He had struggled intermittently with ideation of suicide for at least ten years and chose the least violent, least dramatic means that he could conceive. As a result, many of us live in a constant state of stress about our financial and professional futures--which means feeling a ton of anxiety about how much we're working. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a working-class Italian family that dealt with a lot of dysfunction and mental illness. He carved out a life for himself despite all that, and learned a skill that's always in demand. When you're a talented bartender in Chicago, you get asked to cover a lot of people's shifts. Michael snaps up every job offered to him, hopping from bar to bar all across the city, even if it means getting only a couple of hours of sleep in the wee hours of the morning. It took me weeks to even schedule an interview with him because his schedule was so overfilled. Some people, paying a slightly higher premium, elected the privacy of a single room so you'd want to make sure they got it. Plus, more common were people electing to pay a standard price for a twin room although travelling alone or even selecting a slightly more budget friendly triple room rate. So a part of checking the final list was making sure that single travellers who'd elected a twin room had been matched with another single person, same gender, with the same nomination. After finalising my list I was armed to phone the hotel in Amsterdam from our final pit stop a couple of hours prior to arrival. As I confirmed the requirements they told me the relevant room numbers for different room types over the phone and I quickly scribbled them down. After this, the process was easier as I could confirm the list for the whole tour. Departing the service stop on this last leg I then got on the microphone to share, by surnames, the room numbers for this first hotel. As I completed sharing this I could see one female passenger leave the back seat to make her way to the front. I'd toured long enough to know something had happened to annoy her. We shall not attempt to pursue beyond the silence. We acknowledge that we will never see the fulfillment and joy that we wished most for Jesse. We pray that with the help of loving family and friends and with the grace of God, we will relearn how to live. We pray that our love for Jesse might not disappear with him, but instead be transmuted so that we may be restored to lives of purpose and service.

If there is anything to be said, in the end, it is just this: the pain of our loss is the greatest evidence we can offer of the importance and meaning of life. I do not know whence Ronne summoned the strength to speak that truth, but his courage, his honesty, and his heart are the finest example of truth-telling in a eulogy I have ever witnessed. For me, there is nothing more difficult, draining, or important than supporting a family through the death of a young child. I talk about how frightening it is to all of us who have children, how heartbreaking and unjust it is. My entire life has been burnout, Michael tells me. When I owned my own bar, I worked ninety hours a week, every week. I was sleeping on the floor of the men's bathroom at night. I was articleing the events, writing the food menu, writing the cocktail menu, getting orders from our suppliers, and doing the actual bartending. Then the bar went under, and I had to start taking whatever other jobs came my way. The unforgiving, workaholic world of ballet taught him to fill every waking hour with training and practice, and to ignore any signs that his body was breaking down. He carried that same level of commitment into the adult world, where he's worked without relent for decades. Even when he travels, he puts out feelers for bartending shifts he can pick up while he's in town. In the time it took for her to walk the length of the coach my mind deduced it had to be something in the rooming list. Glancing through, I noticed only one peculiarity that may be involved but couldn't deduce what the problem was. This passenger turned out to be one of two ladies paired in a twin room. As she sat down on the front step next to my seat I smiled and asked if I could help. It was nowhere in the vicinity of anything my mind was churning in solution thinking: It turns out this passenger, from New York, a single female travelling alone had nominated sharing a twin room. I look those parents right in the eyes and tell them that I know they also want to die from this pain, but that we cannot die because children die, we can only live to honor them and their memory. I promise them in everyone's presence that things will not always hurt so and that we will never stop loving them and that we will never forget.

Here is what I often say at the beginning of a eulogy for a young person who has died or an adult who dies suddenly, leaving his or her family in shock. These particular words were for a husband and father who died suddenly. This surreal, sad afternoon, we begin to move forward with the impossible but real truth that Jimmy is physically gone from us. It is impossible to believe that we are here this afternoon at his funeral . How could a life force as charming, kind, hilarious, loving, laughing, collecting, dealing, sweet, brave, crazy, tough, and beautiful as Jimmy be gone? He keeps a meticulous spreadsheet of his hours and earnings, and the figures are mind-boggling. I worked three hundred eighty hours this March, he tells me. For reference, a standard forty-hour workweek adds up to about 160 hours per month. The consequences of Michael's compulsive work habits mirrored mine and Max's in many eerie ways. A few years ago, when the bar Michael owned was failing, stress caused him to start vomiting blood. He also developed a nasty chill that would overtake him every evening, as would happen with me. Yet he kept pushing through his illness, hoping that by working harder, he could save his business. Those of us who are particularly lucky get to retire after years of living this way. But because we've been taught to make work the center of our identities, we don't know how to handle the change of pace. The computer system had paired her with another single female travelling alone electing twin share, randomly also from the United States. Their names on the computer-generated, non-alphabetical rooming list happened to be the last twin room detailed on the draft. Therefore I'd written the last number from that hasty phone call against their names printed on the draft. Every room was on level 2 except theirs, which was on level 7. The final coincidence, the one to ignite her fuse, both single females were black. Sorry for whatever experiences she'd endured in a lifetime to assume, within a fraction of a second, the room allocation was a deliberate act of racism on my part.

I then transparently explained the entire process. I am sorry for the pain that all of you who knew and loved him are facing today and will face for many days to come. I am especially sorry for you, Jimmy's beautiful family--a family I care very much about. But this pain is our pain, this confusion our confusion, this sadness our sadness, not Jimmy's. The ancient rabbis said death, even at its worst, is only perfect sleep. Jimmy is now beyond sadness and loss, confusion, regret or pain. And we can all at least be grateful for and take some measure of comfort in the rest and the peace that he so much deserves. When death is unforeseen and tragic, it is excruciatingly painful for those who mourn. Retired people often become depressed and see their lives as devoid of purpose. Their isolation and lack of daily structure can make them sick, putting them at an elevated risk of heart disease. When the coronavirus hit Chicago and all the bars shut down, Michael was immediately overtaken by panic and dread. He had worked nearly every day of his adult life, and with the bars closed, he had no idea what to do with himself or how he would go about making money. So, he set out to open a speakeasy in an empty storefront in the city. He knew a lot of other service-industry folks, and some of them knew which vacated buildings he could sneak into to set up an illegal bar. Many of Michael's non-service-industry friends were shocked that he would put his life and his friends' lives at risk in this way, exposing himself and everyone he knew to the virus by opening up shop. While I was also dismayed by Michael's speakeasy plan, I understood why it made sense to him. Life had forced him to be self-sufficient, and his only escape from adversity was to work hard without consideration for how much it might hurt him. We got on well and it turned out to be an awesome tour. This experience, one of many on those Contiki tours, reaffirms how quickly we can leap to judgement or belief patterns based on prior experiences. I'm far happier this passenger took the time to transparently have the conversation straight away to figure it out.

There are plenty of others who silently accept the niggling inner voice. As a middle-aged, white male, I do understand and accept my life has been far cushier than others, yet this privilege everybody speaks of isn't exactly the case either. I was ostracised based on race for the pale white skin of an Englishman rather than the pale blue of a Scot. I don't believe for a moment I've had it tough (childhood or life) in comparison to others. But the demons we each face that impact our perception of self-worth and value are not about comparison. One person's detrimental battles may still debilitate their ability to value themselves or add value to others in their world. But for the dead, it is a death like all others--perfect sleep. If it is the death of a young parent, I look at those sad children and I tell them, Your mother loved you and she will always love you. And all of us who care, all of us who loved her will help you carry this terrible sadness and we will help you remember her and she and we will be here with you until the day that you feel joy again in your heart and every day after that for the rest of your lives. When this truthful, beautiful, painful, laughter- and tear-filled storytelling with a family is near an end, I ask two final questions, prefacing both by acknowledging that they are difficult questions. By this point, there is generally a lot of trust between us, a lot of truth and love in the room. The first of these questions goes something like this: I know that you have already thought a lot about what I am going to ask you next. When you think about life going forward without your loved one's physically being a part of it, what do you think you are going to miss the most? If the answer is everything, I gently push a little harder. We may miss everything, but we also miss some things more intensely and some things more frequently than others after we lower a loved one into the ground. Work had already made Michael puke blood in the past; Two weeks into social distancing, Michael texted me: I can't wait to have a damn job again. This is the most time off I've had since I was fourteen, and I'm going crazy. Lots of us are like Michael, even if our choices don't always look as extreme. We're unable to cut back on work, always reflexively taking on new responsibilities out of a compulsive fear that if we don't, our lives will fall apart.