A few hours ago I was digging through my crack-den basement when I stumbled upon an old copy of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. It pretty much looks like every other dictionary from back in the day—red cover, frayed pages, etc. Yet when I opened the back cover, I was greeted by a photocopy of a picture I had taped there some 15 years ago.
The image was of A. Ross Mayhew.
Back in 1986, eight years before I would hold the same position, Mayhew was editor in chief of The Review, the University of Delaware’s student newspaper. For a reason I have never known, one day he tied a rope to the ceiling of his dorm room and hung himself. He was 22-years old and, by all accounts, one helluva writer/person.
I came to know about Mayhew when I was 20 or 21, and it consumed my life. Probably because he had been where I was—running a college paper, trying to figure it all out, generally lost. Hence, I tried learning all about Mayhew; sought out people who might remember what he was like; why he killed himself; what pushed him over the edge. There were so few answers. Just sadness.
Now, when I ponder A. Ross Mayhew, I think about lost potential. He would be 45 this year. Probably married with kids. Maybe a writer, maybe a PR flack, maybe a dentist or dancer or CVS clerk. Who knows? I just wish, more than anything, that he could somehow take back that fatal decision of 23 years ago, when I’m guessing his troubles looked much larger than they actually were.
We all have our problems, and I’m sure most of us—at some point—have at least thought, “Is living worth it?” I know I have. Never to the point of truly considering suicide. But there have been dark moments … especially in my younger days, when I lacked perspective and, often, reason. I remember being in college, grades suffering, no girlfriend, little money—just down.
Then I’d find Paul Duer, Dan Monaghan and Scott Capro and we’d play midnight hoops outside Christiana Towers. Always cured my blues.
I never got to know Ross Mayhew. It’s a shame.