Sunday, August 26, 2007

His Luck Just Ran Out: Lessons from the Green-Eyed Monster

A couple of months ago I wrote this post (which you may want to read first before continuing) about a dear friend of mine, who, for clarity's sake, I will call Jake. He and I were roommates my first year of graduate studies, and he went through my program with me, so we have been friends for just over three years now.

In my previous post I wrote about my brief jealousy over his good fortune and how lucky he seems to be without much effort on his part. But I also made the observation that in spite of his good luck, he has a lot of problems and that one day his problems would catch up with him and that I didn't necessarily want that to happen because I do love and care about him. Sadly, however, that day has come much sooner than I ever thought it would and under very tragic circumstances that I wouldn't have wished on Jake in a million years. Just as I was pulling into town to visit Jonah, another friend called me to inform me that he had some very bad news about Jake. It seems that late last Saturday night/early Sunday morning Jake (who has a very serious problem with alcoholism) was drunk driving the wrong way on the freeway and hit another car, and in the process, killed its driver.

While devastated by the news, I, unfortunately, wasn't surprised. Those of us who know Jake knew it was just a matter of time before he ended up killing himself or someone else. Sadly, he has taken another human life due to his poor choices, and I fear his luck has run out (although, knowing Jake, don't quote me on that). He already has an arrest from another DUI, and I hear through Jonah (whose sister works in the District Attorney's office) that the prosecuting attorney is especially tenacious and ruthless when it comes to these kinds of crimes. It is likely Jake will do anywhere from 5 to 20 years, depending on his plea.

I truly feel bad for everyone this tragedy has touched. I feel bad for Jake. In spite of his foolishness, if you knew Jake's heart you would know that he would never intentionally hurt another person. He is a man with a good heart and a lot of problems he can't seem to manage. That doesn't mean I don't think he shouldn't pay for his crime. I do. Jake had plenty of warnings and plenty of chances before this incident occurred, but sadly he ignored and wasted them. But I also know Jake's heart, and I know that no one probably feels as much loathing towards Jake as he does himself right now. I know he feels terrible about what he has done and carries much guilt and remorse. Jake is not a religious person. He's not even sure he believes in God, and death absolutely terrifies him. Because Jake can be a rather fragile individual, some friends were concerned he might try to take his own life rather than have to face what he's done. Although I understood where they were coming from, I doubted he would do it because I think the fear of what comes after death terrifies him more. In our last conversation yesterday Jake said he would probably be calling me a lot. I think there's something about my spirituality that he finds comforting. I don't say that in a boastful way at all. Honest. Jake, himself, has told me as much, and I think he feels I can help him through this tumultuous time. I'm not sure I can, but I will try. But I genuinely feel bad for him and for the promising future he had that will be snuffed out, at least temporarily, when he goes to prison. I also feel horrible that he will forever carry the guilt that he took another human life. I can only hope that Jake will learn from this terrible lesson; that hopefully this will at last will be the impetus that helps him get the help he needs.

I feel badly for his family, who will have terrible legal costs and hospital bills (Jake broke his knee and ankle in the crash) to deal with and, very likely, will have to endure separation from their son. I feel badly for his girlfriend, who's away in China right now and will have to deal with her grief there. I also feel badly that their relationship might not endure this trial. I feel badly for all of his friends who have been affected by this tragedy. All of us feel horrible about this event, although I do notice it has also brought out some people's true colors.

But, mostly, I feel awful about the poor man's family that has lost their father, uncle, brother, etc. because of my dear friend's poor choices and addictions. The victim was in his early fifties, and while I do not know much about him beyond that, I am sure he must have left behind a family of some sort. Some poor family will forever feel that loss, emotionally and physically, and it breaks my heart. I am sure they will feel much anger towards my friend, and who can blame them? It's just a sad tragedy all the way around.

When you read about these cases (or at least when I do), I always tend to feel a great deal of sympathy towards the victims rather than the perpetrators, but now that I'm on the other side, I can see both sides. Jake is not a bad person; he just made a huge, irreparable mistake. It's just so sad to me. I feel much sorrow in my heart for all involved.

Jonah was right. In my last post about Jake, Jonah reminded me that "I wouldn't trade places with [Jake] in a minute. I would much rather be me than him." That's more true than ever now.

On the upside, I got to see Jonah, and we had a fun week together and also went house-hunting, so that was exciting.

And next week I start rehearsals for a show I've been wanting to do for seventeen years, so I'm very excited about that.

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