BY GABRIEL MARIN of Consider The Source
Editor’s note: This piece contains references to suicide. We want you to know this before reading it.
Ned Vizzini was an incredible writer (read his books!) and mental health advocate whom I knew and adored. It’s painful to publish these words, but we hope this memorial by Gabriel Marin adds to the beautiful life of Ned Vizzini.
If you or a loved one are in need of support: The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Call: 1-800-273-8255. You are loved. — Lisa Marie Basile
This isn’t something I’m used to. I am certainly not a writer; I’m a musician. And I knew my friend Ned as a musician, too. He was the bass player in my first serious band.
More than that, I've never lost a friend who was close to me as Ned was. Losing him happened five years ago now, and I still find myself talking to him or wanting to tell him something—all the time.
All the time.
When someone leaves this world so suddenly, there is just so much that feels unfinished, unresolved. For example, we had made plans to hang when I came home from the tour I was on, just a week after he passed. I think about this all the time: One week more and we would have gotten to see each other. One more week.
He had reached out a few times when I was on tour, but our schedules didn’t connect, so we’d just text one another, promising to make plans to meet up. This is the way things go when you’re an adult, and busy—and yet, you never expect this.
I will never be able to shake the feeling that if we had talked, that something would somehow have been different, that somehow I could have done something.
The grief is complicated and contains many layers.
I still remember it all so clearly: Backstage in Raleigh, just five minutes until show time. I got a call from a friend telling me Ned was gone. He had lost his brave and longtime battle to mental illness.
I totally broke down, called my bass player John over to me, and cried until show time. Somehow, I still played. In the movie version of this reality, I would have played for him—and played amazingly and passionately. But no; I was just numb and lost and got through the set, hiding my emotions during the autograph signing and all the post-show banter.
And then it got very bleak. But I had to work straight through the pain to finish the tour. Even right after his funeral, I was back on the road. And so it felt incomplete, rushed.
It was all a haze.
My grief still exists, five years on, and I miss him tremendously. There are so many reasons why I miss him, and so much that I could say, but I want to focus on some of my earliest memories of Ned, and how he helped shape the person I am today. I want to show you how inspiring he was.
To start, Ned was a bit older then me when we met (which—let’s be honest—as a teenager, this was a big deal). He did all all the cool teenage things before I did: He was dating, he could drive (like a madman), he was writing popular articles for the New York Press, he played a band that was way better than my band. All of this as a teen.
In fact, we laughed for years about how during the first show I ever played, a photograph of him was taken as he stood smirking in the crowd, thinking how much we sucked. We all hated that smirking schmuck in that picture, but we knew he was right. And we loved him for it.
One year later, we played music together; he was our bassist! And somehow, with Ned, we had gone from sucking to being the cool band.
With him, we were able to start traveling around the tri-state area, playing our first shows. We had so much fun. I remember packing The Cove in New Jersey; at the end of a set, Ned would dive onto the drum set, and then our singer and drummer would just thrash and jump into it as I shredded. It was so youthful and such a rock thing.
I remember playing CBGB's with him and he wore a cardboard box with suspenders, (or a burlap onion sack) because thats how he did it onstage.
We all wore ridiculous shit while playing serious music, and thats how me and him balanced each other out. He loved great bass fills and thought all drum fills should be hooks. I remember driving with him while listening to Kyuss way way too loudly, and yelling at him to slow down.
Over time, my band had gotten very close. We learned that Ned had a side of him that always was dancing around within a personal pit of darkness, but we were young, crazy, and wildly emotional…so it all seemed normal. We were all so open with each other about things then. We didn’t consider the darkness then; things change as we grow.
After we stopped playing together, and after he became a best-selling novelist (who wrote incredible books that saved lives), he loved hearing about my band’s tour stories and musician life. He was so supportive and proud of our success.
Even when we were both younger, when I was nerding out with guitar scales (while he was doing way cooler things) he was supportive. He’d see how much I’d practice and would tell me I was doing the right thing for me—and that it would all be worth it. He ended up being right.
One of the first big Consider the Source shows (this is my current band) was at a book release of his. He actually hired us to play!
Even as I got more and more into instrumental music, Ned was the first person to make me really listen to lyrics—being the writer that he was. He defended pop music (and teenage things in general), with an ability to understand youth and teenage culture.
He wrote about teenagehood and all the weird things that happened during that time. I think that spoke so much to his compassion and ability to observe and relate and feel. I learned a lot about vulnerable writing and lyrics through him.
Five years on and I still cry a lot this day—and other many other days. There are a lot of late-night tour drives where I'll hear or think something and my first reaction is to want to tell Ned. My second reaction is: How is this real?
But it is.
Ned had it together better than all my other artist friends. He had a family, he was very successful, and he was stable—all the things he joked would never have or be.
As much as he loved hearing about the ridiculousness of life as a touring musician, he seemed truly happy that he didn’t walk down that path, that life had brought him to where he was.
But no matter where life took us, we never stopped being very close.
As I get to the end of this, I have no idea how to wrap it up—and that seems to be a metaphor for how this is. It just is.
There is nothing anyone can do now but think about him, and all he meant to us, and feel the hole that his not being here anymore has left in our hearts.
His loss will always be an unhealed wound that hurts. Dying because of mental illness is particularly hard. The stigma attached to it (which Ned worked hard as a writer to fight against) is difficult, just as hard as the feeling of things being unresolved.
The loss just tugs at you and tugs at you, and the only thing to do now is to remember him. Positively.
I love you Ned, and I always will. Inna Lillahi wa inna ilahi raji'un. This world was brighter with you in it.
NOTE: Please know that if you are experiencing depression, trauma, and pain—you are not alone and you deserve love and care.
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. CALL 1-800-273-8255. You may hear an automated voice first, but it’ll then connect you to a caring professional.
We love you.