Reminder of a Death

March 4th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

I have known two Toms who killed themselves. One I still can’t talk about freely. The other I rarely think of, but had to following the recent death-by-cyanide here in Boston.

In junior high, my assistant Boy Scoutmaster and family friend killed himself with cyanide. I was stunned and deeply saddened. The troop was in central Virginia, we camped frequently, and he was a fascinating outdoorsman, as well as a great story teller. He even taught us things not in the handbook, like a quick cleaning of a bacon-greased fry pan using pine tags (needles up here in Yankee land). He and his wife were good friends with my mother and we ate and laughed together. He was one of the men who helped fill in for my own absent father.

Tom was huge of body and mind. He was very funny. He and his wife were also two of the hardest to look at folk I’ve ever met. They themselves liked to say no one else would have them. That was not at all true, as they both were extremely bright and great company.

He was a research chemist, hence his access to cyanide. As I came to learn through literature, he was classic in the sense of having a tragic flaw. He was a compulsive gambler. Perhaps he deluded himself as gamblers are wont that his big brain would let him beat the systems. When that didn’t work, so his wife told us, he did not see any way out of the debt to the Mob.

My friend, my entertainer, my Scoutmaster did himself in with poison gas. He was typically methodical and considerate. He knew how long his wife and aged father who lived with them would be out shopping and visiting. The police found his calculations that ensured the fan he left on would more than dissipate the fumes before they returned. He even showered, shaved and cleared his GI tract before doing himself in in the tub to make it easy for those dealing with the corpse. He had made insurance arrangements for his wife and father.

He apparently had reasoned this all through and found no other solution. As nearly always, those remaining who loved the suicide can only wail to the unhearing.

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