A friend committed suicide not too long ago.

Not a good friend, really, but a friend nonetheless. He was young, married, family, job, all that. Good health. Things seemed to be going well for him. All the things the American Dream is supposed to be about.

But he was depressed, in a chronic and penetrating way that couldn't be fixed with just a conversation and a pat on the back. And I suppose it ate away at him slowly, day by day, until somewhere the idea came to him that it would be simpler to end it all. And he put that idea away, because people shouldn't think like that. But ideas are hard things to get rid of. And as time went by, it came back again and again, whispering in his ear each time it seemed like things wouldn't get any better.

Those who knew whispered in the other ear, a little louder. But they couldn't be with him every day. This other voice could.

One day he tried to end things for good. To the relief of his friends and family, he failed. Some time later he tried again. This time, he succeeded. If you can call ending your own life a "success," that is.

Friends mourned. Families grieved. Many of them are still doing it. The rest have moved on, but haven't forgotten. They know there's a hole in the world which was meant to be filled by this man, by his voice, his presence, his thoughts, his heart. It takes time to move far enough away from that hole that you can't see it any longer. I can't imagine how long it will take for those closest to him to make that move. I'm truly afraid some of them may be sucked into it, instead, trapped behind some invisible event horizon until someday, they make a hole of themselves as well.

Whenever anyone mentions assisted suicide again, I will think of him. It was his right, I suppose, as a living being to choose the way he ended his time on earth. And if he'd wanted someone else to help him end it, a very close friend or family member or even a trusted stranger, I suppose it might be construed an act of love by some to help him do what he really wanted.

But if they had, they'd better hope none of us who were close to him ever find out who they are. Because manslaughter is still a crime in this country, and we'd be hard-pressed not to administer an eye for an eye for taking away something as rare and precious as the life of someone we loved.