got moved.

He was still trying to save everyone else in his life. In the emergency instructions on an airplane, you are told to make sure you fasten your air mask on first before trying to help others. Tom didn’t do that – he sacrificed a brilliant career and potential to try to save others. And he didn’t. And he didn’t save himself.

3 months ago, he asked for help again. This time I didn’t. I took a principled stand that I wish I hadn’t – and for that I am eternally sorry. There were very specific – very doable things that I could have done; things that wouldn’t have cost much. And I didn’t.

Tom is dead. But others are living. Tom’s death is the 4th suicide in my life. I promise you this, everyone us is young enough that we will know another person who is considering suicide or will commit suicide. Everyone of us needs to do something to help. Not to offer advice – to do. To give of our time, to help with something – get a piece of paper over to the DMV so that they don’t lose their driver’s license, help with babysitting, help with time. Help take the weight of the world off their shoulders so they can breathe. Do not ask why they can’t do something “so simple” – they can’t. Depression is overwhelming engulfing. The world suffocating with burdens and demands. Help lighten the load. Do something. No advice – just do. Not money – but time and energy. Share the burden. 3 months ago when Tom emailed me for help – I was too busy.

December 14th – 11 days before Tom committed suicide on Christmas, he emailed me and it was a very positive email. Things were looking up, things were going great. When people are dying, often times there is an apparent great improvement just before death. People come out of coma, they are responsive and coherent in the hours before death. That final note was the artificial improvement before Tom died from depression.

All of us know someone else still alive who will die from depression – do what you can to help stop it before it becomes terminal. Otherwise I promise you this, you will be attending another memorial service

Posted in social commentary.

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Christina Salazar says

    Thanks for your blog and for your craigslist postings. Please accept my sympathy on the passing of your friend. Losing someone close is so hard. I agree and appreciate your comments on the value of small kindnesses and I’d like to thank you for yours. I have over 15 years as a self-made systems administrator and I am reinventing myself as a programmer with the goal of moving to Costa Rica and telecommuting from there. I wanted to write to let you know your blog and posting made a positive difference in my life. Best always (the Luddites ARE right for sure), Tina

Continuing the Discussion

  1. The Dangers of Knight in Shining Armor and Princesses who need them | Just wondering…. linked to this post on October 20, 2013

    […] My best friend in High School recently killed himself. Tom spent over 20 years trying to save a girl with low self-esteem as a result of parental abuse. He sacrificed all his potential (and he was quite smart – CalTech student). In the end, she is living and he was destroyed. […]

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.