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time and grief

Quick note: Although I’ve done my best to be careful in the language that I’ve used, this post contains discussion of suicide.

This weekend marks thirteen years, by the Jewish calendar, since my best friend killed himself.

I was seventeen at the time; he was three years ahead of me and had gone off to college on the east coast. We kept up regularly on the phone and through texting.

Early Friday afternoon, like every one before that that year, I wished him a good Shabbos. He told me to have a good weekend at the faire, and we hung up. We’d talk on Monday.

Mid-afternoon on Sunday I got the call that on Sunday morning, he’d stepped in front of an oncoming train.

I could write pages about how despite how close we were I had no clue that he was struggling (and by all accounts, neither did anyone else). I could write about how even thirteen years later I feel guilty. But the truth of the matter is that it wasn’t my fault, and there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent it, and I cannot continually live in the land of what-if and grief.

Instead, I’d like to share a previously unpublished poem that I wrote several years ago.

I am ashamed
to say that time
has softened grief

and that
on this dark and stormy night
I no longer

can remember the words,
or how your smile
lit the evenings by the campfires.

and I cannot
place this stone
in remembrance

from a thousand miles away.
all I can do
as the trains

echo into the distance,
is whisper to myself
yis-gadal v’yis-kadash

and for a moment
that you are smiling still.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out and get help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 800-273-8255.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Suicide prevention resources is a more extensive list of organisations and programs that can help.

Suicide Stop – The Suicide Help Center has a list of online suicide prevention chat services.

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