We could not save him, we could not help him

7 Jan

It almost sunk past before I saw it, the short Facebook status update in the Tweetdeck column. A friend had linked to a headline from Gizmodo that read, “The agonizing last words of programmer Bill Zeller.”

I didn’t know at the time that it was reposted from MetaFilter, where Zeller was an active, cherished member of a large online community.

I read it and Tweeted it, then I read it again last night, away from work desk, where I could give it my full attention. Needless to say, I went to bed devastated and heartbroken. There’s loss and hurt and then there’s the darkness Zeller describes that I can’t begin to imagine or process or to begin to place in the context of my own life.

My good friend Tracy E. posted on Facebook that Zeller’s note rocked her, that it means something larger than any of us can understand. Its horror is so complete that it nearly defies analysis. We know trauma like this happen, but rarely are we told, specifically by the victim, how it has manifested over time, until the very end of a life.

You don’t have to be a parent of young children to be horrified by Zeller’s story and to be haunted by the all-encompassing ruin that abuse had on his life. Can we learn from it? Contextualize it somehow? Stop it from happening again? I’m an optimist, but I’m note even sure I believe that we can. Some commenters on the sites I linked to took Zeller to task for making the wrong choice or for not simply taking the step of talking to someone, anyone. He needed help, but no one knew it. He needed a life vest, but nobody could see that he was drowning in the dark.

Tonight, by coincidence, someone I’ve had some correspondence with in the past sent me a Twitter message telling me they are planning to commit suicide.

Even if Zeller’s story wasn’t fresh in my mind, I would have still stopped what I was doing and tried to take some sort of action. I responded immediately by replying, telling this person that they are loved and that those who love them would be devastated. I reached out to someone much closer to this person I thought could help or at least find someone in the area who could check in.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I waited. I waited for a reply, an acknowledgment, something to tell me that the worst had passed and that life continues.

Right now, nearly an hour later, I’m still waiting. There’s only silence.

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