09 March 2008


One of Alex's high school friends, a close friend named Kate, died of a drug overdose on Alex's birthday. All of the pills that killed her were legal prescription pharmaceuticals given to her by her doctor. Kate was a lesbian and a tattoo freak with a weight problem. Her birthday would have been the 30th of June and they would have been 19. They had plans to celebrate their birthdays together with a big party. They were close friends, not just acquaintances. It really had a profound impact on him. He came over here tonight and recounted the whole process. They all fainted when they saw Kate dead in the coffin. The crew stayed after the graveside service and wrote farewell messages in magic marker on Kate's coffin and then filled the grave in with dirt – the whole grave up to the surface.

This is the first death he has experienced as a conscious adult. It was kind of interesting to hear him talk about it, the way they reacted to it, especially seeing Kate in the casket. I couldn't help but internally compare it to my indifference to dead bodies. I have seen so many people dying and dead that the process and artifact of death has no effect on me at all. If it's someone I care about, I grieve because I'm losing someone important to me, but the fact of death and dead bodies just carry no emotional content to me, especially not dread or fear. If I feel something for the deceased, it is most often a sense of relief – "he's off the hook... no more pain and frustration." Of course, I didn't share my internal ruminations with Alex, but it underscored how comfortable I have become with death.

This is probably not a good thing. In Jesus' time, the Nazaretes weren't allowed to touch anything dead. The dead were unclean to them. Maybe they were onto something.

Kate was one of those who would call her friends when she was down to threaten suicide. The agenda was to get them to come over and be sympathetic, or so it seemed. On the night she died, Kate placed one of these calls to Alex but he told her that he didn't want to be manipulated in this way and ended the conversation. A few hours later she was dead. Needless to say, this placed a huge burden of guilt on Alex. He had a really hard time getting away from the idea that if he had gone over to see her she might not have killed herself. I told him again and again that people who are determined to take their own lives will do it and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them, and that you can't allow yourself to be controlled by another person's threat of suicide. I don't know if I did any good in relieving his guilt. Later he and his whole circle of friends would get little black roses tattooed on their chests above their hearts. It was a tattoo that Kate had.

No one really knows why Kate did what she did. She didn't leave a note. Her family and friends loved her and did their best to take care of her. She was in the care of psychiatrist who is well respected. She wasn't isolated and unloved. Most of the standard clichés that you hear about teen suicide didn't really fit Kate. For some reason, Kate didn't love her life enough to keep on living it. That's all we know.

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