Remembering Nick Schroeder, 1973 – 2010
Last week Nick Schroeder, a friend of mine from my childhood, took his own life. My friend Dan called me on the phone to tell me the news.
It definitely took me by surprise. I know Nick struggled with some health issues a few years back. But it’s not been made clear just why, exactly, he decided to commit suicide.
Nick was a friend of mine from high school. We ended up being in a lot of the same classes together, hung with the same crowds, and I always found him to be intelligent, well spoken, and very funny. Looking back on things, when I imagine Nick, I imagine him with a smile – a smirk on his face as he’s about to respond with a sarcastic remark that would ultimately end in a chuckle.
After high school, like most friends, everyone went their own ways. I kept in touch with him through chance encounters, but it was always familiar when we picked back up.
The last time I saw Nick alive was many years ago, when Dan came back in to town to play a show. He seemed to me in good spirits then, and even in that particular memory of mine, has a smile on his face.
Over the next few days, people started to contact one another through Facebook and an informal memorial was planned in Indianapolis. The family chose not to have a service, and some high school friends decided to meet up to remember Nick.
On the drive down, the weather was gray and overcast. Rain started and stopped, but there wasn’t much change to the sky or the land, all the way down I-65.
In the car, I remembered random things: that Nick used to have an impression of “Yoda” that he did. And the two of us, at some point in high school, participated in the school-wide morning announcements: me pretending to be Luke Skywalker, Nick pretending to be Yoda. I’m not clear on why we did this, or what we were even pitching to the rest of the students.
I also remembered a particular song that Nick liked. It’s a vivid memory, of him telling me how much he liked “Carolina in my Mind,” by James Taylor. Specifically, this line:
I can picture Nick closing his eyes and shaking his head to the tune. I remember him being very passionate about it, as though he couldn’t believe why everyone else on Earth didn’t love this song too.
Folks gathering at Heather’s place in Indianapolis. It was funny to see so many familiar faces, and to be in Heather’s house again. I think the last time I stepped foot in this place was Junior or Senior year of high school.
I joked with a few people that I didn’t recognize this place in the daylight. I remember a few raucous parties here (and probably don’t remember a few others). The images I have of Heather’s house include a great deal of vodka, and of a bonfire out in back. I remember Nick being at many of those gatherings.
Dan made some copies of letters he received from Nick, and I’m really glad he brought these. In addition to the photos people shared, these letters were a way to hear his voice again. Nick was an incredibly smart guy, and always did well in English classes. It was both reassuring and sad, to be able to hear his voice like that again.
Kevin, looking over some old lettes with Dan.
An old photo of Nick, with friends.
It was good to see folks again, and it was good to gather and remember. Like others, I harbored a small twinge of guilt for not being more of a friend to Nick. I knew him when he was a high school kid, but I never got to know him well as an adult, as a man. Had I been around, had he my ear to bend, would things have ended the same way?
Over coffee and wine and food, we talked of our memories of Nick and also updated one another about our lives. Many of us are married and are now parents. It’s been a decade or more since I’ve seen some of these people. But there was an underlying feeling of comfort, of familiarity.
It felt nice to be among old friends again, even though we were missing one of our numbers.