Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Sudden absence

Back here I noted that I had taken a two-week break from this blog and hoped to finally explain why that night. That was on August 9th, and I still haven’t done it. Why not? Because I have struggled for a month to figure out what to say about this, with no resolution. So now I’m just going to say it.

Someone I know killed himself.

On July 26th, the day after I came back from Comic-Con, during the middle of a day with many other delights and joys in it, I got an email that this colleague had died suddenly. It didn’t take long for me to piece together what had happened from a couple of calls and  some investigation on the Internet. I knew, as many of us did, that he had risen to a position of local prominence, then suffered a major career setback. After struggling with the aftermath of that for many months, months during which many of us still saw him on a regular basis, he one day parked his car at the end of a bridge, walked to the middle, and jumped to his death, a fall of 255 feet, farther than from the Golden Gate Bridge, in a descent that must have seemed an hour long to the man taking it. Pedestrians and bicyclists are protected from falls on that bridge by a 54-inch-tall concrete and metal safety rail.  An accidental slip off the side would be impossible.

I have a lot more to add to this story, but I don’t think I can add it here (at least not now). That’s what I was struggling with for weeks. This incident was foremost in my thoughts, and I did discuss it with my family and close friends, but I didn’t think it seemed appropriate to go on the Internet right now with my feelings about this.

I wasn’t close to this man, but we did serve on a board and on a committee together, and I saw him at many other civic and private functions. Over the course of the past year, I probably saw him three dozen times. That’s more often than I saw some of the people I consider my closest friends (especially those on the east coast). I had a lunch with him that left me very impressed with his intelligence and his ideas and his passion for his field, and I told him after that how glad I was that I’d gotten to know him better. We exchanged several emails following up on our discussion. I’m glad I got that opportunity.

Seven years ago, another man I knew killed himself. This man was a  close friend. He was one of the founders of my theatre company, and a regular guest to my house for holiday celebrations and parties. He was enormously talented and funny and strange, and generous with his time and his skills, but one day he just got tired of battling the mental illness he was always on guard against, and so he drank an entire bottle of whiskey while talking all his prescription pills. We did a lot of things together over the course of almost 15 years, and I have many, many fond memories, but here’s my last memory of that friend:  that one night four of us went to see a show together at La Mirada Theatre, two of us to a car, him riding with someone else, and before the show and after the show I don’t think I took much notice of him or said much to him, not willfully, but in a sort of blind ignorance because I was wrapped up in my own thoughts, and that was the last time I saw him. I doubt I could’ve changed anything (although I know I would have tried). But I do wish I could go back in time and pay a little more attention on that last night I was ever going to see him alive.

3 Responses to “Sudden absence”

  1. EM Lewis Says:

    I am sorry for your loss, Lee.

    Not an easy thing.

  2. Jim Markley Says:

    I, too, am sorry to hear of the loss of an associate. Although you did not know him well personally, you honor him with your sorrow. You cannot greive for someone that you do not esteem. I wish you well, my friend.

  3. RICH R. Says:

    I lost a childhood friend and a cousin to suicide. Let’s hope that sharing our thoughts helps others who have lost someone this way.

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