Whenever I think of the words Lorenz and suicide I am repelled. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s possible that I never will. What troubles me even more are the explanations that have been coming up to put some sense into his suicide — natural and logical explanations, certainly, but explanations that have nothing to do with Lorenz as I knew him, and as he shared himself with us.
I feel deeply compelled to say something about him, not only in response to speculations about his death, but also because not many people had the privilege — I use that word deliberately — to have known him. I feel it only proper to share that privilege with others. He always gave off the impression of being aloof and haughty — the Inquirer article today said he was a loner — but those of us who became his friends knew that this was merely a façade. He may not have been surrounded by people all the time but he had friends, and friends who clearly loved him very much. In the department, those of us who were close to him even had a habit of mimicking his snooty mannerisms whenever he was around, something that made him laugh to no end. That was something great about him: he knew how to laugh at himself.
I met Lorenz at a Fr David class in 2006. At the time I was working in Pasong Tamo so I was always late for the 6pm class, and missed several sessions as well. I always asked Lorenz to send me notes — I was very makulit about it actually — and what immediately struck me was the effortless, uncomplaining kindness with which he obliged me many times. That was the thing about him: he was just so kind. I mentioned once that I loved hot chocolate, and months later, for Christmas, he gave me a tin of high-quality tsokolate. He passed by my house one afternoon a couple of weeks ago — that was the last time I saw him — to borrow something from me. He gave me a plastic carton crammed with fresh fruit as a thank-you gift. Even small things like lending me his pencil in class (he only had one or two, meticulously kept) when my pen would run out of ink, or taking the time out to recommend helpful books when we would cram for papers together. Once I had to rush from the department to Irwin theater under the afternoon sun, and he immediately offered to drive me there, even though he was in the middle of cramming a final paper. I remember the few possessions he used all the time — the gray and orange duffel bag, the well-worn sandals, even the scuffed red Coleman he unself-consciously lugged around every day. He was a deeply simple, unpretentious soul who had a natural instinct for sharing what he had.
One other thing that I love about Lorenz was his well-disguised sense of humor, which was predictably dry and witty — but also naughty and irreverent. He left a plastic tray at my house during Christmas, then emailed a few weeks later to ask if I would please “ask the comely wenches of your house if they had come across an ebony floriated tray.” He used to say “oh spank you!” instead of “thank you” when we texted each other. He even gave special nicknames to his friends. He teased me once about my having “maternal instincts” and took to calling me “mommie” whenever we saw each other. Sure enough, last May he sent me a text greeting me Happy Mother’s Day. The spontaneity and affection in that small gesture brought tears to my eyes.
Lorenz was a wonderful listener, never judgmental or patronizing. He would use his wit to ask ridiculous questions whenever I shared my worries with him, always seeking to lighten my mood without being trite or dismissive about it. Often he succeeded. What always brought a smile to my face wasn’t just his droll responses but the way he listened to me — I felt total acceptance and support from him, all the time. He made it easy for me to be my true self around him.
On the other hand, he wasn’t one to broadcast his own problems, even with those of us who had become his friends. He was always very sickly and was constantly taking supplements and treatments for his ailments, which were many. He seldom complained about them, however, and spoke about them only when I asked about his eating habits (maraming bawal sa kanya). I remember that a few months ago he mentioned that he’d had a major operation — we were dismayed that he only chose to tell us weeks after it happened.
This may have been an indication of his tendency to keep secrets, even from his friends, but the way I understand it, it was more of hiya than anything else. He didn’t want to call attention to his worries. He always seemed reluctant to talk about his troubles — but when he did, he did it to share himself with us, not look for our sympathy. I sensed that it took a lot of courage for him to open up to people. And what moved me about him was that he listened to me and what I had to contribute to his troubles. He always used to say, “You’re right Jeline, thank you for saying that.” Again, there was an openness about him that was, I believe, a sign of his capacity to love and appreciate people.
It may have taken a little more effort than usual to befriend him, but he wasn’t hard to get to know at all. He knew how to value his friends. That’s what saddens me the most — not that he chose to take his life, but that he chose to leave us. It pains me to realize that I won’t see him anymore, or share stories with him, or to link my arm round his whenever we would take walks, or spring ambush hugs on him (which always used to make him squawk in surprise then in delight). It was a joy to have been his friend, and to have felt his love and care. I will always be grateful for that.
It frustrates me that no one among us will ever fathom his reasons for taking his life. It really is a mystery that no one will ever understand. What I do know is that Lorenz would not have wanted me to blame him, or myself, or other people. I have a feeling that he thought long and hard about the impact this would have on everyone, especially his family. Whether or not he was himself when he chose to take his life, I know he would’ve wanted us to just be okay. So, for Lorenz — though it breaks my heart to do so — I accept all that’s happened. I accept his decision. I accept that there may never be any “good enough” reason. And I will let go of any anger, guilt, or resentment I may have. It was a grace to have just met him at all. Lorenz, I love you and will miss you for ever.