Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Only Connect"

A friend of ours died after college. He died after an extended stay in a mental hospital, ravaged by schizophrenia.

S. was a stunning man with black eyes. He was wound tightly, like a laser point of light, so much wanted to burst from him, but mostly, he held it in a buried, tiny place. He would speak passionately, would invite me to his basement dorm room to share a short story he'd written. He would tell me how lucky I was to date his best friend, for this friend was a beautiful person. He came apart over the years, though, and when he died in the hospital, we all thought his overdose was a terrible, horrific tragedy.

It turned out he died from a severe reaction to his medication. A rare, but not unheard of reaction. I learned this news when an old friend forwarded me two stories written by a reporter at a local paper where S. grew up. They were remarkable stories that not only gave clarity to what had happened at the end of his life, but also made him alive for me again in a way I hadn't seen him in years.

I wrote to the reporter to thank her for her work. Today I heard back from her, and from S.'s mother, to whom the reporter had sent my letter. I responded with a letter recounting my impressions of S., how he'd been so much in such a short life, even if just in the energy in his eyes. I wanted to tell her anything, something more than she'd known before about her son. I can only try to imagine what it must be like to have him live by her side in death, with no further ability to transform. When a stranger can write out of the ether and tell you another tiny impression of him, I hope it helps to add to…to what, I'm not sure how to say.

Some who die seem to become larger presences than so many who live. It is a strange thing.


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