Throw It All Down

Michael Lanahan's life was a puzzle, his death a mystery wrapped in a song.

I am now, while alive, very much dead inside. Only the extreme ends of the spectrum seem to impact me. I fight to feel, I tube to feel, I board to tell me that I'm still alive. But it is all mute to me now. I am in so much pain that any life I could salvage is not worth the process...

I was never going to make it through probation. How can I when I know I am not guilty. I shall not go into that. To live your life with that much structure and restriction is to be dead.

There were private messages to several people. Lots of references to OAR. (My happiest moment...the OAR ritual. ) The recipe for a drink called Coondog. And more:

Crazy games: At CU, Michael Lanahan (above) was a 
high-stakes player on the party scene.
Mark Manger
Crazy games: At CU, Michael Lanahan (above) was a high-stakes player on the party scene.

This move has been planned by me for some time. I was just waiting for everything to line up correctly. I rode one last, awesome time with Nick in Steamboat. I saw OAR again. I for the last four nights have enjoyed a healthy buzz from some of my favorite beer.

The parallels to Bunick's own life were eerie. The writer sounded a lot like him. (Later, Bunick would discover that he and the dead man shared the same birthday.) A year earlier, Bunick had been in a similar state of mind, contemplating the end and feeling helpless and alone. But he had reached out, found a support network, embraced sobriety. Now he runs trails and longboards.

You could say that I created a situation that forced my hand. I know that I might not have followed through if nothing was riding on it. But now I have only one option (jail is not an option). I woke up this morning (a bit hung over from the show) and said aloud, "I am going to die today." It is empowering to know something that no one else knows.

The man's right arm was cuffed to a belt loop with a zip tie, Bunick noted. So he couldn't fight the rope.

It's 6:00 pm, I'm pretty drunk now. I just uncorked the Eagle River I wish it was Weller. I am listening to OAR and drinking great beer...I picked out my branch and rock to stand on. I should be ready in about 1 hour. I need to wait for Poker to cycle back. So I can go out on my favorite song.

There was a humming from the man's headphones. The music was still playing, but Michael Lanahan could no longer hear it.


A memorial service was held in Boulder four days later. A preacher who never knew Michael Lanahan said he was in a better place, a place of many mansions. People who did know him spoke tearfully of a true friend, loving son, cherished brother, a man of passion and joy. Then everyone sat in silence, listening to the song that wrapped around his life and death.

His friends scattered his ashes on Boulder Creek and gathered later to tell Lanahan stories. No one could understand how someone so close to them could have held so much back; how someone so full of life, so determined never to fall, could feel so damned and fall so hard.

Jeff Malin: "I'm not mad at him. I'm just really disappointed, because I thought he was going somewhere. Killing himself was the ultimate admission that the world had won. It just seemed out of character to me."

Amy Gosch: "I'm still a bit in shock. I know I won't be seeing him again, but sometimes I want to call him, and then I realize I can't."

Billy Flores: "The thing I learned from him was to take risks. You never know, something great could happen from it. It was inspirational how much he was able to accomplish in spite of everything. If none of this ever happened, he would probably be in law school right now. Knowing how smart and sneaky he was, I think he would have been a wonderful lawyer."

Brian Julsen: "As much as I like to think I knew Mike, I'm probably wrong. That's been the hardest thing. We talked about being brothers, but he's going to remain a mystery to me for as long as I'm around."

Jane Doe: "I never wanted anything like this to happen, but I was surprised that I felt a loss -- because I'd made him into less than a person. Over time, though, I realized that while it's tragic, it's also about how manipulative he was. He was lying to the end, even in his suicide note. He never took responsibility for anything he did."

Annaliz Hilberg: "I don't understand why he did it. My therapist told me to stop trying to understand it because I never will. It bothers me most that he didn't reach out to anybody he cared about."

Oliver Spees: "I thought that if I could have found him, maybe I could have changed it. But he was of sound mind. He planned it. It was his choice to make. That sex-offender jacket was such a burden on him. I could see it. I thought he was strong enough and smart enough not to take such a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But he didn't want to go back to jail."

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