The longest run

Note: I hesitated to write this entry from the moment I thought of it. After I completed it, I hesitated four more days to publish it.

I decided to publish it, because if I am to honor what this blog set out to accomplish, I would be neglecting it what is likely its defining moment, and doing a disservice to a friend. It is not a eulogy, nor an obituary. It’s not a fund-raising piece, and it won’t go into my clips as a human-interest story. It is just reflection. It is not a pretty scene, but it is paramount to the story.

This wasn’t what I had in mind when I decided to start this blog. But sitting here in my recliner with the TV on some arbitrary channel, it’s all I can think about.

The image of my baby brother calmly and stoically carrying the front left corner of his best friend’s casket 100 feet to his grave is so seared into my mind I’m not sure I can go a day the rest of my life without thinking about it. Step, after reluctant step, Ryan and his closest friends since his pre-teen years shouldered the weight of a friend who’s weight he could no longer carry himself, until they placed him on the lift that interred him into the earth.

My brother Ryan, center, lost his best friend Cassidy, left, this past weekend. Cory, on the right, and I sat together in a pew as my brother eulogized Cassidy, who took his own life after battling mental illnesses for years. We watched Ryan tell Cassidy's family, and the hundreds in attendance, how much Cassidy meant to him. We later watched Ryan carry his friend's casket the last 100 feet his body would ever travel, until he was placed in the earth for the rest of this world's life.

And I’m supposed to be training for a marathon. Perspective.

We buried a loyal friend today. That makes running 11 miles for marathon training feel like watching an action movie with static blaring through 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. I’m moving and seeing the road disappear at my feet, but my mind is numb and Cassidy Moore and his life and death are all I can think of, even when I try not to. Those 11 miles were the longest I’ve ever endured in my life, literally and figuratively. It was mentally miserable and physically numbing.

How can I run, when all I can think about is how Cassidy is gone? Or when I think about my brother, fresh off a flight from L.A., walking into a crowded church, making eye contact with his close friend Nick who was addressing the audience, then breaking down before he even had a chance to find a seat?

My brother called me Saturday night to tell me Cassidy’s body had been found in his SUV, and he was dead of his own hand. I was at a bar for a birthday party. I sat on this information for fifteen minutes, not wanting to tell my fellow party-goers who were still jubilant. One of them got a text with the news. Party over.

The levee of happiness failed to the flood of sorrow, and we’ve all been drowning ever since.

The next day, I woke up and knew I was scheduled for 11 miles, something I had never attempted. I love exercising, and thought the challenge would clear my mind. I made it a half-mile before I started crying on the sidewalk. I shook my head, snot-rocketed my loose nose, and kept running the last 10.5. I made various pit-stops for water, carved my way through traffic, and drudged up hills. It didn’t cure, but it did help. And maybe that is part of the way my brother and I can find our closure: pavement therapy.

Cassidy was amazing to me (he sold me my car on the cheap), but he was part of the physics of my brother’s life. And as his big brother, that makes this even more difficult. There is no silver lining in Cassidy’s death. But I would argue there’s a take-away.

Update: Cassidy’s father David has posted Cassidy’s mental diagnoses and charity information in the comments. There is good information there, as well as good information to come. I’ll post more charity info as we learn it.

I do not blame Cassidy for committing suicide. How could I? How can I ever relate to what a day in his head felt like? He didn’t do this to spite a scorned lover, or to buy his way out of some obligation. He was a 23-year-old man with a broken mind who couldn’t take the pain anymore. I can’t blame Cassidy, and none of us can help him any longer. But from his life and death, we can educate.

I used to think people I read about in the newspaper running marathons to honor a charity were fame chasers disguised as nobility, especially if the person they were honoring wasn’t a runner. Fuck me for ever judging. What better way to raise money for a cause you’re enriched with than to put it in a newspaper and get the word out by doing something crazy like running a marathon in its name?

I will take a page from the mourners before me and do the same for my departed friend Cassidy. I’ve already started looking for a mental health cause whose mission aligns with one Cassidy would appreciate. If I can’t find one, I know my brother, his friends and I wouldn’t hesitate to find the appropriate people to help create it.

Cass would think it’s awesome. He would probably come cheer on Ryan and I in San Francisco if we asked him. We don’t have that opportunity, but we do have the opportunity to help people like Cass realize and understand their situations. And maybe we can help them get better by pumping money to the professionals with the know-how.

Cass was amazing, and even though his death, and the images of his dilapidated family and friends will no-doubt stick with me, they will be muted by his hilarious stories. If we try, his legacy won’t only be one of funny one-liners and loyalty, but also of lessons learned to benefit others.

So, my brother and I will continue to run. We remember the lessons of Cassidy, chief among them that life is short, beautiful, and blossoming with what you make of it. We wanted to try our hand at something new–a marathon–because we understand the brevity and preciousness of life. We remember that now, and will honor our plan. But we’ll do it for people beyond ourselves. That is something Cassidy would appreciate whole-heartedly.

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2 thoughts on “The longest run

  1. Well written Eric. Cassidy touched many lives. Unfortunately I believe he was diagnosed incorrectly. He was administered an antibiotic intravenously with a contraindication of past history of depression and suicide to combat a staph infection that came close to raking his life. That was the first indication of depression in his life at 20 years old. We are now on a mission to get the word out to help prevent these suicides. I know that I can count on you and his wonderful friends to help us once we identify how we can move forward.

  2. Eric – well written. Actually Cassidy was administered an antibiotic intravenously that had contraindications of depression. His was a life threatening situation with a major staph infection at 20 years of age. He had not shown any types of depression previosly. He ultimately was diagnosed as situational depression and for the past 2 years exhibited no outward signs. Obviously something was amiss. Our future plans include some sort of fund raising and awareness for suicide. I will count on you and his hundreds of friends that were touched by his love. Thx Eric for your written words. Cass will live on and if we can save one life because of his passing then that is a victory.

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