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A letter to the man I knew only in death

Ernie, 

I never really knew you and I probably never will if it was not because of what happened that fateful night. You see, it was a normal day, rather night, in the office. Things were just as what they usually were and the euphoria of rest days was already felt in the air. I guess, the mundane things have become so much a part of the past months of working in the graveyard shift that nothing seems so interesting, or stirring, for me to bother. But you changed all of that in one Friday past midnight.

That loud noise you made which made everyone turn changed me so differently. I would probably never forget how that sounded, comparable to cars colliding. But what shook me most is the eerie silence that followed. In that few seconds, I wondered how time could pass by so fast and yet stand still. Yes Ernie, you changed my perception of things in a way that probably no one else can.

I just wonder, Ernie, what was on your mind while you were falling?

Probably, it does not matter now.

I never knew you. I have never met you. If it was not because of the supposed farewell letter you posted on Facebook just a few moments before you decided to jump, I would never have known your name. It was circulated just minutes after the incident. I probably bumped into you once but I could never really remember. But seeing your dead body lying on the ground after your 12-floor fall changed my perception of life.

Is it not too brutal? Your death is a tragedy and yet, almost everyone has known that part of your short life. Yes, that part where you mentioned not being able to live with the heartbreak of being left for somebody else. It is a relief that finally your account is no longer active and hopefully, the screen caps of your post are already deleted as well.

They could argue about your reasons and think it was not worth doing what you did. Maybe it wasn’t for us who were not on your shoes but to you, maybe it was the only way the pain would end. Who are we to blame you then?

It is true, I consider this a sad tragedy. Your life would have been longer and you could have spent it doing something else or with someone else. You may have found someone else, started your own family and lived a happy life. But it was your choice to end it.

But in your death I have learned so many things too about pain, life and the reality of death.

You see, I have seen death in many different forms. There are those that slept and didn't wake up. There are some who died because of sickness. My few months working for a news organization has somewhat made me immune about death stories too. Bloodied people killed in different ways have become a partner of my morning cup of coffee as we prepare materials for the afternoon broadcast. But until witnessing your death, I never believed any man would be capable of ending his own life regardless of the problem that he or she is going through.

Depression

I have heard of them before and I was one of those who would be first to say “Why do that when he/she could have just prayed and cried it over?” When I still worked with news we avoided suicide stories because of that “Copycat Syndrome” psychologists warned us about. Yes, many speculated you were copying Robin Williams when you decided to end your own life.

Suicide is taboo in this society where we live. In the Philippines, people are brought up to fear God and to hold dear the borrowed life that we are all given. Suicide, per se, is considered a mortal sin. But many people fail to realize that no one just commits suicide moments after a painful experience. Many people fail to address the force behind it: depression. (READ: Dealing with depression)

How ironic is it that the story of your death (and that of Robin Williams) comes with stories about handling depression? Is it too late for that? Perhaps the problem is not with media but with how we deal with pain. Men are especially told that crying over things is a sign of weakness.

Most of us are too afraid to tap the help of experts because of the notion that people who consult psychologists are losing their sanity.

The irony, Ernie, is that witnessing what happened to you that night has opened my eyes to the reality that I am human- and so is everyone around me. There is nothing wrong about going through a crisis. There is nothing wrong about feeling a hole in the chest when we lose some important people. There is nothing wrong about crying on countless sleepless nights. And, most of all, there is nothing wrong about asking for help.

Weeks, months and years would pass and people will forget about you but hopefully, I am not the only one who learned a thing or two from what happened. Hopefully, wherever you are, things are better. – Rappler.com