Opinion: Neighbor’s suicide leaves regret, questions in its wake SanTan Sun News

Neighbor’s suicide leaves regret, questions in its wake

March 30th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Neighbor’s suicide leaves regret, questions in its wake

By David Leibowitz

The white house sits across the street from the window fronting my desk. Not much distinguishes the place from the rest of the block where I moved two weeks ago. Four orange trees, their trunks painted white, line the east edge of the driveway.

The side gate has a sign that reads “Beware of the Dog” in faded orange letters. On the porch sits a white pot sprouting a metal replica of a sunflower. The flower’s bright yellow adds a little cheer to the scene, but this is not that kind of story.

I met the woman who owned the house once, a few days after I moved in. I was unloading the last of my boxes. She walked over from across the street and introduced herself as Linda. She looked to be approaching 80, and blunt in the way people of a certain age can pull off.

“It’s a nice street,” she assured me, with a hard glance that seemed to suggest I had better keep it that way. I learned Linda had lived in the small white house for decades, beside Carolyn, her best friend and forever neighbor. There was rarely traffic on the block. Dogs barked on occasion. I told her my name. Then my phone rang. It was a work call I needed to take.

We said goodbyes and I thought nothing more of it for a few days, when I came home to a street full of police cars and an ambulance. The low white house had police crime scene tape blocking the driveway. Officers milled about. Carolyn, the forever neighbor, sat on her porch talking into her phone. I could see her shoulders heaving.

The sergeant running the scene met me in the street. He had little to say except there had been a death. Now a death investigation was happening. I asked whether there had been a crime. He said he didn’t think so, that it looked like an older woman, the home’s only occupant, had taken her own life. No, not with a gun. It appeared she had hanged herself.

“That’s sad,” was the best I could do. “Very sad,” he agreed. A thought occurred to me: “I guess she might have been lonely.”

A couple of visitors have come and gone from the house since that afternoon, and I have looked for excuses to bump into Carolyn from the house next door, to ask if there’s anything I can do.

Each morning, I glance through the obituaries, to see if there might be more to Linda’s life – loved ones left behind, a memorial service scheduled, a charity where one might pay tribute.

Possibly, that’s the reporter in me, wanting to know “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. But more likely, it’s the human being in me, the new neighbor who wishes he hadn’t answered his phone, who regrets not being warmer, who wonders how he might have made some small difference.

This is magical thinking, I suppose. The world may feel small today, with everyone in each other’s business on Facebook, on Twitter, online, but the truth is, we have never been more isolated.

Buried under the outward self we show the world, the #blessings and proclamations of gratitude, each of us has endless hidden nuances, stories we take pains to keep locked away.

Now I write a story about a neighbor no longer here to read it, while I stare at the house she left vacant and wonder what happened behind those closed curtains, that front door with the iron security grate.

So it goes. We are here until we’re not, and sometimes we take the rest of the story with us.