In October, I was walking my dog practicing our loose leash walking lessons. We passed a stout young man with shaded complexion and grouchy face. I found him scary! Not sure if I uttered the normal, “Hi!” or not. He certainly did not respond if I did.
Since my office is the front room of my house and my desk faces the window to the street, I noted him walking by my house, usually multiple times per day. It wasn’t long before I noticed he was losing weight. As the weeks went by, the pounds dropped off him too fast. Soon his pants were loose on his hips. He no longer looked scary to me, but he was definitely melancholy. As I repeatedly saw him pass by, I wanted to run to the door and congratulate him on his amazing weight loss. But I didn’t. If I had encountered him on the sidewalk again, I might have tried to bring a positive light to his darkened face.
A couple of days ago, as kids were getting off the bus two blocks from me, they saw a man lying on the ground. A dead man. Suicide — at the far end of the boulevard leading into our subdivision. Our neighborhood board buzzed with the tragic news and ways of dealing with the tragedy with the children who saw. No one seemed to know the 24 year old man, except that his sister lived in our neighborhood. Neighbors planned ways to memorialize the man: a makeshift memorial of flowers and trinkets were set around a tree near the site of his demise; neighbors would leave their porch lights on all night this weekend; it was suggested to tie a green ribbon around the trunks of front yard trees signifying depression; someone asked if anyone could donate a solar light for the memorial.
I left my house this afternoon, drove past the memorial and saw a dozen women in a circle holding hands and praying. I stopped, walked up behind them, and waited. When they were finished, I asked if they were relatives. Many were. I asked for the sister who happened to be standing beside me. I told her, “I think I knew your brother.” I asked if he walked a lot. She was not sure, as she works all day when he was doing his walking. I asked if he had lost a lot of weight recently. Yes! He lost 30 pounds after his wife and young daughter left him recently. He could not eat. I had assumed he was walking to aid the weight loss. He was walking to salve his troubled mind.
I told them, when I first saw him, he was big, burly, and looked scary. They all laughed and said he was a jokster, always kidding around. I told them, as I saw him repeatedly, he was no longer scary.
Two days ago, he and his brother-in-law planned what they could make for dinner to help his sister. He said he was going out for a walk, but said nothing about when he would be back.
She mentioned her brother told her she had to be brave for everyone. She broke down and said she is tired of being strong. I hugged her, expressed my sympathy, and said, “God will help you.”
If I had recognized the signs, could I have helped? If only . . .