The Heartbreak of Suicide


Karl at my senior ball.

More Americans are killing themselves, over 40,000 in 2012, than are dying in car crashes. Guns are used half the time and depression is the most common reason. Women try 4 times more than men. Men succeed 4 times more than women. My friend Karl, a Peace Seeker, was perhaps too comfortable with his troubles. Seeking psychological help as a teenager might have changed his life.

            The following true story, My Buddy Karl Kresge: Peace at Last, edited, is from The Enneagram of Death:

The phone call came during a block party one summer. I’d made hors d’oeuvres, neighbors were roasting hot dogs, and children were running around and playing badminton. I was standing by our cement stairs thinking about how many serving spoons to retrieve from my house…

During high school, Karl lived in my neighborhood and we went to the same church. He and his pal would stop by our house after walking my sister home from school. We became best buddies, spending weekend afternoons washing his Plymouth and my family’s Chevy together, going to jazz concerts, swimming in the lake, or hanging out. I might have been concerned about his poor grades, but I was six years younger and had other things besides Karl’s education on my mind.

Karl’s big blue eyes were outlined like a cat’s by dark lashes. He loved to laugh and make jokes in those days. Our relationship was fun, not romantic. He had less life force than most kids, no consuming interests, and drank too much. When my senior ball rolled around I didn’t want to go. My sweetheart, Gus, was away on a trip. He attended the University and might not want to go anyway. My friends pleaded with me to go. Karl felt he’d missed out by not attending his own senior ball so we went together.

Karl’s brother, Stephen, was an excellent student and scholarship winner. His father, Miles, had been honored at the White House for his artillery innovations. When Karl was 13, Miles’ first son (by another marriage), the apple of his eye, attended Stanfor University. He was electrocuted when a radio fell into his bathtub.

Karl was drafted while I was still in high school. His first schizophrenic episode occurred in the army. He was discharged, then in and out of mental hospitals. Gus and I cared about Karl, but since he usually fell asleep when he visited us, we started hoping he wouldn’t show up at our house. Then he moved and we didn’t see him any more.

Karl’s health and moods steadily worsened. His brother Stephen told us he couldn’t keep jobs, had a poor social life, was unable to control much of anything, and was living in a halfway house.

Returning to the block party, someone in my house relayed a phone message from my mother out to me on the street. My feelings were blocked from my body for a few hours after I found out. There I was on a sunny day enjoying a party and my old buddy Karl, at age 43, had just jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge. I felt sad thinking about Karl’s unhappiness and suicide for a long time. I still mourn his death rather as one might mourn a child’s. His life never quite got going.

Some said Karl was courageous. Some feel suicide is cowardly. I just hope the next person who shows the same symptoms as Karl gets the help he needs soon enough to help.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. – Buddha

The Enneagram of Death – Helpful insights by the 9 types of people on grief, fear, and dying by Elizabeth Wagele. Next week on Psychology Today, the best ever Enneagram quiz.



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