'I Want to Die'

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One guy I worked closely with in the Internet boom killed himself about a year ago. His father had died recently and he was very close to his father. My friend had a heart condition plus various cancers that kept coming back. He had been fired from AOL in some sort of scandal, and the company we had worked together at back in 1999 had gone bankrupt. He was overweight, had no girlfriend, had a speech impediment, and he was constantly sweating due to his various illnesses.

I was talking about him at a dinner with friends. We were all saying what a great guy he was. Because he truly was a great guy. When you go through so much sorrow you know that it makes no sense to be mean or cruel to the people around you. Finally, though, it occurred to all of my friends that I was the only one at the table who didn’t know he was dead. “Wait a sec,” said one of the people at dinner, “you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

And the table went silent. Nobody wanted to say. An awful secret had been served at the table and I was the only one not feasting on the dish. Instead someone gave me a URL and I went to it later and it was a tribute page to my friend. I’ve had 100 breakfasts with the guy and I didn’t know and it made me wonder what his last thoughts were. The last time I heard from him he had sent me a random email in 2005 that said, “James! Is this email address really for you?” And, true to my form, I never responded. I meant to respond. But I put it off. Then never did.

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A few years ago Dan was telling me about a friend of his who worked at Goldman Sachs. They grew up together in the banking business. Dan said, “he was addicted to prostitutes. Almost every night. He was a good looking guy, made great money, stayed in shape, and every night would go for an escort service.”

“If he was a good looking guy why couldn’t he just meet a girl or many girls, like in a bar, or wherever?” I said.

Dan said, “I asked him that. He said, ‘it’s the same thing. You take the girl out to two or three dinners, you wine and dine. And maybe then you have sex with her. But then she doesn’t leave. This way, for $500 I can have sex with some of the most beautiful girls on the planet and then that’s it, move on to the next one.’ “

“But then he would miss the emotional stuff.”

“He didn’t care about that. He just wanted to have sex with a different beautiful woman every night.”

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Dan said, “But after his last bonus, he left the city and moved to California. I don’t know what he’s doing now. I think he’s doing nothing, just living off that last bonus.”

I was trying to figure out how big his bonus was that he could just live off of it forever like that.

The other day Dan told me, “remember that friend of mine I told you about that was always going out with the prostitutes”


“Well, John J called me and gave me the update. He hung himself.”

Nobody wants to die. But its hard to go from wanting to die to suddenly being cheered up. If you say, “I want to die” and everyone else says, “oh, cheer up, there’s so much to live for” that’s sometimes a hard thing to hear. It’s not like you’re going to suddenly say, “you know what? You are totally right. I’m cheered up now!”

Try this instead. Just think a little deeper. When you get that feeling ask yourself, “what is it inside of me that really wants to die?”