Tuesday, 2 July 2013
I met you online, back when I was a baby writer. I can't remember whether it was on Miss Snark's blog, or Evil Editor's, or on one of the many writer blogs on which we made so many new and supportive friends.
You called yourself Church Lady back then, and your profile picture was of Dana Carvey's iconic SNL character. I loved that character, and your quirky sense of humour showed through that little avatar.
We crossed paths often while negotiating the winding and often looping road to publication. We exchanged ideas, jokes, emails. We read each other's work, and offered and received advice. You talked about your children, but took care to preserve their privacy.
Later, you dropped the Church Lady persona and changed your blog profile name to Chris Eldin. I followed suit by adding my author name to my Chumplet nickname. After all, we had to take our writing seriously, right?
You started Book Roast, a celebration of reading and the opportunity to showcase new books by new writers, myself included. That ran its course and ended in 2009.
You visited some of us, and promised to visit others. Some of us were lucky to meet you, and others never quite found the chance to get together with you. In retrospect, we sensed you were troubled.
Some offered help, some thought about it but didn't want to interfere. Eventually, you dropped out of sight. We thought about you, and Googled you, tried all your email accounts and received no response. We figured you were taking an Internet hiatus, gearing toward getting your writing out there.
Yesterday, in the midst of Canada Day celebrations, I received a Twitter notification, a follow-up from a similar Facebook message from one of our friends. Someone had found a news article about a woman who walked in front of a minivan on the I-95 in Maryland. She didn't survive. Suicide notes were found in her abandoned car.
They said it was you. I didn't believe them. I looked at the date. It was almost a year old, from August of 2012. I checked again. I looked for other sources.
It was true. You were gone, and we had no idea.
What forced you to take your own life? Fear? Depression? Loneliness? Desperation? We only had an inkling of what you were going through, but only in retrospect could we glue all the pieces together to get the whole story.
I raked through former blog posts and bits of flash fiction you had submitted. One line jumped out at me, "If you have nobody in your life to support you in times of crisis, you won’t survive."
Did you feel you had nobody, Chris? Did you not realize you had a host of friends who would give their souls to lift you from your despair? I wish you could have grasped the hand of one of us, who reached for you.
You slipped away.
Friends and family, if you suffer from depression, or feel that you are alone with your troubles, please reach out to someone. It might stick. I hope it sticks. If you sense that a friend or family member is desperate, listen. Listen.
Make it stick.