I had a friend in my childhood, a guy named Kent F. We were best friends at the time, and we had the usual ups and downs that any friendship has. We remained close friends until about 1981 or so; he went to a different junior high school and lived too far away.
Lost touch with him after that, though from time to time he'd pop up and give me a call. One time he left a message on my answering machine wishing me a happy birthday, but no callback number, so I couldn't call him back.
That was the last time I ever heard from him.
Today I made arrangements with a local company to get the last of my parents' furniture out of the house. The guy I've been talking to turned out to be Kent's younger brother, Danny. I said, "By the way--you wouldn't happen to be Kent's younger brother, would you?"
And in the ensuing conversation, Danny told me Kent killed himself in 2002.
He'd been going through a divorce, Danny said, but no one really knew why Kent did it. "It's still a mystery," he said.
Talk about a gut punch. Sadly I know all too well where a man can go that ending it seems like the only viable option--but my journey to that place ended with a single scratch, one that was invisible a day later, and which solved the problem that had dragged me there. I was lucky.
Kent was a smart kid; school learning wasn't his thing, but he wasn't dumb--no one in his family was--and my memories of him (though doubtlessly tinged by nostalgia) are filled with laughter; he had a great sense of humor.
Somewhere there is a picture of him and me from a time when we went boating with my parents. That was a very long time ago, maybe 1979.
Rest in peace, man.