Sunset clouds blue sky
Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.


I wish this was “click bait.” It’s not.

The sun was shining so brightly on that warm autumn day with low humidity that everything actually seemed almost dark. In contrast with the brilliant cloudless azure sky, bright reddish-purple leaves on multiple trees swayed in the breeze, which was blowing softly through the air.

An envelope arrived from United Parcel Service from our friend that morning. It was sent overnight from near where he lived. It included videos and documentation on two flash drives that were loaded with all sorts of instructions for family, finance, and business — including a rough last will and testament.

It took a few moments to realize that this was his last goodbye.


As soon as humanly possible, we hopped into the car and headed across the state for that long drive to his home with the foolish hope that perhaps this was a distress call and that we can save him from killing himself. Music was playing loudly in the car. Traffic did not matter. An appointment with the doctor did not matter, as that could be done later. Perceived debacles with airline membership programs and lodging membership programs did not matter. Wars in the Middle East and Europe and elsewhere in the world did not matter. Search engine optimization did not matter, as I am currently writing this article out of a stream of consciousness.

What mattered was rescuing our friend. That drive seemed to take an eternity.

Back Story.

I first met him several years ago through a mutual friend. I was still looking for a programmer to help me create and launch the second iteration of a technology engine called TruPrice, which was in development 13 years ago. Its initial purpose was to compare the ancillary fees of airlines to give users the true price of the total airfare which they should expect to pay. The functionality was expanded to include the true price of renting vehicles. Although it was never completed, vestiges of it still exist — such as this official weblog and this YouTube channel which contains five videos.

We did not hit it off at all after we were introduced on that day. He did most of the talking at a table outside that coffee shop while I basically listened to what he had to say, disagreeing with just about everything he said. He was a brilliant programmer — at one time, one of the best of the best, I found out later on — and my background is in graphic design, photography, writing, and marketing. He was incredibly proud of his accomplishments over the years, which led to him traveling extensively. You might even be using technology right now which he helped to develop as you read this article.

He initially did not believe that my knowledge and experience was equal to his — even after meeting a second time at his house…

…but we somehow developed a good friendship. He realized that I was more knowledgable and experienced than I had led on; and he taught me quite a few things. We fed off of each other. Somehow, these two people with diametrically different knowledge and experience became a synergy of sorts. We broke bread many times over the past several years. He was one of my dining companions in more than just one article reviewing restaurants here at The Gate With Brian Cohen. As one example, he was the unfortunate recipient of the thick pan seared veal chop, which was served with a mint pesto sauce at Lupo by Wolfgang Puck in Las Vegas during a business trip.

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck Las Vegas
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Our friendship developed to the point where we looked forward to seeing each other — even though we did not live close to each other. We shared many laughs and memorable experiences. Initially wary of each other, our trust grew to a point where no topic was off limits. That was rare for both of us in our lives.

Among other technical terms pertaining to computing that he used were vectors and daemons.

Little did I know of the demons that were apparently haunting his mind.

Poor Well Being.

Because we had discussed many personal and sensitive topics with each other, I found out a lot of things about him. He was diabetic and admitted that he did not take care of himself. This and other issues — including health issues and financial issues — led to his quality of life deprecating before my eyes.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I was in the dark small living room inside of his home. Because the weather was so nice and because he was feeling down, I managed to convince him to sit outside with me in his backyard. We conversed for hours, as he had never thought of sitting outside in one of the chairs of his patio furniture. That was when I let him know my secret for peace and serenity: simply sitting outside and watching the trees while noticing the occasional fauna going about what they naturally do. Witnessing nature and viewing its presentation typically improves my well-being whenever I am feeling down or need some semblance of solace. We actually watched the sun set behind those trees and discussed a wide variety of topics.

We brought him in and out of the hospital numerous times and spent many days with him, constantly reminding him that there was hope in his future. We knew much of his medical history. We sought professional help for him — including attorneys and doctors — which could help resolve the maelstrom of issues that swirled around in his life.

Against the orders of doctors, we brought him out of the hospital last week — not knowing that it would be his last time. He could not hear out of one ear. He was barely able to walk because his legs were significantly swollen and his feet were in bad shape. I had to temporarily abscond with a wheelchair for his use because the members of the staff would not provide him with one because of his refusal to stay.

He struggled to get into the passenger seat of the car. We picked up some fast food for all of us that night; and we stayed with him for hours in his home. That was all he cared about that night: being home.

He promised that he would take care of himself. Unfortunately, we did not know what that truly meant.

That Dreadful Morning — or Night.

We arrived at his house. The front door was never locked for as long as I had known him; so we were able to enter — hoping to talk some sense into him.

I walked in to the darkened living room and saw him slumped in his chair, his chin facing upwards. A white cloth was strangely draped over a floor lamp next to him. He looked like he might have actually been dozing at that moment — at least, I had hoped…

…until I saw the clothes which he was wearing, drenched in dried blood, which covered most of his body. It was a horrifying sight no one should ever have to see. I felt like I was in a movie that I was watching.

I immediately called 911 and gave whatever information the operator requested. I struggled through the last moment of that telephone call. Within minutes, I heard sirens blaring off in the distance. A fire truck arrived. The firefighters who were aboard that truck went into his house. They eventually emerged from the house and confirmed that he was no longer alive. Not long after that came vehicles from the police department and the office of the sheriff of that county. A few of his family members were contacted and arrived at the house, stunned and in shock. All types of vehicles filled the cul-de-sac of the neighborhood. A whirlwind of activity became one giant blur.

We found out that he obtained a gun only three days prior. None of us were aware of that. He shot himself below his face — likely the night before. Because the bullet was still lodged in his head, an autopsy needed to be performed as required by state law. On the small table in front of his lifeless body was his mobile telephone, his wallet, and a letter to the coroner.

How he was able to hold the cold metal of that unfamiliar weapon as he aimed it at himself and still be able to go through with his plans, I will never know. Was the aforementioned white cloth a mechanism to prevent the immediate area from becoming a messier crime scene? Because the white cloth was spotless and no splatter of blood was on the wall behind him, did he conduct research on how to execute this act to ensure that the mess was as minimal as possible?

Tears were shed as a non-descript white van eventually pulled up in front of the driveway. The coroner went into the house. A photographer for the police department carried small yellow plastic placards with numbers on them. The fire department returned with two trucks and blocked the entire street. Several firefighters wheeled his corpse out and into the van. The fire trucks departed shortly afterwards.

While everyone else who remained went into the house to start the long process of cleaning up and getting affairs in order, I stood outside and watched the white van slowly depart, taking his lifeless body away.

We realized that by the time that aforementioned package was received, he had already taken his life. It was too late.

The ride back was one of the longest ones I have ever taken; and it was reminiscent of the long flight home after I watched my mother die right before my eyes. The rush hour traffic did not help, either. Artists such as Jimmy Buffett — who died last month — and Dan Fogelberg were playing. The songs that were randomly played were coincidentally sad and morose — such as One Headlight by The Wallflowers — and mostly performed by artists who had already passed away. More tears flowed.

An uncertain future awaits.

Final Boarding Call

I awoke early this morning, hoping that this was all a nightmare from which I could awaken. The sweet scent of the white flowers of gardenia shrubs filled the morning chill in the stillness of the air…

…and the opened package was still lying on the top of the desk.

This is a final boarding call to someone whom I considered to be a good friend. I feel sorrow. I feel sadness. I feel anger. I feel guilty when I drink or eat something to sustain my own life when I could not even prevent my friend from taking his own life. Sometimes I do not feel like eating or drinking anything at all. I keep asking myself what more I could have done to have prevented such a tragedy; but the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that he had been planning his suicide for a while and apparently purposely did not want for anyone to stop him. He already arranged and paid for his funeral. He methodically left specific and detailed instructions for different people in his life…

…and I cannot imagine how his three children — all of whom are in college — are going to handle the news about the passing of their father and how it happened. His distraught former wife already started cleaning the interior of his home as a way to cope with what happened.

Nothing in his life — at least, what he revealed to me — was insurmountable or irreversibly catastrophic. His health was starting to improve. Financial issues are just man-made problems that could be resolved. He had family; and he had his friends — including me.

Why did he do this?!?

We all get depressed or feel down once in a while — but usually never enough to take our own lives. Perhaps he had clinical depression and did not seek professional help for it. We kept him company so that he would not feel lonely. We constantly caused him to laugh. We went out to eat often because he enjoyed dining. We thought we did everything we could to help him; but we never thought he would shoot himself and end it all. Could we have done more?!?

I keep thinking back to the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The movie itself may seem rather corny, ephireal, and insipidly vapid — but the message of how one life touches so many others was not more evident than what I witnessed and experienced on that morning on which the sun seemed to ignore what had transpired below it. “You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you”, Clarence the angel said to George Bailey, who was the main character in the movie. “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

The one difference is that George Bailey was able to return to his seemingly miserable life when he realized what a colossal mistake he committed; and that life was not nearly so miserable after all.

My friend will never have that opportunity.

As I grieve for my friend, I personally hope that he is finally at peace…

All photographs ©2009 and ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

  1. My thoughts are with you, your friend, and his family. I support a spouse with significant mental health struggles as well. MY bit of advice – don’t try to rationalize the spot they are in, because depression is not rational, it the irrational confluence of all the the dread, sadness and dispair that simply can overwhelm a person’s ability to reason. You are likely correct that none of their problems may have been insurmountable but I’ve learned from supporting my wife is – that’s my perspective from the top of the hole looking down, rather than her’s at the bottom looking up. I hope this provides some level of grace to you, knowing you did all you could, even driving across the state to save your friend. Again, my sincere condolences to you and your friends family.

    1. I think what confounds me is just how rational, methodical, and calm he was in planning his suicide as I continue to learn more and find additional evidence of what happened, Ben LeRoy — to the point of creepy and eerie.

      My thoughts are also with your wife. I wish all of the best for you and her.

      Thank you so much for your insights and sharing your thoughts related to your experience.

  2. My condolances to you and family. Since this article concerns suicide I feel the need to mention “If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 9-8-8 for help. (in the United States)”

    1. That is good advice, SubwayNut — and thank you for the condolences.

      To readers: if you are in dire straits to the point of thinking about committing suicide, please reach out for help.

      Additional information pertaining to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which is available 24 hours per day and seven days per week:

  3. I had a good school friend whom I kept in touch after graduation. A year and a half later, that friend committed suicide. Before, I had not thought of that much but now I am very much opposed to suicide. Your life mostly belongs to you but not 100%.

    That friend visited Budapest and knew it at least somewhat well. I was able to take photos and share some familiar sights with that person. Another way I look at it is since the suicide, I’ve made some really memorable trips that I have not been able to share with my friend. That is another reason to live.

    1. “Your life mostly belongs to you but not 100%.” Wow, derek. Someone just commented to me not too long ago with a similar sentiment. It is a profound thought.

      I am sorry to learn about your friend; but you have at least derived something positive out of that tragedy.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience.

    1. I agree, DaninMCI.

      It is amazing how much we know about mental health issues — and yet, we still know so little about them…

  4. Such a sad story, but you did a very good job of writing it. I certainly does put things in perspective which we all need.

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