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During the holidays my thoughts often wander to those who have experienced some hardship, or loss during previous year. Some times the inherent joy of the season just seems to amplify loss or heartache, it’s a time of year where the size of those missing pieces can expand like the Grinch’s heart on Christmas day. But you know what they say, without experiencing sorrow, how can we recognized and appreciate joy?

Anyhow, it seems as though there is lots of heartache in the world around me, or maybe I am just more perceptive than I used to be. Various friends have posted photo memorials on Facebook- a good friend lost her father suddenly this year, a college teammate lost hers a few years back after a long illness- these experiences impress upon me how lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life, and how deep it would cut me to lose any of them. Of these many tradgedies, there is one that has weighed heavier on my heart. And interestingly enough, this was a loss that happened on the very periphery of my life- I viewed it from arm’s length, and yet it has really stuck with me.

Earlier this year, one of my colleagues very unexpectedly passed away. He was very senior in his department, and despite the fact that we worked in completely different facets of the business, our cubesĀ  were situated mere feet from one another. Our interactions were fairly limited, cordial hellos and goodbyes. When I first joined the company, he was kind enough to sit with me, and explain how his department fit into the larger puzzle. So we weren’t close in any respect, but you end up learning a lot about a person, when you work quietly beside them.

DD was a quiet person, with a slight accent from his years living abroad. He was articulate and seemed as though he would have been just as at home in front of a lecture hall full of college students. Smart and exacting he worked closely with Marc, and I was privy to their daily conversations about work and life. Frequently they would break for lunch, strolling down to the deli in the basement of our building, and selecting a sandwich to share. They had known each other many years, and worked together with an enviable ease and comfortability.

Most days DD would receive a call (or several) from his daughter. Jenna was an addict, and although I am not certain about her drug of choice, I know she wasn’t safely in recovery. He would take almost each and every one of her calls- his cellphone had a distinctive ring assigned to her, I quickly learned. Even when he couldn’t spare a moment to chat, he would answer and quickly reassure her that they’d talk soon. And he handled her needs very publicly- never scurrying into a conference room and closing the door. He didn’t seem to be ashamed of her misfortunes, which always impressed and puzzled me.

Jenna was struggling- always looking for/quitting a job, asking for money, or perhaps reeling from a recent break up. But DD’s devotion never wavered. I remember one conversation in particular, where she had claimed to have gotten a job as a dog groomer, and desperately needed money for grooming supplies, as she had already booked her first client. Another time, she must have requested funds for some other venture, and DD questioned her about a rather large sum of money that she had been provided only days prior. I always wondered how DD felt, working a few seats away from myself- a girl of very similar age to his daughter, who had made different choices, and been handed different proclivities. I never considered how her difficulties must have worn on him.

It was springtime when we received the mass email. The birds were chirping, flowers were beginning to bloom, and the earth was coming alive, after months of bitter cold. DD was dead. There was little explanation, and a lack of direction about how to proceed with condolences. For days afterwards I searched for an obituary, but always came up empty handed. Rumors swirled around the office- it was so very sudden, and given his age it was likely a heart attack, maybe an aneurysm. The day that Marc came back to work my heart broke for him- he sat in silence, no one to chit chat with, no one to share lunch with.

We never received any further answers or clarifications. We were told the family had chosen to intern DD privately, and that was that. Marc was relocated to opposite corner of the office, and soon new hires sat in the little alcove where DD once was. I didn’t forget though. I wondered about his daughter, and how Jenna was fairing without a father- I can’t imagine losing my Dad, and I certainly don’t depend on him to the same extent. Who was answering her calls now? How was she surviving such an immense loss, given her obvious hurdles?

Recently, we got some insight into DD’s death. As we sat and enjoyed lunch on the last work day before the holiday, our boss discretely let it slip that it had been suicide. This newest revelation threw me for a loop- DD had decided to end it, it hadn’t been an accident- it had been premeditated. Suddenly I was consumed with questions- how, where, who must’ve found him… What about Jenna?

Until Later,

Jessa Jay

Ps- there is always a way out: 1-800-273-TALK http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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