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Rich Macke column: That one thing that keeps you going

What is it that gets you up every morning to face another day?

We all have something. At least most of us do. That something which gives us the drive to keep living.

For some, it’s family and friends. For others, it’s a goal, or a calling that keeps us trudging forward. But there are some of us that, no matter what we do, can’t seem to find that one thing that gives us purpose.

My mind often wanders back to thoughts of my friend, colleague and co-worker who took his own life a little more than a year and a half ago. It seems to happen more regularly as we approach the holiday season, for whatever reason.

TJ was a good person, fun to talk to, very opinionated and always ready for a good laugh. Unfortunately, that was just his exterior, for deep inside he struggled with the demons of his past that he couldn’t shake.

He was going through another tough time, which would happen every six months or so. Basically, he would stop eating, begin drinking heavily for about a week.

I would go by his apartment to check on him during these times, bring him food, hide his alcohol and just visit. Normally, he would pop out the other side of his funk after that week and be back to the TJ we all knew for the next few months.

Not this time, however.

Sitting on his couch, we started talking about this and that, just conversation, when the topic suddenly turned to life and death. He had a calmness come over him as he talked about his mother, father, brother and sister in law who had all previously passed away. He talked about how they passed, and how it seemed some deaths were easier than others.

After listening to TJ a bit, I could see the depression and lack of appreciation for life, in his eyes. There was no smile, no joking, no forward thought to bring himself out of this funk.

So I asked him if he could do anything, what would it be? He said he would write a novel. He’d always wanted to write a novel and just never did. I asked what would it would be about? He said it didn’t matter, it would never happen.

How about a story of your life, the things you have seen, the depression you have felt, and how you battled to get through it all? You could help yourself and help others who may be battling similar issues, I suggested.

His eyes grew wide — a sign of life was back — or so I thought. As we talked through the process and exchanged ideas he got excited about the thought of fulfilling a dream. You could almost see the gears in his mind working.

After an hour or so I had to head back to work and told TJ I would be back in a couple days so we could put down in writing a plan of what he would need to do to move forward with this venture. I said, “no more drinking, take your meds and we will get this going.”

As I left, he gave me a big hug, as he always did, said thank you and see you in a couple days. I may go see my brother, he said, so if I’m not here, that’s probably where I am.

A couple days later, I dropped by, didn’t see his car but knocked and rang the doorbell. No answer. Hmmm … he must have gone to see his brother. That’s good.

A few more days later, sitting at my desk, the cell phone rang. It was a former employee that lived in the same apartment complex. She said the police are at TJ’s apartment. I left the office immediately and raced over there. Not allowed to go in, I waited, fearful of what police would tell me, just outside the door.

When the first officer came out, he said TJ had shot himself lying in his bed. My head dropped, knees drew week and tears filled my eyes. They said he had been there almost a week. Timing it out in my head, it had to have been the night after I last saw him.

Maybe finding that something to give him purpose was too late in coming. Maybe his decision was already made. Maybe he was completely at peace with his decision.

Whatever it was, knowing TJ confirmed my opinion on the importance in having one thing in your life that gives you purpose, that one thing that puts a sparkle in your eye.

If during that last conversation, if the life I saw come back into his eyes, was what was meant for me to take from it, then so be it.

Vita Vivet, Amare Vita. That’s Latin for “Live Life, Love Life.”

We love and miss you my friend.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.