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The Moments We Remember When We Lose Someone to Suicide

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We will always remember exactly what we were doing when particular world events happen. They become forever a part of us. Two that come to mind for my generation are the assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963 and the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

On a more personal level, an event occurred in my life on March 15, 2015 — one that will always be seared into my conscious and unconscious mind.  My beloved soulmate and best friend Steve took his own life.

I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I got the news of his death. It was a cold Sunday afternoon, and a friend and I were sitting in a coffee shop in New York City, waiting for a vegan festival to open at 4 p.m.

She got a text from Steve’s mom, telling her to go to my house to be with me since she needed to tell me something and didn’t want me to be alone when I heard it. Since we were together, I told my friend to call her immediately. As I watched the horror on my friend’s face and heard her sobs, my heart sank. I knew something had happened to Steve.

To quote Michelle Steinke (Facebook’s “One Fit Widow”): “All other bad days before and after have been defined by that moment.” 

The death of Steve has surely marked a transition point in my life, from 33 years of having a loving and fun-filled relationship to a life of loneliness. Even though Steve had periodic breakdowns over the course of our relationship, we had a wonderful life together. We travelled and saw beautiful places and shared a great love for each other. Everything was a great adventure for us, whether it was having breakfast together in the morning or hiking trails in Hawaii. 

It is not always the tragic events that sear into our memories, never to be forgotten. In retrospect, the happiest moment in my life occurred on August 29, 1981. I will never forget what I was doing. This is the day I met Steve. 

It was a gray, overcast summer day, and I was roller skating with three friends on the Jones Beach bike path. On more than one occasion that day, a car would pass by and guys would hang out the windows and shout catcalls at us. After a while it was getting to be annoying, so I said to my friends, “Next time we see a bunch of fit guys working out, I am going to start catcalling them.”

My friends and I decided to have a soda before skating home. As we were sitting there on the beach, three extremely fit, attractive lifeguards ran past us. As if I was on autopilot, I skated after them and started whooping and hollering.

Steve turned back to see what the commotion was, and our eyes locked. In my excitement, I fell, and Steve came back to help me up. I skated with the lifeguards as they ran for a little bit, then Steve asked if I wanted to come to a lifeguard party later that day. From then on, we were forever soulmates.

Many years ago, Steve asked me if my corporate job was fulfilling and if I felt I was helping people with my career choice. I didn’t understand why he was asking me this question since I chose my job based on my skills and the fact I needed to make a living. Now, in retrospect, I realize that with the career path choices Steve pursued, it was his mission in life to help people, and he wanted to know if I shared that sentiment. He was a Jones Beach lifeguard, went through the process of applying to the New York City Fire Department, and finally became a coach to help people be the best they could be, both in life and in sport.

Now, after so many years, I finally understand Steve’s question, and I hope through my writing, I will help people in some way by inspiring conversations about suicide and mental health issues. It is my sincerest hope that something good can come out of the tragic circumstances surrounding Steve’s death.

Follow this journey on SlippedAwayBlog.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Originally published: July 8, 2016
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