My Friend Who Had Died Five Times
Nicholas Ivan Ladendorf
told me about the five times he died when I drove him home from work one November
night. We were both evening shift dishwashers at a restaurant in
I recall Tim saying it was good that he was getting a ride because he had to do something around the house before the social worker came the next day. I asked him what he needed a social worker for. And he just told me, I remember that well, there wasn’t any prodding or beating around the bush. He just said it “I’m a suicide risk, and if I don’t keep my act up they’ll take my daughter away.”
I was just out of high school, and very interested in life and death, so I replied “How close did you come?” I was driving so I don’t remember if I saw his expression or if I could just tell what it was by his voice. It was one of those slightly embarrassed where-do-I-begin smiles “Oh I have attempted it lots of times, but I actually did it three times.”
This probably wouldn’t be the first reaction most people would have in this situation, but I immediately thought I’d been working with and now driving home a ghost. I prompted him to explain and he said “I’ve been pronounced dead five times.”
Tim told me that he was still born, that was the first. He didn’t remember that. But the second time was when he was in a car accident, which I first thought was a joke to remind me to pay attention to the road, because it is very hilly there and it was raining. Then he began to vividly describe being shot out of the windshield of the car. He told me about the doctors trying to resuscitate him. In my mind, I can still see, the doctors giving up on Tim just before he comes back. I remember this story, not in Tim’s words but in images as if he’d shown me photographs instead of telling me the story.
After that were all suicides. I hate to put it this way, but they didn’t capture my imagination, so I can’t remember the methods he used. Maybe in time they will come to me, but for now I only have the haziest recollection that Tim might, might have said that the third time he took all the medication they had him on at once; then began to empty his wine cabinet. Then again I keep thinking he was hit by lightning, but I know that was just what I anticipated him saying when he began the telling me about the times he died, not what he actually said.
I should emphasize that Tim died five times. He didn’t ALMOST die, for all I know he could have ALMOST died eleven times. Tim had flat lined/ been pronounced dead five times. The doctors just kept bringing him back and he kept trying. Or maybe death just didn’t want him, or didn’t want him at that time. It makes me wonder about those things I don’t think I believe in like destiny, karma, and kismet. It makes me wonder if there’s some kind of plan.
I’m telling this story as I remember it, which isn’t in order, just the way it comes to me. The only reason I have to doubt any of the things Tim told me as true is reason. It seems impossible, but I don’t believe in impossible. People who believe in impossible have just never seen it, or admit that they’ve seen it.
At some point in the conversation I noticed Tim was talking about suicide in the past tense, so I asked him if his daughter was the reason he stopped trying. He told me she wasn’t. She was probably the reason he never went back to it, but not the reason he stopped. I wondered what did make him stop; it didn’t seem like the kind of thing you just quit.
Perhaps to answer, Tim began to tell me another story, he didn’t tell me it was his last attempt, but that’s what makes sense to me. I think that’s why he told the story then. “I was outside with a shotgun, ready to do it right. I was going to blow my head off. I wanted to do something CPR couldn’t fix.” We were pulling into his driveway and I was afraid he wasn’t going to finish the story. I put the car in park and listened “I stuck the barrel in my mouth and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened, so I checked the gun out, seemed fine, and tried again. Nothing.”
He aimed his hands towards my dashboard to illustrate “I aimed the gun at a near by tree… POW!” he shook his head a little “Blew the side of that tree off… That was a good gun, I got it from my step-father, he kept it oiled and clean. Never misfired before or since… So when that happened I knew something was going on.” I asked him what he thought it was that had happened, and he just shrugged, and thanked me for the ride as he got out of the car.
That shrug is part of the reason I continue to believe him. Sometimes people will tell me stories that I believe as they tell it but my subconscious picks it apart later and I figure out that it didn’t happen the way they told it or at all. But the shrug told me that Tim was telling the story right because he wasn’t offering any answers. The story wasn’t a segue into why I should go to church or anything like that.
Another reason I regard Tim’s stories as true is that he never did anything to contradict them. The stories explained a lot about his demeanor, and his life. And when I told the cook who got me the job about the night I gave Tim a ride, he told me what he knew about Tim, and it seemed to mesh. I also think it means something that the cook hadn’t known any of the stories I repeated, which means Tim probably didn’t tell anyone else a version of the story. Gossip gets around fast in a restaurant.
At some point in the car ride I asked Tim why he was trying to kill himself, and he never gave me an answer besides “You know, depressed…” That was all the answer I really needed though, it may be a permanent solution, but a logical one. It isn’t like there’s a good reason to be suicidal.
Things started to seem to get better for Tim. A new waitress started working with us and it was like a thunderbolt. They just connected. The restaurant closed for the winter and I didn’t come back so I don’t know what happened to them, but they were serious (and she loved his daughter). As far as I know they lived happily ever after.