Take 2.8 Seconds. Be Thankful.

Friday morning, I saw a dead guy. He was lying on his back under a sheet in a pool of his own blood. I saw him from above. His running shoes, untied, were off to one side and his car keys were at his feet. I deduced that he had jumped from one of the higher floors of the parking garage where I park by the courthouse. I guess he could have fallen or been thrown, but it seemed more likely that he chose to make the leap.

A few feet away from him were what looked like two smashed blood oranges, or maybe ruby-red grapefruit. There was no blood between the grapefruits and him, and they didn’t look like any body part that I know of. Why the smashed citrus fruit? Did he lose his balance while juggling on the top wall of the garage? Did he leap with a orange in each hand? From his perch on the parking garage he could have seen Minute Maid Park. Was the fruit a message to someone? Or did he use it to get his range, tossing grapefruits off from the floor he chose to make sure that the path was clear and that he would make the desired splat?

Later in the day I saw the fire department hosing off the smear he’d left, and his head and right arm were outlined in blood. I guess he bounced when hit—losing his shoes and keys and smashing his head open—and landed with the wound upward.

I doubt that it hurt much. At least, it couldn’t have hurt for long. And it surely hurt less than whatever he was trying to escape.

I respect suicide as the ultimate act of self-determination. We should be able to decide, without being second-guessed, when the pain and horror of existence are too great to endure. But suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness too, an abnegation of selflessness. What friends and loved ones mourn him deeply tonight, blaming themselves and wishing they had done something—anything—to stop him? Parents? Siblings? A wife and kids? A faithful hound? In escaping his own pain, how much pain did he bequeath to people who deserved it no more than he did?

I imagine his fall from the 10th floor of the parking garage, 130 or so feet in the air. It would have taken about 2.8 seconds, top to bottom. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thou—crunch.

I think about that.

2.8 seconds is a lot of time for thoughts to pass unbidden through your head. In 2.8 seconds a guy might realize that he really had something to live for. In 2.8 seconds he might think of his parents, his wife, his kids. In 2.8 seconds he might realize that he’d made a terrible mistake and change his mi—


15 responses to “Take 2.8 Seconds. Be Thankful.”

  1. maybe he just stopped feeling in general.. Sometimes not feeling at all can be much worse than pain and horror. BUt what I am curious about is whether they ever determined what the grapefruits had to do with t, if anything?

  2. There’s a documentary on the San Francisco Bay Bridge suicides – “The Bridge” (2006 film).
    One guy who survived said that before he hit the water, he never wanted to live more in his entire life. Incredible documentary.

  3. That explains the ambulances and police cars. I didn’t see his body so I had no idea why the street was blocked off. You’re right, Mark, suicide IS the ultimate act of selfishness. Also the ultimate act of short-sightedness. We’re in no position to judge that man, but I can only pray he is in a better place now, because, as you mentioned, it is doubtful he left his friends and loved ones any better off.

  4. I remember reading about one of the Bay Bridge survivors. He said that as he dropped past the bridge and down, he realized that all the mistakes he had made in life were relatively small in the grand scheme of things. Except the last one.

  5. Our world is so fast paced today, we can shoot out 3 tweets in 2.8 seconds or scroll through a bunch of emails, and we forget how much the time matters. We do more with time, yet trivialize it’s value. 2.8 seconds is enough to take a man’s life or conceive a child or do something so irreparable that it can never be changed. Every second matters. Thank you so much for taking the time to express it even though you had to encounter that man after it was too late.

  6. Thanks for this Mark. A touching post. While we all have choices/decisions we can’t take back–I hope I can make ‘2.8 seconds’ a new ‘stop & consider’ braking tactic in my own quest to have fewer and fewer of those bad calls in my wake.

  7. Many times people who contemplate (& probably commit) suicide are not thinking clearly. They have a pain they cannot make go away – a hurt that becomes unbearable. Being thankful is a good suggestion, but I would make another – if someone seems out-of-sorts, down, or you haven’t seen them in a while (& you often do), make an effort to talk to them, to seek them out, to see what is going on with their life. Far too often in this fast-paced world we forget about our friends, our relations – we have so much on our own plate. But, a simple act of inquiry could be all that it takes to help save a life. I know this.

  8. San Francisco Bay Bridge suicides: I think that documentary also tells the story of at least one jumper that survived but got it right on the second try. Obviously everybody does not change their mind in those final seconds.

  9. While I can conceive of circumstances so extreme that suicide might make sense (and for what it’s worth I agree that it’s a human right), I feel that we all ought to discourage and deter attempts whenever possible; and the best way I know to deter them is this:

    Refuse ever to mention the name of a person who suicided. Or his intentions, agenda, or last words if you know them.

    Instead, dismiss him/her as an idiot. Better yet, laugh.

    The same applies double, of course, for those who seek fame or attention by doing harm to others, including all terrorists. Deny them their goal. Let them silently disappear behind prison walls, never to be heard from or about again.

  10. The biggest reason I have to stay alive is to see what happens next. The second biggest reason is to outlive the bastards. 🙂 Ric

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