Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Death by Default: Prologue

Photo courtesy of jgolby, shutterstock.com

I never really knew Emily Mara. In fact, when I saw her photo in the paper after she died, I almost didn’t recognize her at all. Back when we were in law school, she had dirty blonde hair and wore a nose ring, wanted to go into environmental law. In the newspaper photo, she was a PI lawyer wearing a sleek brunette ponytail and a strand of pearls. A lawyer who – shortly before she flung herself from the Skyway Bridge into the freezing Calumet River – worked for Smith and Associates LLP, a firm that specialized in processing asbestos claims until the market dried up. The partners decided to cut their losses and close up shop. That’s when they let Emily go. That’s when she killed herself.

She and I were in the same study group for our trusts and estates class. Our professor had a
favorite Ambrose Bierce quote tacked up on the blackboard: Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate. I thought of that when I read the blurb in the Chicago Tribune about Emily’s suicide. How ironic it was that she and I spent fourteen weeks during our 2L year learning the ins and outs of estate planning. In the end, Emily had no estate. Nothing left behind for anyone to fight about. A few personal items, her dog – and a massive student loan balance.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Henry, unsplash.com
They actually put that in the headline. Local Attorney Over $100K in Debt Before Suicide. It made me think of how hopeless Emily must have felt. How scared she must have been when she was let go from her job and realized she’d be destitute in a few short weeks. It made me wonder what the headline will read when I die. There probably won’t be a headline at all, especially since I’m not a lawyer anymore. Or will that be the headline? Woman Who Used to Be Lawyer Dies. People probably think that’s the most interesting thing about me, that I used to practice law. I used to think that until a couple months ago, when more people started dying and I began to learn the horrifying truth about my life. About the people around me.

I never really knew Emily Mara. I suppose there was no reason to considering we only briefly crossed paths during one semester seven years ago. But after everything that happened, I wonder now…

Do I really know anyone?

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