I prepared a bunch of Aut Light entries for yesterday, to make up for the silence last week as I worked toward Mother’s Day. But I didn’t, & still don’t, feel like giving any a final polish & publishing them, because another matter muscled its way into my mind & will not leave. I guess I have to get it out this way. Fair warning, this piece isn’t autism-related or particularly insightful in any other way, either. It’s just a tough personal rant about a frustration arising from my own flaws and flaws in someone I love.
In February, my friend Sean died. He had moved away, and we weren’t communicating much, both wrapped up in our own projects & problems. I didn’t find out until several weeks later. For the first time, I’d permanently lost a human being I felt close to. I always wondered what grieving someone close would be like, but I never thought it would be Sean; not only was he young, I also underestimated his importance to me and I believe mine to him. For as little time as we spent together over the long time we knew each other, we had a crazy degree of trust, and knew we could turn to one another when no one else available would understand. Grief is strange, it’s sad, infuriating, a little funny; at times it seems to have no bearing on anything & at other times it clings to everything.
Sean was brilliant, & thoughtful, & generous; he was humble to a literal fault. He was known for being shameless, & not caring what anyone thought. He was also stubborn, rash, fatalistic, demanding, & avoidant. He enjoyed being self-destructive. He thought people were a plague on the world, yet he loved his friends more than life, but not enough to live for us. He often thanked me for helping him learn to be free. He’d repay it even with his life, he’d tell me; but now that life is gone, so I guess he reneged on that debt. I’m sure I’m not the only one. He probably undervalued that, he would have thought his whole life however long wouldn’t be enough to honor any of his friends; and he never understood how we loved him & benefited from his continued existence. Then again, he had a long history with greedy people who used him, I think he was always afraid of underestimating others’ selfishness & giving too much to those undeserving. In the end, for all the care & time I saw him put into showing his appreciation, I don’t think I was the only one whom he left doubting, at least temporarily, whether we were truly important in his eyes.
What happened, when he moved? I saw pictures of him looking comfortable in the world, which I never witnessed enough here. Only while he was sleeping or engaging with his great love, his kitty Phineas Maximus. When he snuggled with her & closed his eyes, he could let go of everyone else’s expectations; relaxation that otherwise came to him only after grueling labor. Here he was weary of bureaucracy, of hypocrisy, of parts of his job, on some days even of his longtime partner(, whom I will finally meet at the memorial few weeks away, on what would have been Sean’s 35th birthday). Not too often weary of me, but again, we didn’t spend a lot of time together, we just made the most of it. But back where he started, he seemed at ease, seemed to find inspiration & love & freedom beyond anything I could grant. I look at those pictures of him see a sense of choice & ownership on his face, or was that the peace of embracing death?
He suggested a visit, I didn’t go last year, thinking I might this summer; now I’ll never know what he had planned for our goodbye. I’ll probably never piece together the end, either. If I’m usually 3 steps ahead, Sean was always another 10 moves beyond me. Why did he give up?
Was he disappointed in others because he thought he’d allowed a chance for people to give the best of themselves & not seen the results he wanted? Was he overwhelmed by the mess he’d made of certain things?( Frankly, that doesn’t sound like Sean to me, & several of us whom he trusted kinda think he deliberately left a mess as a “fuck you” to greedy relations. He had suggested to me that he might.) Was he depressed & regretful that he had failed to shield some of us from his own worst faults?
He had told me, before he left Boston, that if his health turned I might end up in my current position, finding out late and trying to work my way in from the edges after the end. His apology wasn’t very reassuring even then; thankfully, others grieving the loss have been very accepting & welcoming. He awkwardly regretted aloud that we had both had other priorities in mind when there might have been opportunities to integrate me into his social life, & berated himself mildly. I suppose had I visited it might be different. I suppose had he bothered to mention it was urgent, I might have made serious plans while there was time.
I think what bothers me is that, despite knowing I can’t really know, the picture I’m starting to see emerge from others’ accounts is one I deeply dislike. It looks to me like he saw the end coming as he had waited for, and he ran away from most people who would call him out on his decline, ignoring the ones who were still close enough to see. He then set out to test the merits of... humanity? God? his own philosophy? in a trial by fire; tying up all his hopes of making a difference in the world with the results, and choosing not to heed those of us who questioned his methods, & wondered if he was perhaps setting himself up for failure by missing one crucial element. After that, for the first time in a while or maybe ever, he let subsequent ordeals eat away him, and he closed his heart to the grand futures he always saw before. Did he mean to fail, or hope to triumph? Or expect to fail but hope he was wrong? Did he use everything that developed, & all that never did, as an excuse to give up?
However much I wish I had visited, wonder if I might have made a difference, and am aware that I helped him take hold of the rope he hanged himself with in the end; his choices had just as much affect on the outcome, so I can take my roles in those regrets as lessons & move on. Other mistakes I made with him will pain me more, but regret is just part of life; as long as I don’t forget, I will know better & can do better. And although he knowingly left me in a bad position, he at least warned me, besides I’m not the only one and far from worst-off; no one is perfect, those who loved him most knew what we were getting.
And that’s it, really. There’s not a lot of blame to go around. To love him was not the wrong choice for us. To be human, and flawed, even to be weak, was fine for him, if not to him. It should all be fine I guess. The crazy thing is I knew he was in pain, & he might have convinced me to respect his decision, I’m only a little bitter that he didn’t help us appropriately prioritize seeing him. Others who loved him have hinted at or said the same to me. I also believe he wanted to see me(/us). So the fact that he didn’t... There are so many possible reasons I can think of, all of them remarkably sad.
I’m sorely aching to find that he had a reason to let himself die that outweighed all he might live for, because without one, despite the lack of proof, I’ll always fear my most truly awesome friend killed himself out of disappointment over things that weren’t worthy of him &/or pure stubbornness–and I’m not sure how to forgive that.