Christmas Cards. I've always been an ardent letter-writer and have used any excuse in the past to correspond with others, and even with the shift towards email, evite, facebook, and all that, I still enjoy sending Christmas Cards through the mail. At Christmas, I have the opportunity to send cards to folks that I care about but don't spend time with, or even talk to, yet still want them somewhat in my life.
There's one family that sends me a Christmas card every year, telling me a bit about their family and how things are with them. The odd part? I've only met them once, under quite stressful and sad circumstances.
Several years ago, when we had only one child, David was into windsurfing and met a guy. He was a single guy whose family all lived several towns away, so we hung out with him, invited him to dinners, and of course, David enjoyed windsurfing and other sports with him. He was a quiet guy but when you got to know him, you realized he was funny and extremely smart. I did not know him all that well, just through David, but I liked him. We knew him maybe a year and one day got a phone call from one of his friends.
Turned out, unbeknownst to us, he suffered from depression. One night it was particularly bad and he was with his family who called the hospital who advised him that, since there was no psychiatrist on call at the hospital in the evening, that the best course of action would be have him come to the hospital in the morning.
Unfortunately, he killed himself that night. I can't even imagine how hard it was for his parents; the "what-ifs" and "should-haves" and the "if I could do it all over again." I can't fathom their grief, and our own as we realized our helplessness not just to help him, but to even know that he was so depressed.
I don't understand much about depression. People have tried to explain it to me, and sometimes I wonder if I get depressed too but it always seems so different from the hopelessness that others feel, so perhaps I still don't understand. I've been told that it's chemical and that a person can't "make" themselves better. I am still clueless about depression, the best way to help a person and suicide, despite knowing several friends growing up that have attempted it.
In a way, I find it so odd that this family and I cling to such a thin thread of friendship; I almost wonder if it is needed, to keep their son's memory a part of their life...... mutual friends, others that mourn him, a way of saying We Have Not Forgotten. Sometimes I almost wish I could forget! I wonder if it is painful to address that Christmas Card to us; or if it is a relief. I wonder if we'll ever see this older couple again, as we read about their newest grandchild and where their other kids live.
I wonder if they have found peace. I wonder if they've forgiven themselves, or if they ever blamed themselves. I know I would've. I wonder how they got through this; if it was their faith or their friends. I wonder a lot, and I don't think Ill ever get any answers. I'd be too afraid to ask. It is best to just stick to the safe subjects.
But I've not forgotten and I still don't understand, and I still have a love for this family and I know that every year, they will send me a Christmas Card and I them, and when it ends, I'll miss that.