The story is true (some details omitted for privacy); the names are fake.
Content Warning: Suicide
A few days later, I came over with shepherd’s pie, only now it was just for “Ezra”. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to bring it over until 8:30 PM and it turned out it was the first meal Ezra had eaten all day. I felt bad about that.
I gave him back the copy of your house key you had given me. Ezra offered me some of your things. Books. Bags. Hats. Clothes. Even lightly used wedding presents from your wedding to him. (I protested; he said he didn’t want them.)
I realized I still had the black party dress you had loaned me years ago, saying you wanted me to give it back to you after you lost weight. Your weight tended to fluctuate a lot because of all the medications you were taking. I had forgotten to give the dress back. I guessed it was mine now.
It was weird taking your things. It felt uncomfortable to want and to take your things, and it felt uncomfortable to not want your things and to leave them behind. The whole time I was in your house, it was a struggle not to cry. Conversation with Ezra was awkward and awful. I felt terrible for Ezra, but I couldn’t wait to leave, and I felt horrible about that.
Later, we found out your family didn’t want people taking your things yet; they wanted to go through your belongings first. I didn’t offer anything back though. I didn’t have the will to return your belongings after the whole experience of taking them in the first place.
Besides, I rationalized, I hadn’t taken anything of real or sentimental value, like jewelry or photos or anything like that. Really just a book no one else would be interested in, and clothes in styles and sizes unlikely to fit your other female friends/relatives. Also, random shit – a package of cookies you liked that Ezra didn’t care for, an open box of pantyliners to spare Ezra the embarrassment of having to ask another woman. That sort of thing.
It’s interesting to see how different mutual friends cope with grief in different ways. After your suicide, “Miriam” posted a PSA* on Facebook about depression, mental health, suicide awareness, alluding to your decades long struggle with clinical depression. “Eliora” found solace in Torah learning – organizing Torah learning in your memory. I didn’t really find solace in either, to be honest, but it was a nice thought.
I tried to look out for Ezra. He was having some health problems himself and at one point, he was sending updates on his own health to all your friends through your email address. It killed me every time I got an email from “you” knowing that you were dead, but I couldn’t really ask him to do otherwise.
I picked up groceries for him a couple times, but after a while, I stopped remembering to reach out. I still feel bad about that.
Your death was still pretty fresh at Yom Kippur that year. Husband (who dislikes everything about Yom Kippur, is particularly bad at fasting all day, and who usually spends Yom Kippur sleeping or reading at home) showed up for the afternoon services, making the gap in the schedule that I used to spend at your house feel less empty. It was quite sweet of him, actually.
After Yom Kippur ended, I was standing in line for the communal pot luck break fast buffet with another congregant.
Congregant: You heard about Joyce? So sad…
JYP: *nods in agreement/sympathy*
Congregant: Did you know her?
JYP: I’m wearing her dress right now.
It was that black party dress with a white sweater over it. White sweater because it’s traditional to wear white on Yom Kippur and also because the top of the dress didn’t really fit me at all (you were considerably more well-endowed). I should probably get it tailored.
The congregant looked surprised. I guess no one expects people with a 20+ year age gap to be friends.
*I’ll do a Miriam-style PSA here and mention that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.