A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend on the phone when she told me about that that the teenage daughter of one of her friends had recently committed suicide. We talked about how painful it must be for the family and turned to the subject of how painful it can be to work in the criminal field, how so many clients were caught up in alcohol and drug problems and how many lawyers were as well.
She told me something that now haunts me, saying that I should keep an eye out for people who might be going down this "road." I thought about it for a second, thought of no one, and got back to work.
Yesterday, however, the lawyer "next door" stuck her head in my office and asked me if I remembered "Dan." When I told her, "of course I do," she sat down and asked me if I'd heard, that he shot himself over the weekend.
I hadn't seen him in months and had said only a few words to him over the years, but saw him frequently in the busy County (misdemeanor) courts, mostly keeping to himself, scraping out a living, like a lot of other solo criminal defense practitioners.
There's a great/sad line in J.D. Salinger's "For Esme, With Love and Squalor" that I think of all the time that describes the author being stuck in a hospital, writing home, and listening to "the uncomradely scratching of pens" from the other patients.
Why didn't I ever strike up a conversation, invite the guy to lunch, the way a very successful criminal defense lawyer asked me today, after I told him my first Eighth Circuit argument was next week?
Who else is there who might be on the verge of something like this, who I might be overlooking? I looked up the obituary on the web today and saw that a small, private service was held, just for the man's family. I started to link to it, to show how lonely even the man's obituary read, but it didn't seem right. "Let the dead bury the dead," as Sheriff Tate says in To Kill a Mockingbird.
But don't forget to talk to the living, before it's too late.