This post is about something I should have told someone 14 years ago — a long overdue nod of appreciation.
When someone commits suicide, the guilt-stricken survivors obsess about why they didn’t catch on to their loved one’s depression sooner so they could have helped.
That was me after my friend Sean Marley died. I spent the next decade-plus thinking about it. Really, I was just thinking about myself. That’s what addicts do. No matter who we think about, it’s all about us in the end. I had a very long self-pity party.
When we do this, we easily forget that there was someone spending day and night with the depressed soul, trying everything to save him. When the battle is lost, we smother that person and swear to be there for them always. Then we move on and forget that promise. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because nobody benefits from being smothered.
Sean’s wife, Joy, put everything she had into helping him.
And I never thanked her for it.
She was there with him day and night, holding him through every agonizing moment. She did everything to keep his spirits up. It didn’t work in the end, but she did her best.
I first met Joy 19 years ago. Sean had just severed what I thought was a poisonous relationship, and when he told me he was seeing this girl Joy, my eyes rolled into the back of my head. Here we go, I thought: Another fucked-up pairing.
It was nothing of the sort.
From the moment I met her, Joy was true to her name. She always made you feel good about yourself and treated you like an old friend even if she didn’t really know you.
She married Sean in 1994, knowing he had a sickness brewing inside. It didn’t matter. Love won out. I was best man, though they could have done far better with someone else in that role.
I was so self-absorbed that day, obsessing about the toast the best man is supposed to give, that I forgot the glass of champagne. The room stared back at me, puzzled. It was more of a speech than a toast, and a bad one at that.
I didn’t trick out their car with the “Just Married” stuff, either.
I was an ass.
Fast-forward to the present. Thankfully, Joy found someone else to love and remarried. She has three kids and you can tell how much love she pours into them.
Her parents knew what they were doing when they picked that name.
This post is my way of saying what I should have said in November of 1996.
Thank you, Joy.
I’ll never forget the sacrifices you made to get Sean through his pain.
If you, readers, know of anyone who lost a significant other to the illness of depression, take a few moments and thank them, too.
They were there when you couldn’t be.
Instead of feeling bad about that, just feel grateful.