I turn over and look at the clock. 8:30 am on Saturday. Who's calling me now?
Hello, I say groggily.
Hi, Jennifer? This is John Doe's wife.
Why are you calling me at 8:30 on a Saturday morning? I ask gruffly.
I was calling to tell you that John committed suicide.
NO. Oh, god, oh, god, no. Oh my god.
I came across one of your letters to him and I wanted to tell you how much he appreciated everything you did for him.
But I did nothing. I lost his disability appeal. Maybe if I had done a better job. Maybe if I ....
No, Jennifer, you were wonderful. We know you did all you could and then some. I just wanted to thank you.
No, thank you for calling me and telling me. Oh, god. I'm so, so sorry. You have my deepest sympathies.
Thank you, Jennifer, for everything. Good-bye.
Yes, I've lost patients before. You're bound to lose people if your business is illness. But this is so different.
I know what to say to myself. It wasn't my fault. I couldn't win his appeal -- he never went to the doctor, so there were no medical records, and he refused to let me get any psych records if they even existed -- a fact he never confirmed. I know I haven't spoken with him in close to a year. I know this wasn't my fault. Heck -- he was going to little league games with his son.
But truthfully, I didn't understand how he could be disabled and going to little league games. I confess -- even I doubted him. I did file four appeals, but I doubted him. How dare I judge another? Aren't I supposed to know better? Dammit, how could I have doubted him? How dare I make such a judgment?
And what if I had won that appeal? Can any of us say with certainty that it wouldn't have made a difference in his outlook?
Most of all, who's going to go to little league games with his son now?
I've thought about suicide and talked about it here. I always figured the people I would leave behind would be few, and would get over it. But I may have been wrong. It will be a long time before I forget about John Doe. Part of me wants to never do another disability appeal again. Part of me wants to blow up the insurance company (not really, of course -- maybe just send them a nasty letter so they know the consequences of their actions). And part of me is just numb.
How can it be? I didn't know. I didn't know at all.
I'm sorry I didn't know, John. I'm so so sorry. I had no idea that you were in such pain. I knew about your medical condition. I knew you didn't like to talk on the phone so it was almost all email. I knew you didn't go see the doctor often enough. I knew you went to little league games. But over all the times we worked together trying to make up for the lack of medical records, I never knew you were so sad and feeling so alone and hopeless. I never knew.
I'm so sorry. I hope now you can rest in peace, John. It will be a long time before I feel peaceful again. Jennifer