The Renaissance Man: Steven DeAngelis

- by Stewart Potter

I will always remember the day I got the call from Kim. When I got home my wife said that Kim left an urgent message to call her, so I did. "Stu, sit down I have something to tell you." she said. I chuckled and said "okay, I'm sitting." "Steve is dead. He killed himself." "How?" I asked. "He Hung himself."

My life went into a spiral. Steve was a soul mate. A friend, confidant, brother (though not of blood). He was my teacher, my mentor. He had created in me a strong man, husband and father. And now he had taken his life. We had grown separate in our lives over the past years, but I had always felt his presence within me and his wisdom guiding me. We were outwardly two very different people - I was married, had a family, a steady job, a house, two cars, two kids, a dog. He was living at home, part time work, no car. I am an engineer, college-educated. He was an artist, painter, musician, sculptor, poet; educated by life. But inwardly we were one and the same. He envied my life, I envied his, and we laughed at each other routinely.

His death began for me a journey through terror and pain. I thought I was taking it well, at least I thought I wasn't bringing anyone down with me. But, I began folding in on myself, entering a time of depression and self-doubt. My work suffered, my family suffered. I hated Steve for taking his life. I hated him for teaching me so much and felt betrayed. I hated me for learning from this man who could kill himself. I hated me for hating him. I hated me for not being there when he needed me. I hated me for not dying with him. Many of my friends saw that and it was only the responsibilities as a father that kept me from following him into that mystery. People would tell me that "he will always live in our memories." I didn't want still frames of him, I wanted to make memories - to talk about new music, not remember conversations about old tunes; to see new sights, not remember sights already seen; to watch my kids grow with him, not remember visits with the kids. That is what I hated most of all - plans for a future that would never happen now.

I don't blame him, I know that I never really did. My life has changed so much since his passing - death and grief are powerful forces, able to knock even the most stable systems out of balance. A new job, separation/divorce, being a single co-parent. My life is now very different than what it was.

A chemical imbalance in the brain. Chronic depression. That was the diagnosis of the professionals about his ultimate demise. I had found this passage that explains it better to me.

excerpted from Touchstones of Reality, Maurice Friedman

"He left my life as abruptly and unexpectedly as he had entered, and he seemed deeply arrhythmic from first to last. Yet there is something about his eyes that speaks to me of realities which I have forgotten but would like to remember. And there is something about his wrinkled forehead which tells me of a suffering that I have known but find too painful to recall. And there is something about his youth which, despite the flickering panes in his cheeks, makes me ask whether I can dismiss him as simply neurotic and out of step with life. Perhaps there is that in him too beautiful and fine to tune itself to the unresolved dissonance of life. I did not laugh long at his tragedy. He was a sensitive and beautiful instrument, and that instrument was broken - broken, I am afraid, beyond repair. "But what I want to know is whether this instrument broke because its player kept tightening the strings - always fighting life, never relaxing to it? Or did we, with our common sense and practical wisdom, harry and torment it until one day, perhaps unnoticed, it lost its harmony and jangled the air with the noisy silence of sprung strings?"

I will always remember you, Steve. You taught me so much.

Stu

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW