On the day of Christmas Eve, I was shaken to hear that my next door neighbor took his life. Earlier in the week, he drove far out into the country and shot himself.
I didn’t know him. I greeted him when he first moved in, but that was all.
I’m upset because I could see he had troubles—signs of depression and drinking. I’m pretty sure if I had taken some initiative I could have gotten involved, become his friend, and by doing so, changed enough of the dynamics to change the outcome.
I’ve done it before.
But by the time I would see him in the evening as I was getting home there was nothing left in my emotional tank. So all I did for him was wave as I went into the house.
But there was another issue. The truth is that he was too close. I wanted to keep him at a distance. I didn’t want him in my house. I didn’t want to risk exposing his desperation to my wife and children. He was a risk.
In previous years, I was willing to take risks for myself, and there were some doozies, but not now and not close to my home.
So I didn’t reach out to him. I didn’t help him. And he’s dead.
I recognize that guilt is a normal reaction when someone dies. I didn’t cause him pain and I certainly didn’t cause his death. I can’t save everyone. I might not have been able to save him even if I had tried.
I’d like to say that if I had it to do over again, I would have tried harder or done things differently.
But I don’t know how I would. And that sucks.