As tough as nails as he must have been, being a former member of the French Foreign Legion, Guy de Michêl could never pick up his life after the death of his wife.
I went to Montreal where he lived and learned the following from people who knew him.
He had joined a bereavement support group for a couple of months; he did a stint as a volunteer at a local library. He tried to get back to writing about his life as a Legionnaire.
Then he stopped trying. He stayed in bed all day until ‘cocktail hour’ — a time he and his wife had shared for thirty-four years.
Sitting there alone now, he drank heavily, smoked half a pack, sometimes rising from his chair to heat up a can of soup for nourishment — and then he watched old movies on television until he was blotto.
Then he went to bed. And the next day was the same as the day before. He couldn’t snap out of a mind-dead ennui (a word that in French means much more than the popular English translation of ‘boredom’ — ennui in French means a hopeless emptiness, a total absence of will to go on.
He phoned no one. He had no immediate family — two brothers, a son, and now his wife, all dead — and no one phoned him. No one ever came to his house. He was completely isolated. The question being, of course, why go on?
Seven months into his wife’s death, he fell into the deepest depression he had ever known. Grief and depression had been there all along, but on the seventh anniversary of her death, it became an inexorable, bottomless pit? Why did this happen in the seventh month? He did not know.
Desperately, he prayed to a God he had tried to believe in for the most part of his life — until he realized the abject futility of it. He had suspected the whole religion thing was a bad joke, but he realized it was worse than a joke — it was a dirty lie. And he wasn’t going to fall for it any longer. It became clear to him that the only way to end this hell was to end his life.