This is a story about suicide...
On December 6 my friend phoned me telling me he was going to kill himself. I knew he was in a dire situation but I also felt confident that he wasn't in immediate danger. We spoke again every day. We stayed in close contact, messaging frequently. I kept a close eyen on him and his mood. I was very worried. I was desperate for a solution. I was desperate to help. I was desperate to improve his situation. Then things briefly improved: We made a positive plan. He sounded happier.
On December 10 my friend told me how he was going to kill himself. I took detailed notes, knowing that it was a credible threat and that this information would be vital to emergency services, in order to save his life. I spoke to my friend several times that day. He told me every single detail of his plan. I repeatedly asked him if he would consider getting help, having me or another friend or family member visit him. I asked him how he would feel about me contacting emergency services. I suggested every alternative to suicide that I could think of. I told him he'd see the world differently if he was getting the help he needed. I told him he would be missed. I told him he was loved. I told him he was wanted.
On December 11 I knew my friend was dying. I knew that he was killing himself. He did not need to tell me that he had commenced committing suicide.
On December 12 I knew that my friend was dead. I knew that he had killed himself. Nobody needed to tell me.
Whether my friend died on December 11 or 12, nobody knows precisely. I imagine that at roughly this time at night, exactly one month ago, my friend was in limbo-land, dying. My friend was in the process of committing suicide exactly one month ago. He was beyond the point of no return. He was beyond saving. Nobody could have saved his life.
I did not write off my friend.
I did not abandon my friend.
I did not give up on my friend.
I did the hard thing.
I spent 6 days knowing that my friend was going to kill himself and there was nothing I could do except listen and 'be there' with him, in the figurative sense. I don't think I could have been there for him any more than I was. I don't think I could have been any closer than I was. What I mean is, it would have been impossible to better know my friend's mind in his final moments. What I mean is, it would have been impossible to more closely relate, empathise and sympathise with his plight, with his decision, and be his close companion during the final days of his life with him.
I was with him the whole time.
It would have been wonderful if he could have died under medical supervision, surrounded by his family, friends and colleagues. It would have been wonderful if he could have been afforded that comfort, but it was impossible. It would have been an affront to his dignity to die like that. He chose how he died, just as he chose how he lived. I understood his wishes. What he wanted was clear and unambiguous. To impose what we wanted onto him would have been selfish of us.
I gave him what he wanted. I gave him what he explicitly asked for. I carried the burden of knowing what he was in the process of doing - killing himself - because he had a right to self-determination, and he knew what his options were. His options were sadly limited. I wish he had more options, but he didn't and no amount of wishing was going to create a miracle.
I met my friend when he was my age now, 14 years ago. He saw a younger version of himself in me, and I saw an older version of myself in him. We recognised that we were kindred spirits: Our values and outlook on life were almost identical.
The final time we spoke, he was so grateful for the life he'd had. He was so happy to have experienced so much. He was utterly content that he had made the most of his time on Earth and been so fortunate to have had so many amazing experiences. There wasn't a single hint of regret for the choices he made, but instead he expressed absolute conviction that he would live his life exactly the same, were he to live it again.
This is a heavy burden, to say that you're going to kill yourself and explain all the reasons why, and for it to be coherent, credible, rational, reasonable and compelling enough to convince a close friend to not intervene, until the deed is done.
December 11 was unbearable. My friend was in limbo: technically alive, but rapidly dying. I was the only person who knew.
On December 12 I could finally unburden myself. I knew he was dead, before the emergency services even entered his property and confirmed that his life had ended. The official confirmation of his death meant I no longer had to keep the most dreadful secret; the almost unbearable responsibility I shared in the execution of his final wishes - through my inaction and silence - was carried through to its ultimate conclusion.
Since then, I have had the title of this blog post in my mind incessantly, and I have written so many words in my head, attempting to do justice to what happened; attempting to give sympathetic treatment to my friend and his final end.
I haven't written, because to write a hurried off-the-cuff blog post would not be fair to my friend's legacy. I haven't written, because of all the many pitfalls I feared. What if it wasn't good enough? What if it was offensive to the decent and dignified treatment that the dead should receive? What if I fucked it up?
I haven't written, because I'm trying not to kill myself. Perversely, I've written this whole 1.1 million word blog in an attempt to delay my own suicide plans, when in fact my friend was reading it the whole time, and it was the reason why he felt he could open up to me. My blog is the reason he phoned me 6 days before he died. My blog is the reason we had such frank and candid discussions. My blog is the reason why his death has not left me with any unanswered questions, or a sense that I could or should have acted any differently.
Of course, I doubt myself at times. Perhaps he was suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems which impaired his judgement. Perhaps he might have seen the world differently, in a different state of mind. Of course he would. However, I know his thoughts and wishes intimately. Ultimately, the decision was his and his alone. I cannot be responsible for his decisions, but I could have been responsible for denying him what he clearly and concisely requested of me; I could have ruined his opportunity to exercise his free will and right to self-determination. I could have denied him dignity, for the sake of my own doubts.
The situation is an incredibly difficult one, and my response has been considered with every ounce of spare brain capacity that I possess. If I have mis-stepped and mis-spoken, then I am sorry, but I don't think I could offer a better alternative.
My friend rests in peace now, and I find that comforting. I know that his friends, family and colleagues are reeling with shock and grief, but I am glad that my friend died with dignity in the manner of his choosing.
RIP my friend.