Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Losing A Friend to Suicide

 The Headlines:

What do you do when someone you love... 

Can't go on?

The New Year can be a special time... it is full of hope and excitement for what's ahead.  But, for some, it is not special - instead it can be scary, isolating and depressing. 

You know what I've noticed?  Too many people in this world are hurting.  Think about it.  They are everywhere.  That 20 year old who can't find her soul mate.  The husband who lost that connection he once had to his wife.  The man who can't land the job he desires.  The child who is teased.  The old lady who is physically hurting and lonely.  The Grandpa who remembers his glory days of football but not much else.  The boy who never gets picked for a team.  The teen who can't afford the college she desperately wants to go to.  Or You.  Are you hurting?  If you're not... you may be the only one.     

Most all of us struggle with sadness at one point in our lives.  We may not show it, we may actually try to squash it.  But it is there.  It is how you handle the feeling, the pain, that matters.  In the past several months, I have learned that sometimes sadness can become much bigger than the person or the people surrounding them know.  Until one day, it overcomes them and then it's too late.  My friend, Daniel Clark, killed himself in October of 2022.  When he did, he took many of us down right with him.  This blog is for him and those that are stuck in the same spot.  It's also for those of us who are on the outside looking in to someone who has lost... hope.  

20 years ago in February of  2002 - I started working at channel 12 News, KPNX, in Phoenix Arizona.  It was a big deal.  Big news market.  Something, back then, that a new reporter/anchor... strives for.  I was a reporter for the morning show.  I previously anchored morning shows but this time I would be paired with a photographer each and every morning.  The photog I tended to be paired with very early on... started the same day as I did.  His name was Daniel.  On that day and all the days forward, he wasn’t just “my work husband” but my lifelong friend.  

We worked the morning show - 9 years together.  We went through so many anchors and producers… but during that time the two of us we stayed constant.  In fact, we probably saw the sun rise almost 5 days a week together.  Side note:  did you know the coldest part of the day -  is just before sun rise.  Not sure why, something about the inversion layer.  Daniel could probably tell you… he was proud of information.  He was curious, he wanted to know things.  So, as I shivered every morning, Daniel sweat.  He ran hot, always.  Over the years, we covered everything from the Rodeo/Chedisky wildfire to serial shooters to Car Seat Safety day to Turkey Tuesday to a 2 week Prison Stand-off to Olympic curling - at the ice den not the real deal.  There was lots of conversation, lots of F- words (he loved that word), some flowery arguments, plenty of stops for QT Diet coke & hot dogs. He made clear what he valued in life: his love of his wife, his sister, he "liked persons - not people" and that's a quote.  He lived to ski and cook and he loved his dogs - I particularly remember one named ND.  Stood for New Dog. Seriously, that was his name.

Rolling out every morning in a live truck with Daniel, felt safe.  We would go to the diciest places and I wish I could remember some specific cross streets but there were so many locations, so many I just can’t - they all run together.   But the point is - he always had me… and I knew that.  Daniel and I together were going to get the job done - he would make sure of that.  He was half photographer/half producer.  He was so good, I kind got to sit back with my feet up.  I literally did that in the live truck actually, My feet on the dash as I wrote or read - he drove or gathered pictures. Back then, he loved every minute of the job.  Daniel was fierce, passionate, kind, dedicated, loyal, fast, hard working and oh so talented.  He was also stubborn, opinionated, harsh yet protective.  We would argue and smile at the same time.  That was his style.

One of the things I remember most about Daniel - he would drive and look for news the entire way.  No joke, he looked toward the sky, saw a fluttering airplane or a plume of smoke and wanted to know if that was a story.  I usually just wanted to get back to the station so I could resume my day but he so badly wanted to get the big story before anyone else. Until one fateful day… he did.  In 2007, he was up close, maybe too close, with a very big story.  It was the helicopter crash in Phoenix where 2 News photographers and 2 News pilots collided and died.  Daniel was in the air at the time.  He saw the whole thing.  I think the day Daniel covered, arguably, the biggest story of his life… was the day that changed him forever.   Not in a good way.

Turns out, sometimes the thing we’re so desperately looking for is the very thing we shouldn’t find.  


After that, Daniel and I worked together about 4 more years.  Until early 2011, when I had my second baby.  I was still on maternity leave, I had not officially quit yet and I saw him covering the Pat Tillman run on a Saturday morning over at ASU.  My 3 month old son was in a stroller, my husband was running and Daniel took one look at me & knew I was “breaking up” with him for good.  But we always remained friends.  He watched my kids grow up, we talked, texted, met for lunch, I helped him and and his wife look for a house at one point… we were always in touch. And I had always hoped he would one day turn to God.  Because he and God - were not close. So, I sent him poems, audio books and chatted with him about God's Power.  But his struggle was too deep.  HIs past was too painful. 

See, I think because Daniel was not cared for in the way he needed to be as a child (his words, not mine), Daniel started caring for others in the way he yearned.  And that made him care too much.  He was a text book care taker.  One of the last times I spoke to him I begged him to just start taking care of himself.  I said, no more dogs, wives, TV reporters, just focus on taking care of YOU.  It is time. He agreed.  

We texted after that talk, he got a new job at another local TV station... I thought things were looking up.  But then he had a few set backs and I told him, "Ugh Daniel, you can turn this bus around!  When do you start the job?"  to which he replied, "(October) 13th..."

Last words.  A week and a half later he was gone.   

I think when Daniel died he was mad.  I think the substances Daniel was abusing made him a different person.  I think he couldn't see past his own anger, wouldn't seek the help he needed and wanted some revenge on the people who loved him the most.  He got it.  Now, the closest people to him are the most hurt.  They feel responsible for his death, they are guilt ridden and they forever will carry a hole in their heart that only Daniel could fill.  The sadness in them is excruciating.  But here's the problem with that... they get to go on.  They get a second chance to do things differently.  Someday, a part of that sadness will start to recede.  At least, I sure hope it does.  But Daniel does not get that second chance.  He doesn't have any hope for some change of heart and happiness.  He took that away from himself.  And to me, that's the saddest part of this story.  If only Daniel could have seen that too. 

Now, I am someone who is very excited and proud to know Jesus - he's my best friend and as mentioned earlier, I constantly tried to bring him to Daniel but he would have none of it.  So when I learned of Daniel's death - the Christian in me automatically went to the questionable place of - where is Daniel?  As far as I know, He did not want to know God.  His sister has since shared with me, at one point Daniel did accept him into his heart.  I also started reading and talking to my Christian friends and while I am unsure of definitive answers my hope lies somewhere in this bible verse:

Psalm 34:18
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I closed with that bible verse when I spoke at Daniel's memorial and I stand by it because it's true.  God is with us all the time, but especially when we are "broken-hearted." 

Daniel I will miss you, you were like family, I am ticked off that you’re gone but I will remember you forever.  I hope you are some where the light shines, some place in which the sun rises and makes any chill feel like warmth upon your skin forever.  


If you know someone with sadness that is too tough to handle...  don't make the mistake Daniel did... please call 988.  They're available 24/7.  

1 comment

  1. Hi. I'm Sara. Daniel committed suicide while at my house he was subleasing. I don't know how I can ever forgive myself for not seeing what was going on. I love what u wrote.


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