There was a time when I had strong feelings about suicide. It was completely beyond my understanding that someone could prefer death to life.

I'm not religious. I don't believe in any concept of an afterlife that permits consciousness and awareness after the body's demise. As such, I failed to understand how anyone could find relief in death.

"It's not," I thought to myself, "as if you're going to kill yourself and then suddenly think 'ah, that's better'". Even if nothingness was better than the current situation, there was no way you were going to be aware of the nothingness and that it was somehow better. So what was the point? Life is clearly better than death, right? Just as something is better than nothing. Right?

There we were, my strong feelings and I. My "superiority" those who thought they always had death as a way out.

My friend Pete committed suicide last April.

"Why" is not the first question people ask when you tell them your friend has killed himself. That's tactless and everybody knows it. But eventually the question is posed; when the time is right, when things can be discussed rationally.

I'm not going to tell you why. It doesn't matter, really. The easy, short response is "he was sad". The longer, real answer requires (of course) a complex analysis of Pete's life, a lot of assumption and guesswork, facts related second or third-hand, and personal details that it's just not right to tell the world at large. And, anyway, the short answer seems a lot more meaningful.

At the end of the day, Pete is dead because he was sad.

That stupid, banal, gargantuan understatement is the only way I can understand it. Because what I can't understand, what there's no possible way for me to fathom, is the depth of his sadness.

And that's why my strong feelings about suicide have evaporated. I am ignorant. I was arrogant.

At Pete's funeral his older brother Mat, my brother in all but blood, read a eulogy. He loves Pete so much. And hearing his expression of love and grief, his words of joy and pain, was the most emotionally devastating thing I've ever experienced.

I was sad, but Pete was sadder. And that's all I can know.

I have no right to judge suicide. There is nothing in my experience that has reduced me to the despair that Pete felt. The only opinion I can have, all I can say is, "right now I have no reason to kill myself". Right now at this moment, I don't. And I don't forsee it. But that's as far as I'll go.

Pete wasn't being selfish; he was sad. Pete wasn't begging for attention; he was sad. Pete wasn't being escapist; he was sad. Pete wasn't trying to hurt us; he was sad.

And now he's dead.

That's all there is to it, really.