Saturday, June 20, 2009

R.I.P. Friend

I know fuck-all about what it takes to kill yourself. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine committed suicide. It's enough to make you sick.

No names. I was going to use his name as I thought about this last night, but I realized by laying it out so personally, it was an invasion of the family. They shouldn't have to deal with some blog out for all to see if they preferred keeping things quiet.

I met my friend in 2001. Even though we had worked on the same exchange for decades, we never met up until we were in the same office together. We hit it off right away, pretty much around baseball. He was a Cubs fan and I wasn't, though I was a season ticket holder at Wrigley. We would talk every day, mostly baseball, sometimes trading or finance. He had just gotten involved with raising money for a hedge fund that was investing in some deal regarding electronics, China and big box stores.

Everything was going well for him. He made more money in this deal than in trading, and it was a more comfortable life. After I moved to Cooperstown in June 2003, we would talk often. He even came to visit us in late 2007. We went to the Hall of Fame, his first time there and had a great time. He stayed with us and took us out for a lovely dinner at the Hoffman Lane Bistro, one of the better restaurants in the Village.

I called him a few months ago, and he didn't call back. Not like him. But, sometimes people get busy, or friendships fade. It happens. I was thinking about him two days ago, wondering why he had fallen off the face of the earth.

Now I know. It turns out that the deal his company invested in was a fraud and his investment firm lost everything. I don't think he was a fake. Not likely. He was a good guy, very caring, and through his fund he directed a lot of people into a total loss. Not to mention that he was probably wiped out. It's one thing to ruin your own life; destroying other people's lives is something else. I can only speculate that's what drove him at the end, the guilt.

Then the call. Suicide. I subsequently heard that my friend was seen around the exchange, looking wasted away, unshaven and possibly drinking. Things have to be entirely hopeless to make the move he did.

It took moving to Cooperstown and being with my wife and kids all the time to understand the proper place for money in my life. When you're involved in dollars and cents 24/7 as a trader, and your only purpose is to create more and more money, it's awfully hard to not have it be your number one priority. Even tougher is thinking of a life without financial security. It's the single most important thing in your life, the ultimate joy and the ultimate focus.

Only it turns out that it's not.

1 comment:

brain salad surgery said...

I read Thoreau's Walden 30 years ago...then I read it again 7 years ago. The first time I was in pursuit of the brass ring...the second reading occurred when I was in pursuit of what the brass ring was.

The first time through I missed the critical passage that I caught 23 years later - in the SAME book.

"Measure wealth not by what you have, rather, by what you have for which you would not take money"

I feel for your friend, his friends and his family. His "wealth" will be standing at the funeral pyre willing to trade all material splendor for his return. That request comes, perhaps, on another plane of understanding.

We are all damaged goods...together we refine our raw humanity into well sculpted tools of survival. An artisan tending the home fires will always be able to master the blazing inferno the world presents to us as opportunity. Keep stoking the flames at your hearth, my friend!!!