Former Boss

I was stunned. Really stunned, to get an email this afternoon from my friend Alice, that linked me to a Chicago Tribune article about my former boss's suicide on Monday. I sat in my dining room, reading the article with my hand over my mouth whispering, "No. No. Oh. No."

So this is my processing post. Raw I suppose.

I found out at 2:30pm this afternoon as I dashed in our home to grab a quick snack of pretzels for Maddie after school. There was his picture. His happy, jolly self. He looked just like I last saw him, several years ago. Yet attached to his picture were the words, "Suicide." "Single-gunshot wound to the head."

No note. No explanation. He had all the money in the world. He had the huge home. The wife. Three kids. The status. The title. The Jaguar. And on and on and on ... all that the world deems as successful. Without knowing any details, he had 'it' all, yet sadly, he was apparently hopeless. That makes me so very, very sad.

There were several things that instantly raced through my mind:

I went right back to the feelings I had in 1991, when a friend from college killed himself. I remember getting the call on Christmas day, from Michelle, letting me know that Paul was dead. I remember where I was sitting. I remember the instant reaction of wanting to vomit. In fact, I think I did run into the bathroom and vomit. I remember thinking, "No. No. Oh. No."

And then I snapped back to the current situation and I sat there in disbelief; so saddened. Why did he do this?

And then I went to a place that is probably insensitive and maybe even a bit cold, but I thought this: How true it is that money can't buy happiness. It just can't. Here was a guy who was rich. I mean, set for life kind of rich. When I worked for he and his dad I was right out of college and had never been exposed to this kind of wealth. It boggled my mind and I used to think, "Wow, if only I had just a little bit of that." But then, I watched him work around the clock, 24-7-365 (or almost) ... and I realized that never would money have that kind of hold on me. It just wasn't worth it.

And then I went into my "doing" mode. My instant reaction was to "do". That's my initial reaction in most any situation that is overwhelming to me. I kick into this mode of "Okay, what's the next step? What needs to be done? Let me do - it's part of how I process grief or frustration or hurt or whatever. I called Cynthia, his long-time secretary and long-time personal friend of mine, and got her work voice mail. Left her a message saying call; let me know how I can help. And then I tried her cell, and surprisingly she answered. Right away I said, "How can I help?" Do you need me to come into the office and make calls? Organize? She assured me that there really wasn't much at this point ....

It was good to hear her voice. We talked for probably 20 minutes. She was doing okay. I think shocked by it all. Trying to hold down the fort and get Memorial details to the masses, and return dozens and dozens of calls, and everything else that needs to be done when someone dies.

I don't want to give the impression that I was close to this man. In all honesty, I was much closer to his dad, my direct boss, than I was to him. (I actually just sent his dad our Christmas letter.) And, I am quite close to his secretary, so my initial reaction when reading the article was, "Oh, no. How's Cynthia?"

But, he was a good man. He was brilliant, sharp, always five steps ahead of everyone else, both his competitors and his colleagues, and he could close a deal like nobody's business. And if you worked hard for him, you were rewarded and trusted. I was terrified of him when I first started working there. I was 21, and had never been in the professional world. But I worked hard and Cynthia loved me and trusted me and because of that, he trusted me, too. I remember the first time Cynthia was on vacation so I was filling in for her. I was sick to my stomach just wondering when I'd receive the first of a million phone calls from him - he was in New York at the time - needing to coordinate drivers and hotels and first class upgrades on the jet and on and on ... and he talked a mile-a-minute and didn't give a lot of direction. You know, basically read his mind and figure out what he wants and make it happen. And somehow, I made it through that day and when he got into the office the next morning he said to me, "Thanks for your help yesterday, Alysa. You did a great job." Wow. That was a confidence booster.

I remember seeing him at Cynthia's mother's funeral a few years back and I was actually very proud of him for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to go to his faithful secretary's mother's funeral, to show support for her. That, to me, spoke volumes.

He was a good man. It's sad that he's gone. So sad.

So on that note I'll leave you with one final thought. I hate suicide. I really hate it. This is going to probably sound wrong or harsh or insensitive or, maybe, just simply raw. Or, really, maybe just simple. But I hate suicide because it is SUCH A SELFISH ACT. The wounds he inflicted on his family and friends will run very deep. Very deep. Forever. The downward spiral of "What Ifs" that he just sent his family into, makes me so angry. His boys. Now without a daddy. His wife. Left to pick up the ugly pieces.

I went to my Tuesday morning Bible study one morning a few months back, and started the conversation with the lady next to me by saying, "So, do you have any kids?" She looked at me very solemnly and said, "I had two. They've both passed away." After sharing with her that I was so sorry for her loss I asked her if she minded if I ask how they passed away. She shared that her daughter died of illness. And. Her son committed suicide. She choked up and had to turn away for a few minutes. When she composed herself she turned back to me and said, "While my daughter's death was terribly hard, I can't even tell you how much harder it was when my son died. I always wonder, what if. What could I have said or done that would have saved him from committing suicide? What did I do wrong as his mom?" She said she copes by really trying not to think of his death because it was just to hard to bear. I think I'd do the same thing.

I didn't even know this woman but found I was crying big crocodile tears alongside her, so desperately saddened by the fact that her son, one hopeless morning, changed this woman's life, forever. As my former boss did to his family just yesterday.

Suicide sucks.


Sara said…
iam so sorry alysa, sorry for everyone that knew him. and oh his family...saddens me.
Lenny said…
Here is a blog where you can enter in stories and such for Steve, thought you would like to see it. I got to it from the Sheldon Good and Company website.

This is so sad. Love you lots.

Alice said…
I didn't realize you were still in such close contact w/ all at Sheldon Good or I wouldn't have just forwarded the article like that--I would have called. I'm sorry about that. When I saw the headline, my heart sank since I know and am familiar with many names in Chicago commercial real estate as well. But then to see who it, so sad.

I'll be praying for you, Cynthia, and the Good family.
Julie said…
You're right. Suicide sucks. I'm so sorry - my heart aches for everyone this has touched.
Kacie said…
It does suck. I felt the same shock and pain and anger and sadness when my friend Clark committed suicide just months before we graduated. I actually just dreamed about him again this week, and woke up in dry sobs. The sadness lingers after a suicide....

This also reminds me of my boss in Chicago. I wonder if I should write her..
amywb said…
such a sad, sad thing. I have been close to suicide, too. there is never closure. the wound is never quite healed. you expressed it so, so well.

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