When we moved to our Noe Valley home eight years ago, we began to frequent and forge relationship with the local businesses in our new neighborhood. One of our more regular stops, and one of the closest to our house, was Plumpjack Wines. The manager, Drew, was affable and chatty, eager to offer advice or opinion on the expansive selection in the shop.
Last year, Drew announced that he was leaving Plumpjack. He had opened the store 11 years previously, and was looking to take on new challenges, though he didn’t know what. I happened to come into the store on his last day. He was understandably emotional, as he had been saying goodbye to the other merchants with whom he had developed friendships over the years.
A few weeks later I ran into him on the bus. He still hadn’t made any decisions about his future plans, but he seemed upbeat, almost chipper. It was the last time I saw him.
At some point after that meeting, perhaps even that night, Drew took his own life. I only learned of it a few months later, when it was mentioned in our neighborhood paper. At his memorial service, his sister said he battled depression his entire life.
When I read the story, I thought back to my last encounters with him. Was he so emotional on his last day not just because he was saying goodbye to colleagues, but saying goodbye to it all? Was his upbeat demeanor on the bus the serenity of a man who has made his final decision, and could finally see an end to his own suffering? Was he sending signals none of us could read?
Even though we weren’t close, his passing shook me, and still does to this day. More than sadness, I feel gratitude. I am thankful that I have a life full of love, joy and laughter. Thankful for the opportunity to bestow hospitality on friends and family not just today, but frequently, and for the opportunity to receive hospitality from them. Thankful that I do not live in physical or psychic pain every day. Thankful that whatever demons I have are not so serious, and that I do not have to face them alone.
I hope that today you will raise a glass and be thankful for what and who you have in life.