I didn’t know Jezariel well. I wish I had. When I would see him at family gatherings he would always greet me warmly as if he had known me his entire life. What I do know is that he was always kind and considerate to everyone around him. He loved his family deeply, especially his mom who devoted her life to raising him. He took great pride in his appearance, and was always impeccably groomed and well dressed. He was confident, but without a trace of arrogance. I never saw him without a smile.
Near the end of April, at a family party, Jez proudly announced to everyone that he was going to be a dad. His pride was unmistakable. A month later I saw him again, and nothing seemed amiss. Less than two weeks later he was dead.
On June 13th, 2013 Jezariel lost his life after jumping off a bridge. He was 23.
I was with my fiancée and her sister when we got the news. We were driving to her younger brother’s high school graduation. Her sister’s phone rang. There was a gasp from the back seat. Panicked questioning, a cry of agony from my fiancée, and then uncontrollable tears. How could it be? Surely there was some mistake, a misunderstanding. How could their cousin be gone?
But we all knew there was no misunderstanding. We arrived at the graduation dinner, and as we stood outside the car in the parking lot each of them cried into one of my shoulders while I stood numbly and in shock, my heart racing and wishing I could do something useful. The grad dinner was supposed to be a celebration. We didn’t celebrate. I ate without an appetite just so I would have something to do. It was agony for all of us.
As soon as we were able to leave, we headed straight for Jez’s mom’s house where the entire family had gathered. The pain in the room was palpable. I cried a lot. I made feeble attempts at comforting people with the only tool at my disposal, hugs. Some people made jokes, perhaps because reality hadn’t set in yet, perhaps simply as a way of numbing their sadness, probably a bit of both. Others coped by analysing the logistics of the situation. Most just sat quietly.
There would be many more of these gatherings over the following two weeks, while Jez’s family waited for his body to be found so that it could be laid to rest.
My grief for Jez is more empathetic than direct. I didn’t know him long enough to become close. I have lost several members of my own family (that is, those I am biologically related to) all of whom I was much closer to than Jez, and yet none of those losses have been as difficult to accept as this one.
I think it’s because when someone dies of disease or old age, it’s a resolution. You are sad and it hurts, but you also understand. It was just the unavoidable reality of life: it ends with death. An accidental death might be more difficult; we might ask why, but we do so rhetorically.
But with suicide “why” is at the forefront if our minds. We need to understand. We desperately need to know what could cause a seemingly happy young man to suddenly give up on life. But we never get that answer because the only person who could answer it with certainty is gone.