Wednesday, October 28, 2009


John Christner moved into the condo unit next door to me a few years ago. He was a man in his late seventies, always friendly, and always kind. His sister had bought the condo so he would have a place to live in Colorado, closer to his family, after living much of his life in California. He had a job at the local Target as a cashier so he always got great deals on DVDs. He was always nice to me and Monika. We always stopped to talk to him in the halls and he would happily lend us the newest DVD movies he bought so we could talk about them.

John’s sister had bought him a laptop computer so he could keep up with emails and news on the web. It was more than once that he knocked on my door or called me over so I could help remind him how to get onto his email. I don’t know what he did to that computer but it was always slow so I ended up spending more than a few hours over at his place.

So, when I heard the knock on my door yesterday afternoon I assumed it was John, once again looking for help with his computer. It had been a while since I had passed him in the halls or he’d come knocking so I was looking forward to seeing him and catching up.

I opened the door to a uniformed policeman. He told me that my neighbor had passed away. I immediately asked, “John?” He answered yes and asked if I had heard anything the night before. I thought it was an odd question but I told him I hadn’t.

John had killed himself the night before by slitting his wrists.

His sister had found him yesterday and called the police. She told them John had been depressed for a while. I knew he was lonely and I knew he was having some health problems but I didn’t know the depth of his depression. I was absolutely stunned.

I am numb now. It’s really making me look at my life in a whole new way. Most suicides you hear about are kids in their teens or early twenties. I always figured if you could make it out of those years you’d be all set. That those feelings would go away. But, maybe they don’t ever go away. I didn’t think about how it might feel when your body starts failing you. Or how looking back at your life and the choices you made might haunt you. Or wondering how the hell you ended up working in your golden years at a place like Target. Or how truly lonely life can be.

I think about these things now and it frightens me.

I’ll miss seeing John in the halls and helping him out with his computer problems. I look back and wish I could have helped more. I wish I would have spent more time with him or invited him over more often.

I remember once, a few months ago while helping John with his computer, him telling me how his mother had passed away recently. He was almost crying about it while telling me the story. Now, I’m not the best person to deal with things like that at the best of times. I didn’t know how to deal with a grown man, old enough to be a grandfather, breaking down in front of me. I didn’t know what to say. It’s easy to tell someone my age or younger that life would get better. I promise. For a man of my age to tell a man of his age that it would all get better seemed trite so I kept my mouth shut. What did I know? I didn’t know if it would get better or not for a man his age.

Apparently for John, it never got better.

But it still doesn’t help that I really wish I could go back to that moment, put my arm around this kind older man and tell him, yes, it will get better. I promise.

I’ll miss you, John, and I‘m sorry.

1 comment:

AdamTrap said...

A fine tribute.

A good reminder that we need to say what we need to say now, for we may never get another chance.

You're a good man, Sean.