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.
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With Jez we can speculate. It appears he had been in a very abusive relationship. We know from the text messages and call logs on his phone that he had been involved in a heated conversation with his girlfriend right before he jumped. We know she had told him he was inadequate, that his job was inadequate (despite the fact that he had gone to his boss and requested and received a substantial raise and a promotion after learning about his impending fatherhood) and that she should be with a doctor or a lawyer, not a lowly salesman. We know she had said she would abort his child if she “had to stay with him”. And we know that when he told her he was going to jump, she told him to do it.
So it’s hard to imagine she cared for him very much, if at all, and she obviously didn’t want to be with him. And yet after he died she went out of her way to play the part of the grieving widow, making disgraceful “documentaries” about her “plight” and posting them on YouTube and adding to the pain his family was already going through. She even went so far as to claim control of his body, for reasons no decent person can fathom. A demand for attention? After his funeral she blocked all of his family members from seeing or posting on his Facebook wall, and deleted all posts that were made since his death by his grieving family and friends. Salt for our wounds, and an outrageous disprespect to his memory. I find this behavious nothing short of evil, and I cannot understand it. She had every opportunity to own her part in this, and reach out to him family with love and kindness. Instead she has gone out of her way to make things worse, and try to make this about her.
If it is possible to murder someone with words, then I believe that’s what happened to Jez. He may have taken his own life, but he didn’t pull the trigger. I believe he acted impulsively. I don’t think he wanted to die.
Taking a walk
A couple of nights before Jez’s funeral two of my fiancée’s cousins were staying with us, and we ended up getting a little “loosy goosey” (to use Jez’s term for it)…
…okay, a lot loosey goosey.
After a while three of us decided to take a late night walk over the bridge that Jez jumped from (our fourth was tired so she stayed behind). We meandered (or stumbled, not sure) across the bridge, and then double backed on the other side. Along the way there was laughter, and tears and stories. I learned a lot about Jez that night.
When we got to the “spot” both my fiancée and her cousin broke down in tears. We lit the candles that had been taped to the railing by some previous visitors and I put my arms around both of them as they held each other. When the tears ran out I felt a sudden feeling of peace. I started thinking about all the time I had spent with my “in-laws” over the previous weeks, and the outpouring of love and care I had witnessed in the midst of their sorrow. I realised how much I loved them. I resolved to open up my sometimes guarded heart, to not only love my fiancée even more (if that’s possible), but to embrace her family fully, and treat them as my own.
It truly was “one glad morning”.
That is a gift that Jezariel gave to me. I am so very sorry he is not here to see it.
P.S. The title of this post was inspired by a song that my fiancée’s cousin performed at Jez’s memorial service. It was extremely beautiful and moving. If he agrees, I’ll post the video here.