It was about one month before he took his life. We had gone out to lunch with several colleagues and returned to the office together. He had been acting strange all afternoon. But it wasn't until we returned to the office and I stepped off the elevator onto my floor with a casual "see ya later" to all of my colleagues in the elevator, including him, that I felt something was wrong.
My colleagues chorused "see ya" or "bye," but he said nothing. Then, after what seemed like an eternity of silence, during which time I scanned my security card and opened the security door partitioning our offices from the main hallway, I heard a strange, somber voice say "Goodbye, Kelly."
I froze. The voice sounded . . . off. But I knew it was him who said it. I turned around to look back at him. In that moment, it felt like the world slowed and we were the only two people present. I was used to this affect he had on me. It meant my senses were heightened, and the way time "felt" to me was different.
He was staring straight ahead, staring threw me, and not looking me in the eye. His expression was blank, indecipherable. His body posture strange. He was holding onto a rail in the elevator with both hands, and sort of bent forward, as if he were buckling under some invisible weight. His eyes looked sad. Still, I thought I was imagining the sadness, reading too much into what I saw in his eyes. I said nothing. After all, I had already said a general goodbye to the group.
I turned back around and walked through the security doors. Time returned to normal. When I got back to my office, I couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. I had an urge to go to his office and talk to him. About what, I didn't know. I squelched it.
One month later he was dead.
A question that has plagued me since he died, in addition to the "whys," is "when did he decide to do it." I have no doubt in my mind that this was not a spur of the moment decision. That he said goodbye to me more than one month beforehand, among other things, supports that this act was planned in advance. But WHEN? At what point did he commit to ending his life? I will never know.
I know this was THE "goodbye." It literally stopped me in my tracks at the time. I just didn't know its significance then. I still kick myself for not saying anything in return, but I didn't know -- which makes me want to kick him for not giving me a REAL opportunity to say goodbye. Not that him giving me such an opportunity would have made any of this better, but I still wish he'd at least done that. I suppose there is some minimal comfort in knowing that he felt it was important to say goodbye to me.
This post first appeared on the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors forum. Reprinted with the permission of the author. Visit our moderated community of support to those who have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one to suicide.