A Beautiful Life

July 7, 2010

Today is the one year and eight month anniversary of John’s death. At 5:30 am on November 7th, 2008 John layed down beside the train tracks in Mountain View, California and was hit by the oncoming commuter train. He was knocked unconscious and then rushed to Stanford Hospital. His sleep mask was mysteriously found by his body. I was woken from sleep with the hideous phone call. John’s housemates and I waited in a freezing cold, private, windowless waiting room as the doctors operated on him and did everything they could to save him. His arms and legs were shattered, his internal organs were damaged, and his brain was bleeding. He died in surgery. He was thirty years old.

I have spent the last year and eight months trying to understand what happened and why he did this. I have taken apart every memory I have of him, and I have examined everything I knew about him, all of our times together, every email, and every conversation we had, especially those toward the end. I have even combed through his journals. When a loved one dies of suicide, everything is turned upside down. Life as I knew it ceased. All structures I had created to help me navigate through the world came shattering down. Confusion blinded me. I was left with questions, hundreds and thousands of questions. After a year and eight months of trying to understand, I feel I have reached the end of this process. I know that many people who survive someone’s suicide are left with questions hanging for the rest of their lives. I know I will have scars from John’s death for the rest of my life. I know I will miss him for the rest of my life. But thankfully, my questions are over. Through my hard work grieving, writing, and connecting with my spiritual path, I feel I understand. While I will never really truly know John’s inner point of view about his death, I feel I am  finally complete with my own understanding about why he took his life.

In some ways, I believe it was his destiny to kill himself.

Like all suicides, the reasons are complex and multi-leveled. At a young age, John had been physically abused. He was also dropped on his head as a young child. He suffered from childhood epilepsy. And at fifteen, he developed narcolepsy, with which he severely struggled. Each one of these conditions on its own, puts a person at risk for suicide. Put them all together and in hindsight, his suicide seemes inevitable.

People who have been physically or sexually abused are at a higher risk than most for suicide. The same is true for epilepsy. And 40 % of people with narcolepsy kill themselves. John had not just one of these risk factors, he had all of them. I can’t  even begin to imagine the extent of the neurological confusion and disrepair in his brain. I can’t even fathom what it was like to be in his head. Had I known then what I know now about all of these risk factors, I would have lived my life with him very differently. Things might not have happened as they did.

Yet through it all, he lived his life fully and from the heart. In the words of Byron Katie, John’s spiritual teacher, John had one of the “biggest and purest hearts” of anyone she and I (and all of us who knew him) have ever known. He never complained about his situation or that he fell  in and out of sleep throughout the day and had to work extra hard just to stay awake and keep up with his responsibilities of work and school. He always had time to give his famous hugs. John loved all people (even the annoying ones), and never gave petty excuses for why he didn’t like someone. He loved everyone. He once said all he wanted to do with his life was love people.

John was one of those people who are too good for this world. He had a hard time being human. He was beautiful, light, and warm. He hid his handicaps so well behind his good looks, charm, and talents. No one knew that all of his life he secretly thought about suicide. No one suspected that behind his innocent blue eyes, he longed to go Home.

If he didn’t share this with anyone (including me) – how do I know this? Well, partly because through my writing I have connected the dots of things that were there all along -not explicitly, but there in subtle ways. A part of him was always off somewhere else. He wasn’t quite here, and he didn’t quite get how to be human. It was like he was a visitor from somewhere else, with a strong memory of what that other place was like. He loved to sit in blissful, meditative-like states of “no mind” – of which he was remarkably adept and advanced. It was like he was trying to bring the love and peacefulness of this ‘somewhere else’ down into his body and down onto Earth to share with the rest of us.

I once asked you, as we cuddled in bed together: How was it John, that you were so kind and understanding and loving toward people all the time? How did you do it? What was your secret? Do you remember your response? It was plain and simple. “I just remember what it’s like from before we got here. I never forgot what it feels like and that we’re not separate.” And so then of course I asked. “Well how was it that you didn’t forget, but the rest of us have?” You looked at me sweetly. You didn’t know.

{Excerpted from my book Love You Like the Sky}

The other way that I know certain things about John’s suicide…that it was his destiny, that he always dreamed of returning home, and why his body was found with his sleep mask (to name a few) is because I have had several sessions with a fantastic medium named Felix Lee Lerma–  who communicated with John. Although John is always present with me, it was helpful to have a skilled translator (aka medium) through which John could talk. I would like to share some of our sessions, and in future posts I will transcribe some of my encounters  with John through Felix.

There is so much to say about John, who he was, the way he was in the world, and the reasons for what he did. I was incredibly blessed to have him in my life in such an intimate way. I honor who he used to be, his courage, selflessness, and his beauty.  I acknowledge that his spirit is free and he is now so much grander and cooler and more amazing in his new and natural state of being than I could ever even imagine.

With love for now,


~ Click for a song:    \”Krafty\” by New Order


4 Responses to “A Beautiful Life”

  1. KEC said

    Hey S, I love this post. I am reading all of your posts with such rapt attention. It is healing for me somehow to read your words and live through your experience. I miss John so much, and reading these reminds me of his profound beauty and his pain. I am so happy to feel connected to you as well through your sharing. ❤

    • Thanks hon, glad my words are healing all the way over there on the other side of the planet 🙂 John held a powerful place in all our lives, something we will most likely never forget. come back soon, love u. S

  2. Nyla said

    I am in awe of how devoted you were to the task of understanding why John did what he did. Your story is going to help heal so many who have ‘survived suicide’ – I can feel it as I read your words.

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