Death is always tragic. It is always the saddest for those of us left behind with only the memories of our loved one. No more laughs, no more hugs—just memories. My friend Danny McLaughlin made his death very public by jumping from the Santa Barbara Court House tower on March 8.
Suicide is so glaring that we sometimes focus on that aspect of death rather than the person. Let me try and bring you a view of who Danny, the person, really was. Danny had a je ne sais quoi quality about him, a certain something out of the mainstream. There was a different movement and certainly a “different drummer” element about Danny. He had visions and passions, not to mention a style that was only his.
Maybe his lack of fear kept him from being conscious of those nasty pitfalls that tend to permeate life’s pathways. He certainly encountered enough of them in his 44 years. But it must have been his vision that kept him motivated in his pursuits.
If you met Danny, you could see his uniqueness. He had one of the greatest smiles ever seen. His bright blue eyes would twinkle and he’d laugh. You couldn’t help but laugh with him. He had a fabulous sense of humor, creative and astute. As each of us has a signature behavior, Danny’s was to always wear a hat. He had them for every occasion. Along with his special saunter, the hat, the blue eyes twinkling, and that smile are what I will always see when he pops into my thoughts.
Danny encountered his fair share of life’s stumbling blocks. He learned to recognize them, face them head on and then overcome them. He had an issue with drug addiction a good number of years ago but went through the programs and almost single-handedly kicked the habit. He was “clean” at the time of his death and had been for many years. He wanted control of his life, not something else. He also had a hard work ethic and enjoyed a varied career that took him from working in the music industry to production manager at HoneyBaked Ham Company to commercial painting, to name a few.
But for me, his most important “job” was that of caregiver for my mother. She was 85 when Danny came to care for her and for many years gave her the immense personal attention and devotion that many professionals could not match. He brought her joy and companionship. That caring is something that cannot be taught. It is something of the soul. It was an element of Danny that no one could perceive without actually knowing him.
He was one of the kindest, most sincere, and loving people I have ever met. He would give up his most prized possessions to show his love and appreciation. I know, I saw him do this many times over. He would give his heart without question, because he loved unconditionally.
In his final moments on this planet, Danny McLaughlin didn’t want to hurt anyone. His want was to not be a burden, especially to those he loved the most. The twists and turns of life were providing few if any options, which brought him to his unfortunate conclusion. Little did he know that he was always loved and a consummate good friend.
I will miss my good friend. He impacted many lives with his je ne sais quoi. He is in a better place now and with a complete understanding of what it’s all about. Know that we, those you left behind, love you and will always miss you. The hats … that smile!!