I have just scrapped the blog that I was going to post last tonight. It seems superfluous compared to the picture of the face that I am looking at right now: a handsome, suntanned father of two girls that I know well; a devoted husband of a good friend of mine. He is 55. His blue eyes just sparkle under that big smile of his. I am reading his obituary.
Now you may wonder, ‘What does this have to do with a blog on counseling the older client?’ Everything. A few weeks back (May 20th) I posted: “Wanted: Older, White Males.” I said that the clients who MOST need us are the ones LEAST likely to call for help. I never dreamed that a scant month later, I would experience the intimate truth of that statement. A friend of mine has just taken his own life.
For five years, we lived in the same town and saw each other often. Our daughters are the same age and were in the same classes. We went to the same school events, sporting competitions and piano recitals. His wife and I often swam together at the local pool. The last time we spoke, he was personally delivering her morning Starbucks at the pool’s edge as she reached the end of her laps. I was in awe. Their love and devotion to each other was palpable.
“Gosh,” I said to him. “My husband gets mad at me for spending too much at Starbucks and here you are hand-delivering your wife a cup!”
“Well,” he said with that big smile. “It makes her happy and besides, she asked me to pick one up for her.”
He was one of those, ‘great guys,’ that every small town boasts a few of; the guy everybody loved. I have spent the last few minutes thinking of all the men that I know around his age. I am trying to imagine who among them might be most likely to commit suicide. Right now, I can actually think of two but they are both hale and hearty tonight. My friend, the man least likely, is not.
“Instead of flowers, kindly make a donation to your local NAMI chapter,” read the obituary. I would add: “Instead of donations, keep your eyes open for those ‘older, white males. They need us.”
Helen Hudson is a counselor and 20 year member of the ACA. She is also the author of "Kissing Tomatoes," and speaks around the country on the importance of caring for the elderly, particularly those with Alzheimer's, with compassion.