Saying Goodbye to a Friend

A death in the Caucasus

SG Buckley
3 min readJun 12, 2022

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Mount Kazbek in Georgia by Stephanie Gruner Buckley

You hit your fifties and people start dying. Parents, parents of friends, friends.

Just last week, a friend committed suicide. He’d been seen walking his dog a few hours earlier. I can’t stop thinking about him.

He was in his forties, had a wife and two kids, a good job. He had a lot to live for.

But he’d recently been diagnosed with cancer. His mother and wife and sister had been battling the disease for nearly a decade. Perhaps it was all too much, or his own prognosis was poor, or he faced demons we knew nothing about.

Some people say it wasn’t a suicide at all, and an investigation is underway. But whatever the outcome, one thing is sure. The world shines less brightly without him.

His name was Ilia and I still remember the first words he ever said to me. We were at a pool hall in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia.

My husband, Colin, had taken a consulting job in the country. I delayed my move to Georgia until the job became permanent. Not long after I arrived, my husband took me out to meet his friends.

Ilia introduced himself and said:

“Everyone is so happy you’ve finally arrived. Colin comes here every night with a book to learn pool shots. It’s kind of…

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SG Buckley

Writer, editor, parent. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.