One of my best friends completed suicide a few months ago. Bruce had been suffering from mental health issues for several decades and had cut himself off from all friends and family. What’s worse, we couldn’t gather in the healing Jewish tradition to work through our questions or our guilt because of COVID. After waiting until his adult daughter Rachel and I were both double vaccinated, we just spent 3 enlightening days together honoring her father’s life.
Suicide and mental health are difficult concepts to understand, and when you’re trying to understand why someone would take their lives, more questions seem to surface than answers. We found that by telling stories about our fondest memories to Rachel’s boyfriend Eli, we elaborated and analyzed facets of Bruce’s brilliance and humor as well as little signs of his mental illness.
It warmed my heart to hear Rachel say that her favorite times with her father were when they were spent here with me and my family in Santa Cruz. As we paged through an 1800-page biography that I wrote for my daughter Jaclyn, we found hundreds of photos of Bruce and Rachel. It was comforting to see how happy he was and how we were all one loving family. Jaclyn and Rachel were besties. The photos captured their laughter as they played dress up and games.
The next day, I shared photos of Bruce with Rachel so she could see the past 35 years of his life. We sat in my theater and scrolled through a slideshow – pausing to talk about each photo so Eli could learn more about Bruce, and really so Rachel and I could bond over the memories. We felt a closeness with Bruce – a mutual love and acceptance – a wonderful closure to our life with him.
While I miss my best friend, I am lucky to have a new relationship with Rachel. I have found a way of honoring Bruce by keeping our extended family together.