Growing up, I had this friend. His name was Kevin. He was a part of a group of friends that helped shape who I am today. There were two others as well, at least at the core of my peers through junior high and high school. I had a different relationship with each of these guys, though we often all hung out together. There were a couple of exceptions of note. Kevin was the one with whom I went on The March Of The Living and to Israel, both in 1992. These two experiences, though mostly The March, would be among the most defining moments in my childhood/early adulthood. The March was one of the most impactful and emotionally challenging things I have ever experienced and Kevin was by my side. We cried a lot together. We were exposed, quite graphically, to one of the most horrific crimes against humanity. It planted a seed of cynicism in me with which I still struggle. It has only been through reading and finding my own spiritual path in life that I have been able to be less cynical and more hopeful. I have found a way to turn poison into medicine, as it were.
Kevin was deeply impacted by the experience as well. We didn’t really talk about it much when we returned from the trip, at least not that I remember. We gave presentations about our experience to the community, but aside from that we didn’t speak of it. I know he was impacted because I was there. I noticed a change in him, just as I knew it had changed me. Word has it that following the trip Kevin began suffering from terrible headaches. I never knew of them.
After high school ended, we went our separate ways. When I spoke to his mom on Tuesday, she seemed to remember some sort of fight or argument, though I don’t. Over the last nearly ten years that I have had little or no contact with Kevin, he had been going to graduate school at Berkeley, gotten married and was doing some really incredible things in the Oakland community. He was also still suffering from his headaches, which were not treatable. Additionally, he was suffering from depression, though you would never know, if the words of others at his memorial service were any indication. He had grown into a very giving person who could not live up to his own expectations.
On May 10, Kevin took his own life. Kevin will always be a part of the memories I carry with me from my teenage years. Whether he was introducing me to The Who or Led Zeppelin, dropping acid with me for the first time, and years later, for the last time or just being present throughout the years, my memories of Kevin will be fond. I wish I would have known him better. It sounded like we would have had a lot to discuss.
I wrote a letter to his parents and brother, which included the following quote from Daisaku Ikeda:
Adversity gives birth to greatness. The greater the challenges and difficulties we face, the greater opportunity we have to grow and develop as people. A life without adversity, a life with ease and comfort, produces nothing and leaves us with nothing. This is one of the indisputable facts of life.
Kevin, may you be free of pain and suffering as you watch over the world. You will be missed.