stringing together the pieces
Conor Fahey-Latrope: 10/06/77 – 12/27/13But if you stand and stare across the sea It’s like you’re standing right next to me You’ll hear my whispers carry on the breeze As you close your eyes to sleep Its like you’re lying right next to me
Last Thursday my friend Conor took his own life.
Ever since, I have been trying to string together the pieces, trying to make sense of what a world without Conor looks like.
There are the pieces that exist in memory. There are the memories of me dragging him to Ukiah for an impromptu trip to the shooting range, where in his truck he asked me to recommend good metal and I obliged, blasting Darkest Hour and Children of Bodom the whole drive up. The times where he’d come into the cafe I was working at and just hang out with me at the counter. There was the dinner we shared at my favorite restaurant across from my ex’s house, where he was staying for a while. That was the dinner where he confided in me that despite the troubles he and his wife Ava were facing, that he loved her dearly and wanted to have more children with her. There are so many other memories that I barely dare share on an, ahem, public blog. The shenanigans in Reno hotel rooms. The cocktail parties in the middle of the desert.
There the pieces that exist as interrupted memories. There are the text and gchat messages between us from the day before he died, where we were planning to go to an epic punk show at 924 Gilman on Friday. There are those awkward, lingering pieces of digital ephemera that I wish I could take back, like the text I sent him before I got the news asking, “You alive? Gilman tonight?” The text message from Ava that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to delete where she told me the news. There’s the fact that he’s still signed into chat, his name right near the top of my chat list. Like he’s going to suddenly return from away and message me, apologizing for flaking.
I’m sure there are many memories of him that I’ll never remember simply because they seemed insignificant at the time. Things I never thought were worth remembering because I thought they would be repeated, over and over.
There are the visceral and intense pieces that I haven’t quite processed but feel like I needed to experience in order to understand the reality of my friend’s death. Pieces like seeing his apartment before it was cleaned. Pieces like watching a friend spackle over the bullet hole in the ceiling. Pieces like carefully packing away his clothes into a box labeled “FUNERAL.” This is not the first time I’ve experienced the death of a friend, and certainly not the first friend I’ve lost to suicide, but never before have I been involved with the immediate crisis-management process of losing someone suddenly and unexpectedly. I’m incredibly thankful to Ava for letting me be a part of that process, and thankful for all the other friends who showed up and have been helping too (even if it has involved a lot of crying on the floor surrounded by boxes).
There are the little pieces and clues, the things that fit together to form a picture of an impulsive mistake rather than a planned action. The book about how to prepare for a new puppy. Uncashed checks on the counter. Plans that he’d made with me and others. I don’t know if knowing that this was a lapse in judgement, a big stupid mistake, makes any of this any easier. I feel like much of managing my own struggle with depression is finding ways to put as much distance as I can between myself and the opportunity to make a similar impulsive mistake. I’m heartbroken that my friend ultimately got too close to that edge.
There are pieces from people who are better at making sense of things than I am, including this piece from our friend Suzanne that was so on target that I’ve only been able to read it through once: Depression is a disease, and most of us aren’t doctors.
The biggest piece in all of this is what he left behind. A beautiful baby daughter, Finn, and his wife Ava, one of the strongest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Holding Finn on that first day after was a welcome moment of solace in the middle of this incredibly hard storm. They have a huge well of support now, including friends like me who are totally willing to look like a crazy person on BART, sobbing into a paper bag stuffed with sandwiches to deliver to those holding down the fort and packing up his apartment. They’re going to need even more support in the coming months and years. A couple of our quick thinking friends have set up a website here with information on how to help Ava and Finn, including a fundraiser for immediate and long term costs.
I wish I could end this artfully. I wish I could string all these pieces together into something that makes sense, a picture of a life and death that is both complete and comforting. But there are pieces none of us will ever have, explanations and apologies and expressions of love that we will never see.
There is one last piece, I guess.
I love you.