Love, The Conversations Around Suicide, and “Clarence”

Updated: Oct 24, 2018


This is from a guy I know. He’d rather keep his name out of it.


In the third week of November, 2011, the culmination of two events in my life took place. and my license to work had been suspended, which translates into not working in my field for years.


In the second week of January of 2012, I began to actively consider the merits of suicide. I had a day planned, and was trying to figure out how I could get a gun online without spending a lot of money and having anybody know I had one.


I am a practical man. And my life was shit. I have a million dollar life insurance policy. If I die, a million dollars is distributed to whomever my beneficiary is, which I think is my five kids. And the cool part is that, after two years, you can die anyway you want except jumping out of an airplane or riding a motorcycle.


The policy was activated in 1996, so I begin thinking practically. 200K for each kid in a week.

I thought about Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” who after being told by Lionel Barrymore that he was worth more dead than alive. With his life insurance policy in his coat pocket, he went to a bridge and contemplated jumping into the river until Clarence the Angel preceded his plunge.


I kept waiting for my own version of Clarence. He never showed.


During this time in my life, I was living with a friend named George that had been diagnosed with the following: skin cancer, lung cancer, emphysema, COPD, bladder cancer, and a small brain tumor. He wanted company and when I separated from my wife, he gave me a room with my own bathroom. I always woke up before he did. I got his paper, his coffee, and made sure his side of the table was nice. He needed a little care going through all that he had to endure. We talked a lot, and we laughed like hell in the morning. Through that time, I think we were good for each other.


He didn’t know how I was feeling. I never shared with him that he would soon be without a roommate.


So one evening, as my thoughts are gaining strength in my head and in my resolve, George had just come back from the doctor and the news wasn’t good. “They said the cancer is inoperable, so we’ll just see what happens.” Just like that. He that he knew his life was on a “short leash,” then went to bed. The next morning as he’s reading the paper, he began to wax philosophically about mortality. He said, just out of the blue, “I don’t know why more people don’t just hang themselves.” Personally, I was thinking a bullet to the head would be painless and the whole hanging thing could involve suffering, and I was ready to offer this as a retort.


But he became restless. Shuffled through his papers, started his crossword, then stopped, then started again. He then sat back in his chair, lit a cigarette, and looked out the kitchen window.


Even though my own mortality was swirling around in my head, the focus on the end of his life had just pulled up a chair at the table. So I stepped out of myself and my issues for a moment and asked him just one question: “What’s on your mind, man?” Not the most creative question, but it was better than asking him how he was feeling. I already knew that. He felt like shit. He thought he was going to die and he couldn’t do anything about it. I thought I would die soon, but I had a choice.


So I yielded.


“You know,” he said, “I’m going to drink coffee and have a cigarette and meet up with the guys for coffee. I’m not doing anything else. If it’s my time, I can’t do much about that. It just is. I’ve enjoyed my life. But it’s not over. At least not right now.” He lit his cigarette. I kept my mouth shut.”


“I’ve got stuff to do. I’ll see you later.”


With that, he grabbed his paper and left.


The next day was no different for me. The thoughts were as present as they ever were. I went to my office and sat there. I thought about what my friend said around the table the day before.


I dismissed it completely. I went on to see what caliber of bullet would do the job but not make a terrible mess. I figured I’d ride over to the ER, sit on the curb, pull the trigger, then they could just ship me down to the morgue. No mess that way.


As I continued to look at the options on the internet, a friend of mine showed up at the door. She asked if it was OK that she come over. “Of course,” I said, “As you can see, the office isn’t exactly populated at the moment.”


“Well,” she said, “I came over to give you something.”


And I’m thinking, “please be a gun, please be a gun.”


She came in, sat down on my couch and said, “Here.” She handed me a ring. A little silver thing she got online. “I got one for myself, and I thought you could use it.” She was going through a tough time herself. Her job was changing, she was on the heels of a divorce, and wasn’t exactly sure where her life was going.


“Read it,” she said.


On the ring was an inscription, “If God brought you to it, He’ll see you through it.” I’ve had the sense that God was more of an “It” or even a “She” but I let it pass.


It was such a lovely, kind gesture.


Before I got a chance to thank her, she said, “I wanted to make sure you kept this close. You don’t seem like yourself. You’re just out of it. Well, I’ve felt that way lately, as you know. And I needed a reminder that things are going to be OK. I figured that you might, too.”


I put the ring on my pinky. I didn’t have a lot of faith right then, but that ring opened the possibility to what might be. Throughout this process, odd as this sounds, I prayed every day.


And for that moment, the inscription woke me up.


I looked back up at my friend. There were no thoughts of suicide, no wondering about the time, place, or posture of the event. They all disappeared.


Instead, as I looked at my finger, my eyes rose up to meet hers, and I thought of one word. Just one word filled my mind as she smiled held up her finger to show me her matching ring.


Clarence.


I put the ring on. Kept it there for a while. Have lost it twice, recovered it once, and now I keep it in my wallet.


Bob died two years ago. To the day, he was still enjoying all that made him happy about life.

In his spirit, I try to be as much of a help to people as I can. I make a point, at least a few times a week, to have coffee with folks that are down, a little lonely, that just need somebody to talk to. That helps me stay out of my head, focus on others, and remember George. I try to be a Clarence to someone as often as possible. It’s what he’d ask of me to carry on his memory.


I still think about suicide from time to time.


But when it happens, I look at my ring.


Then I find my Clarence.


I don’t have to look far.


We got married in 2015.


"TO LIVE FOR YOUR PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS AND PERSONAL SUCCESS" 

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