Found dead in his home.

The policeman knocked at the gate. “Ms. Knot Telling?”

“Yes, who is it?”

“Police. Can I come in and talk to you?”

“Sure. Just show me your identification first.”

“We need you to come to the station to give evidence.”

“What about?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have a car come and get you.”

“Do I need a lawyer? What is this about? Should I pack a toothbrush?” Smiling.

“No, no no. Nothing like that.” A smile. “You’re not in any trouble. We just need you to give evidence.”

Eventually a patrol car comes and picks me up to take me to the station. The patrolman and patrolwoman both deny knowledge of why I have to go to the police station, just that I have to give evidence.

They escort me to a detective’s office. “So,” he says. “What do you want to say?”

“About what?”

“About the case. Your evidence.”

“What case?”

“The case today. The dead man.”

Who’s dead???

“Didn’t they tell you? I am so sorry. It’s hard, no one likes to tell it.”


“Who is J to you?”

Thus it was that I learned that J, with whom I had been very close some years ago, had been found dead in his home this morning. I felt suddenly very cold, began to tremble. I cried for this man whom I had not seen in over a decade. My head began to pound.

“What happened? How did he die?”

“We don’t know yet. The investigation is just beginning. We have to wait and see.”

“Investigation? Were there signs of violence on his body?”

“We have to wait for the PM.”

“What happened? An accident? Did he take his own life? Was he killed?

“We have to wait… Ma’am? Do you need medical attention? Can I get you anything?”

The detectives asked me about our relationship back then and the years between then and now. I am listed as his next of kin and so I had to sign a lot of papers, including permission for a post mortem. From their questions, I gathered that he had led a high-risk lifestyle recently. They finally told me that they were waiting for the pathologist to determine if it was suicide or murder.

They didn’t tell me anything, really, but there are two ways to draw a picture – or a conclusion. Some people draw the subject of their picture; other people draw the space around it. I am not unused to drawing conclusions from what is not said, taking form from the peripheral space. The questions the detectives asked me made for an ugly picture. I feel so sorry for J. Whether he lost his life to his own hand or that of another, he had clearly been unhappy for a very long time.

And me – what do I feel? Shocked, sad. Guilty. I most certainly could not have prevented this, but I still feel guilty. I think it’s probably because if I feel guilty, that means I could have done something. It is somewhat easier to feel guilt over inaction than to feel completely helpless, even though helplessness is closer to the truth.

My head hurts. I need to sleep.

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13 Responses

  1. Cherine says:

    I understand the shock (specially with the way you received the news) but I don’t understand the guilt. Why would you feel guilty? I can imagine feeling sad for having lost contact with someone who used to be close. But not guilt, please. It’s a very difficult feeling to deal with.
    I hope you’ll feel better soon. Try to focus on positive thoughts.


    • Knot Telling says:

      Hi Cherine! I understand what you mean, but I think I didn’t explain myself very well. I didn’t mean that I actually believe I am guilty of anything, but I do have the feeling as though I were guilty. In this instance, I think that feeling is a kind of defense mechanism against the much harder (for me, at least) feeling of utter helplessness.

      Hugs back to you!

      • Cherine says:

        I understand helplesness. I understand the chock of a sudden loss of someone who used to be close, even if we haven’t met for a long time.
        To me, guilt is harder than helplesness, but as long as it’s the feeling you can deal with, then it’s fine. I hope you’re feeling better now.

  2. Kevin Nasky says:

    Survivor guilt, maybe? Very common, especially with seemingly random deaths. Most people have an initial semi-conscious (to fully conscious) reaction along the lines of “Whew, better him/her than me!” Almost immediately after that thought is overwhelming guilt. Both the first and second thoughts are normal. It’s okay to be glad it wasn’t you. You can be glad it wasn’t you, and be sad for the other person at the same time.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thanks, Kevin.

      No, in my case in this instance I really think it is a defense against feeling helpless, as I told Cherine. Of course, this could just be another way of saying the same thing as you. I expect to roll along through a lot of different feelings as the shock wears off and the processing starts. Feelings that I’ll inflict on my blog readers, of course. Any and all feedback is always welcome.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Marie says:

    It is harder for me to accept helplessness too. To be powerless over a person’s actions when they are harmed or deceased as a result is so painful to deal with, it is natural to want to do something, anything that will make this situation less awful. You are in my prayers.

  4. Cristina says:

    I’m really sorry for your former friend. Lots of hugs, please take care of yourself, and do try to get some sleep.

  5. Knot Telling says:

    Marie, Cris – thank you both very much. I really appreciate your support and prayers.

  6. Wow! What a shock! It is a shame you found out J was gone in this way. I am sorry your old friend has died without peace. May you be well as you deal with the aftermath if his death.

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