The second loss.
That’s how Jennifer Niesslein, editor of Full Grown People, captured it.
In her introduction to my essay, “Strawberries in the Driveway,” released today on her literary magazine site, Full Grown People, she wrote,
How do you memorialize someone you lost first to depression, then to death?
This is almost literally my worst nightmare, but Ellen Blum Barish writes about her old college friend in such a tender way that I know someone out there reading this is glad to have this balm.
A second loss is exactly how it felt.
First to depression, then to suicide.
It wasn’t a topic I set out to write. How can we ever hope to make sense of either of these life-takers? But I was compelled to try. And it came from a real-life prompt.
Last July, I shared a story on the Story Sessions stage at The Dog’s Bollox on Lincoln Avenue about keeping house. It was a muse on the various influences that dictate our housekeeping skills. I was bit by the storytelling bug. Producer Jill Howe wrote me a letter of introduction to Willy Nast and Karen Shimmin, producers of Essay Fiesta and they scheduled me for January 19, which turned out to be a typo (because that third Monday in January was the 20th) but it jumped out at me all the same.
I took it as invitation to grapple with his death and the result was the essay below.
My appreciation to Willy and Karen for the Essay Fiesta spotlight and the prompt and to all my Friends with Words for the support and encouragement as it was under construction.
But my gratitude especially goes to Susan and John (whom you will meet later in the piece) and my dear friends Steve, Myra, Dave, Becky and their amazing children who gathered with my husband, David, daughter and I last Labor Day on the Northwestern University campus to articulate our goodbyes.
Photograph by Ellen Blum Barish. Circa 1978-1979.