We met 38 years ago, at first living together as friends and then keeping in touch, more or less, ever since. So when the news came yesterday that Jan had walked to a park in Warren and shot herself to death, it was, of course, a shock.
Jan’s death is tragic and horribly sad for her friends and family, but her struggles are not uncommon these days.
For the past two years, Jan had been out of work and feeling increasingly desperate. She borrowed money from friends, but over the past year turned more and more inward as her financial situation worsened.
Her emails dwindled in frequency over time and stopped altogether on Sept. 2 with one that linked to a video about spray on clothing. Jan’s emails were an odd assortment of terrible jokes, conservative political humor and links to gee-whiz stories.
When I heard she might not be coming to an annual summer party that 20 to 30 of our mutual friends have been going to for more than 30 years, I sent an email to her nudging her to attend. She never responded and I left it at that. The party came and went and for the past few weeks some of us started to worry about her.
Jan worked a variety of jobs throughout her life, had moved to Texas, and then back to Michigan as her parents got older. She had good friends who cared but had terrible luck keeping a job and was given to bouts of depression.
For a long time Jan worked in the printing business, but lost that job to technology and outsourcing. Her last job was as a dispatcher for a business that provided heavy equipment to the construction industry. Then the real estate market collapsed and she was again out of work.
Jan may not have been the easiest person to work with if you were her boss. She had a big smile and an easy way but she was seriously independent-minded, something employers typically find challenging.
But most employers never got a chance to evaluate Jan’s job worthiness because about a year ago Jan stopped even getting job interviews. At age 58, she was convinced it was because of her age.
Can anyone really doubt that’s true given Michigan’s economy? Would any among us want to test that theory personally in today’s job market?