Learning about lonely.

Greg and me in 2010 when we were co-coaches.
Greg and me in 2010 when we were co-coaches.

Today is rough. This morning, friends informed me that a rowing friend committed suicide just hours prior. For the first time in my life, I am feeling truly and actually lonely. I do not have anyone to talk to.

The thing of it is this: it’s not just that Michael is gone. That’s a big deal, and I wish that I had his shoulder to cry on. However, being 13hrs ahead of my rowing friends on the East Coast means that I don’t have any friends to talk to until at least 9 or 10pm tonight.

All of my girl friends on base have their husbands home right now (none of their husbands have the same job as Michael), and I don’t know anyone well enough to say to them, “Please hang out with me tonight. I REALLY need a friend.”

I tried contacting a few non-rowing friends in the US, but none of them responded, probably because, you know, it’s the middle of the night in the US.

This is seriously an awful day. I can’t believe that my friend committed suicide, and I, selfishly, can’t believe that I don’t have anyone to talk to … other then my blog. So, blog, thanks for letting me talk to you.

I sound very dispassionate and unfeeling as I put pen to paper. I’m having trouble finding the right words. I don’t want to sound mellow dramatic because I’m not feeling mellow dramatic. Actually, I’m really, really pissed off. First of all, he could have talked to any of us friends if he was having emotional problems. Many of us have been there, and we would have been so willing to help him out of the hole — or to find someone, a professional perhaps, who could help him out of the hole. Secondly, he had responsibilities and things to do. He was a professional rowing coach for high school kids, and he was scheduled to coach summer camps this summer for pre-elite/pre-National Team rowers. He was on an elite rowing team with guys trying to make the National Team. HE was trying to make the National Team. People were counting on him to be there today, tomorrow, next week, next month, hell, for the rest of our lives. He walked out on all of us, his family, and his rowers, most of whom were kids. Thirdly, WTF, man! He did it in a way that caused someone else a lot of trauma and pain, which makes me the angriest. I’m not sure why that one thing makes me the angriest, but it does. WTF. Dude, just WTF.

I feel irrationally angry at the moment, and I assume that sadness will soon follow. Some of his friends said that a few of his habits had changed recently, like he had been late for practice a few times, but he wasn’t acting radically different and there weren’t any “tell tale signs”. Overall, it was business as usual. Some friends spent Memorial Day Weekend with him, and they shared jokes and beer. They would never have guessed what was coming next.

I am so sad, confused, and pissed off. I am so devastated by the loss of my friend.

My friend Greg and I coached high school rowing together for 2 years. First we were assistant coaches for the same team, then I was hired by a different team at the same boathouse. He and I shared a lot of laughs and a lot of beers after practice (coaching HS kids necessitates alcohol). He loved to brew beer, and I was never sure if he loved brewing or rowing more – but he was equally good at both. He was also one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with – and I’ve worked with a number of highly regarded coaches. He was passionate about coaching crew, and he was passionate about being a good coach – he stayed late with the kids, he was a friend and mentor to them, and he genuinely wanted to see them succeed on and off the water. A coach friend put it best today when he said, “I never heard a bad word about him.” It’s true, he was an all-around great guy who was dependable, funny, kind, and caring. He loved to coach and loved to row, and he was talented at both. He had so much going for him and he brought so much awesomeness to the world.

We were very close friends for those years that we coached together. Our high school rowers (especially the girls) concocted a made-up romance between us, which used to make us laugh a lot. One time we purposefully sat together in the middle of the town on a bench and ate ice cream slowly — slow enough that we knew that we would be spotted by the rowers. Within 5 minutes, we were spotted. Within 20 minutes, much of the team had assembled down the block and were “covertly” taking cell phone photos of us (mind you, these are high schoolers!). We thought that this was hilarious! A few months later, the same rowers concocted that I was now dating another coach friend, Mark, with whom Greg and I were good friends; Mark was another coach at the boathouse, and each of us coached a different team. The three of us would purposefully stand together before and after practice and watch our rowers’ heads explode. Apparently at some point I was dating both of them. I was SO popular! It’s too bad that I couldn’t get a date at that point, and neither could either of them. Okay, Mark was doing well for himself, but Greg and I were pathetically single. It was a great few years, and I am so glad that I had that time and opportunity to know Greg.

Thank you for being you, Greg. You will be so missed by many, including me. I wish that you could have lived to your full potential and life. I’ll see you on the other side.

I wish that Greg had talked to me or any of his other friends before he committed suicide. I may not have understood or have experienced his feelings, but I’ve been in seemingly insurmountable holes before, and I’ve climbed out with help from my friends. It is best explained in the following scene from West Wing:

I just want to add that there are hundreds of military families that experience the hardship of tragedy while they are deployed, living abroad, or otherwise separated from loved ones. I cannot imagine experiencing the loss of a parent or close family member while living in Japan. I lost a friend and I am devastated. I also feel helpless – at this point it would be incredibly difficult to go home to be with friends. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to hop a flight immediately when I am under major duress. I just cannot imagine. So, if you are the support system for a military family, please reach out to them when they are in a similar situation. It is awful to be away from family and friends when tragedy strikes.

Thank you for listening. I feel a bit better after “talking” about it.

2 comments

  1. Oh, dear. I am terribly sorry for the loss of your friend. There are so many placating words I could throw at you, but I can’t take away your pain or ease the situation you are in. I also know I’m not someone who is related to this situation, or really that much closer than anyone located on the east coast, but if you need to chat with someone, you can reach out to me. I do have some understanding of how difficult it is to be away from everyone you know, especially during a crisis, and I can’t stress enough how important lifelines are–for your own sanity.

  2. Beautifully written! We are glad you had your blog to reach out to. Thank you for writing this. Your honest expression of grief (especially the complicated grief of a loss is by suicide) will resonate with people and you and they will know you are not alone in these emotions. You have our sympathy.

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