Monday, January 19, 2009

J.E - RIP Jan 19, 1999

This is a memorial to a friend of mine - J.E. (Jim, but initialized to protect his family. I may open this up a a future time.) who took his own life on Jan 19, 1999.   We had been good pals in High School (Gr 9-11) and he was a very smart fellow.  He left to attend an enriched program in UTS (University of Toronto Schools) at that time and we did not reconnect until I had finished University and he was entering a Master of Law Program.  We continued to keep in touch on and off but managed a closer connection about 10 years later about the time thing began to unravel for him.

He had lost his licence to practice law after he was charged and found guilty of Sexual Harassment from a complaint by a female law colleague.    It also concurred with treatment for a supposed bi-polar disorder.  The drugs proscribed were powerful and seemed more of a problem than the diagnosis - which to me seemed misdirected although I am not a psychiatric professional.  His family had similar concerns but seemed just as lost in finding any medical professional they could trust.

At the outset it seemed incredible that a female lawyer would resort in such a heavy-handed manner to such a minor concern - perhaps over-zealous phone-calling and emailing the object of his attention - but the law was still fairly new and untested.  But it also appeared the Crown relished making an example of one of its own.  The supposed diagnosis and treatment appeared to be inculpable to the decision rather than the opposite - although I am not certain it was ever even mentioned in court.

After that, Jim had trouble getting work and although he tried to put a good face on it - definitely fell into despair.  After a few years he tried to get retraining as a seniors LPN - but even that seemed tarnished by his supposedly confidential mental diagnosis and criminal charge.  Social ostracism alone was harsher in those days as we were all still new to this form of feminist orthodoxy but he was definitely in a personal crisis.

He called me in the New Year of 1999 to chat - something he did not do very often - and we had a broad ranging talk about nothing I recall in particular.   I was working hard and supporting my wife with young child at the time - and I was probably unable to talk of much else.

A few weeks later I got a call from his sister - asking what we talked about as she broke the news that he had suddenly disappeared and she was following up with his last known calls.  Even though I racked my brains - I could think of nothing to tell her.  About a month later she emailed me his obituary and funeral notice.  I called and got the lowdown on his grim end.

He had visited a lake near his home that we used to play hockey upon as kids in winter - but only after his Dad had demonstrated the ice was good with a long tree kept especially for this annual "lake safety test".  Late some evening/early some morning Jim ventured out on to the frozen, snowy lake, used an axe to cut a hole in the ice - and jumped in.  They found his body about a week later.

I think of him often - and wish I was able to stop the inevitable - somehow.

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