Am not sure if I should write about this, but I will do it as discretely as possible.

Today after one of my classes a young lady asked me I had some time left.

I could read from her face and her eyes it was going to be something painful.

Of course I had time.

You have to picture this young lady.

She’s very slender. She has a facial expression I would call cheeky, disarming. She doesn’t take triviality seriously and she doesn’t dismiss serious things as trivial. She has long hair. Usually she is smiling. She makes a lot of jokes. There’s nothing manipulative about her, at least during the lessons I feel like she’s not wearing any mask at all. When she is the first to arrive she feels the need to reassure me that I won’t be alone with her. That the others are certainly coming. Every time she does this she surprises me so much I forget to tell her I wouldn’t have any problem at all to be alone with her. Apart from worries about the sagging popularity of my class perhaps.

She’s the kind of woman you expect writes poetry at work. The kind of woman who all of a sudden announces some publisher will print a children’s book she’s written.

When the others leave she tells me her ex has recently killed himself.

She’s obviously shocked. Shattered.

I can see in her eyes and hear in her voice that she cared for this person very deeply.

I refuse to go into the details, but it moved me profoundly.

I couldn’t do anything to take away her pain. I could not bring him back and I had no answers. Why did he do it? We will never know. We will never know what went through his head that day. That moment.

The normal questions pop up.

Could she have done anything to prevent his?

No. A million times no.

Only long, thorough professional attention could possibly have prevented this. Maybe. It’s all very iffy.

We have to respect his choice.

He didn’t want to be here anymore. From her story I assume he felt like he did not have the right to exist.

I have to push myself not to try to hard. Not to try and come up with something clever to say. What do words matter when you lose somebody dear to you? Especially if that person opted not to be here anymore.

I keep repeating that she couldn’t have done anything to prevent this. It would be very unfair if she would take on any guilt for this. This is not her fault. Not in the least bit.

I have a tight schedule today, I might be late for my next class, but I don’t care. I am fortunate that my next students won’t might if I say am late cause somebody deserved a bit of attention.

Her pain is shared now. I hope it makes the burden lighter. I emphasize that it’s ok to be sad now. She has every reason to be sad now. In our culture we are expected to move on quickly. Mourning for too long is officially listed (see the latest edition of the psychiatric bible, the DSM) as something wrong, something you need to take a pill against.

There is nothing wrong about mourning the loss of a loved one.

She reminds me of how much I love people, all people, but especially, good people, sweet people, life embracing people.

Throughout her story a motive comes back: she respects people. She wants the best for them.

We hug very briefly.

She goes to work, I go to my next class.

I feel sad, but also grateful that she wanted to tell me this. That perhaps, perhaps she felt like I could bring down the pain at least by a couple degrees.

Yesterday evening at around 22.30 I was notified that one of my very good friends, Francesco, had died earlier this week. His funeral was today in Belgium, so there was no way for me to attend. He was 75. He was incredibly important to me between the ages of say 10 and 15. Somehow he tried to be something like my father, or my second father at least. There was of course a lot of baggage behind his need to be like a father to me, but it was important nonetheless. It’s the love, care and attention I abundantly received as a child and later as a young adult that makes it so easy, necessary in fact, natural, to absorb – to some extent- other people’s pain. If am able to pay attention to people, it’s because of that.

Francesco did not take his own life, as far as I know, and in the last decades of his life he became something almost unreal -alcohol?-, for reasons I don’t understand, but he was important to me. I got into some rather bizarre situations with him as a child, I must say. My father, he, and me -aged 11 – tried to stalk his wife for example, to find out if she was really cheating on him. (she was). He suspected that one of his children wasn’t really his. (I doubt that).

Am not sure why I remember that episode right now.

I made it on time to my next class. In a bit of karmic support my bus was so late I still caught it.

I let her know, cause I didn’t want her to feel bad for talking to me.

If she would ever be open to it, I would take her for a walk, and maybe do some sort of goodbye ritual.

Pretty much all I can hope is that by allowing myself to feel her pain, I made her mourning process a bit lighter.

I didn’t know her friend, apart from the little she told me about him, but am sad he is gone, as I think he himself would immediately undo what he did if he could only have seen what I saw today: how much this sweet, intelligent, witty lady regrets that he is gone, and will likely feel pain for the rest of her life every time she thinks about him.