Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In Remembrance

For me, Christmas of 2006 was one of those magical events that people remember with such happiness, partly because they know it will never be replicated. My husband and I had just moved into our newly-built home six weeks before and we wanted to host Christmas for our families. They came from all over the country, some in motor homes, some packed tightly in a vehicle for a marathon drive, some flew, but come they did, filling every corner of our home and overflowing into R.V’s . and a nearby neighbor’s empty home.

A few weeks before, my granddaughter, Katie, called to ask if it was okay to bring her boyfriend, Arash. They had met in college and were now sharing an apartment. Of course, I said, eager to meet the young man who had captured the heart of our bright and beautiful Katie.

It must be said that there isn’t a recessive gene in the whole family. We are generally boisterous, sometimes competing for air time and at all times requiring everyone to keep their senses of humor while the one-liners and snappy patter fly around the room. Under all the laughter, however, we are generally a discerning and intuitive group, especially when observing “outsiders.” So when Katie and Arash arrived late on Christmas Eve, I wondered how he would handle this rowdy bunch of strangers. Too tired to do much but introductions, we went to bed.

Christmas morning was clear and mild. I was up early, making coffee and preparing for a big breakfast, when I became aware of a new sound coming from our front yard. I opened the front door just as people from other accommodations began emerging. There in our driveway stood Arash, playing bagpipes! The air at 5000 feet had a bright crispness that just emphasized the haunting tones of the pipes. We all gravitated to the driveway to surround this dark and handsome young man, many of us teary-eyed at the splendidness of the moment. He played more songs, some traditional, others not, all with the mystical sound of the ancients that felt like a blessing of our new home, new town, new challenges.

Clearly, Arash was not going to be a wall flower in this gathering of strangers. I loved him for that, and for giving us such a perfect Christmas gift.  He was warm, witty and obviously very intelligent. He fit this family as though he had been born into it. Of course we all speculated and wondered if Katie and Arash were going to get married, but by the end of the Christmas holiday it was clear it would have our unanimous support.

It was a joyful event that we attended in La Jolla, California in July of 2008. As we sat outside overlooking the ocean that warm afternoon, we all felt glad for this young couple as they shared some of their cultural customs surrounded by friends and family.

We didn’t see much of Arash and Katie for the first years of their marriage. He was acquiring a law degree and she was working at one of her passions, animal rescue. When she told us she was pregnant, it was exciting and seemed like the natural next step. In an intimate home setting, a stunningly beautiful boy they named Fletcher, made his appearance. No child could have been more welcomed.

By all appearances, this story is headed for a happy ending. But life is not a fairy tale, and we eventually learned that Arash had been dealing with severe and debilitating clinical depression, more or less all his adult life. On Thanksgiving day, he took his own life, apparently without any hope of a future free of the horrendous pain in his tortured mind. No drugs, no therapy, not all the love that was directed toward him was able to offer him hope of relief.

I tell this story for several reasons. First is to honor him with happy memories that we will always have of Arash, his goofy sense of humor, his kindness and, perhaps most of all, the love he felt for Fletcher and for Katie, even though he felt his illness made it impossible to remain in their lives.

But the second reason is to emphasize the fact that you can’t tell by looking. We are made with the ability to hide pain, function normally, laugh, socialize as though we have a full and peaceful life when inside we may be dwelling on the belief that the world, our loved ones, would be better off without us. Our society does not provide many options to people who struggle with this invisible pain and so many do. Someone you know and love may be quietly suffering with depression and suicidal thoughts. And in spite of every effort on the part of doctors, friends and family, it may not be enough. What could have changed the ending of this sad story? Nobody really knows.

Rest in peace at last, Arash.
Note: Some dear friends of Katie and Arash have created a memorial site for sharing memories and also a fund to help with expenses and with Fletcher's needs until Katie is back on her feet financially. http://remembering-arash.squarespace.com/




  1. Such a loss, how painful for your family. Depression is so little understood and a true killer of the spirit and often the body. As you know my granddaughter is in a mental facility for adolescents because of severe depression and anxiety. she is only twelve and apparently has lived most of her young life in this state, hidden.

    Our sadness is sometimes overwhelming as is the feeling of helplessness. Your posting this is a real service--few realize that depression is not an "attitude" that can be changed by just "bucking up." thank you. My true condolences.

  2. Thanks, Michelle. It was hard to write through the sadness, but the best way to heal and help is to face into the wind and move forward. I'll always hear those bagpipes at Christmas.

  3. Thank you, Mom, for this beautifully written and honest piece. It's lonely in there, isn't it? There are some challenges and afflictions that just aren't as "easy" to commiserate about as others. To take nothing away from more physical, visible ailments, those suffering from depression could share an arena with one another and still feel as alone as if they were stuck at the bottom of a well.

    I miss him.

  4. I know what you mean. It was hard to write...choked up all through. I'm glad the fund is set up. Lots of help out there for Katie and she surely will need it, as much emotionally as financially. And yes, I miss him too.

  5. This must've been very painful to write, Nancy. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the memories of Arash. I never got to meet him, but the love of his family is palpable. May he forever rest in peace. Sending prayers, hope and healing for Fletcher and Katie...