More Thoughtfully...Thoughts on a Friend's Suicide

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Jon Tomsak, 26 of Lakewood, OH…took his own life on August 18, 2002. Jon worked at Daystar Boutique, and he liked having dinner and wine at the Rush Inn (the bar and grill that Jon's apartment was above.) You might have seen Jon walking around town. He usually had a bookbag with him, and there was usually a thin chord coming out of it that connected his headphones to whatever cool contraption he had his favorite tapes or CDs playing from. Jon had tons of friends, more than he usually knew what to do with. We'd see him walking along Detroit Road, and we'd find a place to pull over, turn around, and drive back to him to find out A) what was going on, B) if he needed a ride, and C) what "the good word" for the day or moment was. Usually everything was going on; Jon stayed pretty busy.

If he didn't just get off work he was heading there, he may have been leaving a buddies place to walk to the coffeshop, and there was always that chance Jon was just walking around to get some fresh air and take it all in. Jon loved antiques. He had an apartment filled with beautiful, mostly hand crafted, timeless pieces of antique furniture. He was a sensational host…he wouldn't think twice about asking three times, whether or not you wanted some cold iced tea, a deliciously brewed beer, or a glass of fine wine. Jon walked with a cane toward the end of his life-to some a support for his recently injured leg (rookie skateboarding accident), to others something kind of cool that only Jon could pull off. His cane was a great cane…it even had an edge built into it, because Jon was always mindful of the dangers that lurk around us. He wasn't at all paranoid, at least not like most people would think paranoid meant. Jon's most prevalent paranoia stemmed from the amount of love he'd receive, often relative to how much he'd given back. But you can't say Jon really gave "back", because few and far between are the honest people who can say that they beat Jon to the punch in terms of offering. Jon was a 26 year old single guy, living in a little apartment in Lakewood, who worked at the head shop everyone knew about and loved to leaf through…but he valued life, his own and others, the same way a wise 90 year old man would. He lived it to the fullest, and the fact that he ended his own life-so young and with so much more to live for, can't begin to defame all the good that he gave and even enjoyed himself. His smiles were sincere, his laugh from the gut, and his honesty with all his heart and mind. Jon never wanted all of his eggs in one basket, he liked them organized to a point of precision that never left him without another option, without another friend to visit, or without another life to touch. His friends all knew each other, if not in person than through Jon's vivid descriptions and details. These past few days I think a lot of his friends have gotten to know each other more though, and the more we unpiece all the details of Jon's last few months, the more it started to sound like Jon may have struggled with something tougher to tame than the reality the world can be ugly, and that life isn't always fair. Did the people that lived below him really dislike him, and talk about him? Was there really a black tie event that one of his buddies mistresses wanted Jon and a few guests to attend sometime during the week of August 19th? Did he really run into an old girlfriend from high school in line at the ice cream parlor, and decide he wanted to marry her? I guess maybe to some of his friends, this might seem insensitive to discuss…but if everyone had been able to piece together what Jon was going through and be more mindful of it, I wonder if we couldn't have helped him out some. I wonder if he wouldn't still be here today. "Jon's life" isn't a memory, it's a reality…it existed, it affected thousands and thousands of people, and it's not so far fetched to think he'd affect thousands and thousands more before he was truly done. This probably sounds really trite, it might unfairly sound like it's an attempt to simplify who and what we have lost in Jon-but value your life and the lives of those around you. It's amazing to be one of those people sitting here writing this, and thinking to myself that I just wish I could have hugged him one more time, heard him laugh again, or seen his bright shining smile on the other side of the counter when you walked in, or at your door when the knock came. It's tough because everything so easily looked like roses with Jon. But he was a very deep guy, and the people that Jon let into his life had to be very deep also, or else Jon would eventually demote you to an acquaintance. Maybe it's just me, and I know everyone says that so much more is seen in "hindsight", but I can't help but feel like we all heard and saw the cries for help…and that it was scary for us to ask Jon to confront them because it might have sounded uncool, or because we were afraid of the embarrassment of being wrong about something so serious. One of Jon's favorite friends was the last person we know of who spoke to him…and when he sensed Jon's plans and actions were a little far off, even for Jon, he stepped up and confronted him. What he did was right, but it was too late. Jon had attended mass that morning at St. Christopher's in Rocky River, called a buddy to grab a cup of coffee, then got dropped off with the pretense that he was leaving town for a while. Jon told his friend repeatedly that he had made his peace, and that now he just needed to go somewhere safer for a little while. From there he walked to the bridge that runs over the river at CYC, and all in one motion climbed the fence and jumped over. His mind was already made up, his time had come. I might be the only one who thinks he saw a cry for help, or maybe I'm the only one he let see it…if I am I'm sorry, and if I'm not I'm still sorry. I know we're all telling ourselves that even if we had sensed something sooner, and came to his aid in whatever way we possibly could have, it still may have only saved his tortured soul for a few hours, days or weeks…but man, a few hours, days or weeks? Imagine getting to spend that hour with Jon now. Imagine making plans with him for "guys night out" next Wednesday, and walking in and having him ecstatic and humbled that you, his "dear friend" was able to make it. Imagine getting that phone call from him that he was about to get off work…and wanted to celebrate this beautiful day. Imagine toasting an after dinner drink with him while he reminds you that "the night is but a pup." Imagine seeing him walk away from your door and knowing that you'd see him again. Those hours, days, or weeks seem a lot more attractive when you're talking about Jon Tomsak, and while there's nothing any of his dear friends did wrong…maybe there was a little something they could have done more right, the way Jon did, that would have kept him here, selfishly, for a just a little longer.

Watch "A Beautiful Mind." Jon did about 5 times in the weeks before we lost him. The main character in that movie had the love and support of his wife throughout his better disguised struggle. Jon Tomsak sought for that support, and for one reason or another didn't know that he had a few very good friends (more than most people have) who he could have turned to, to try to understand, to definitely listen to him, and to help him get the help he may have needed. He had us, we all couldn't wait to buy him a sandwich, let alone save his life or ease his struggle; he didn't believe he had us, but he should have, and I can't help but feel like he could have if we'd only told him so in a more thoughtful way.