Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another writer on the untimely death of Kevin Greim

I am beyond tired. I have been trying all day to write something beautiful for my friend Kevin and his widow, Jamie. It's probably the hardest piece I have ever done. In the mean time, to show what a beautiful person Kevin was, here is John McManamy's view on Kevin, which appeared on Health Central this afternoon. Like John, I am blessed to know this wonderful person who left us too soon at 28.

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A new message was on my answering machine. It was from Susan, my ex-wife. In a quavering voice, she braced me for terrible news: Early Sunday morning, a good friend, Kevin, threw himself in front of a train. He was 28.

Four years ago, I was facilitating a DBSA support group in Princeton, NJ. In walked Kevin, exuding a goofy charm, baseball cap on backward. But there was something about his presence that indicated he was no mere goofball. The others in the room felt it, too.

He carried that exceedingly rare quality of instant likability, but he wore it with a seriousness of purpose that endeared him not only to those in his age group, but to those twice his age, people like me.

He had a lot of serious personal issues to discuss that night, ones with no easy resolution. As facilitator, I did my best to make him feel welcome, to let him know he was in a safe place, amongst friends. But his personal issues? Anything I said was bound to ring hollow.

Then I had an inspiration. I sensed the potential for a rapport with one of the older members of the group. I put out the suggestion that maybe they should be talking to one another during the week. The suggestion took. Now, our group had a new regular.

Over the weeks, I couldn't help be impressed by the way Kevin carried himself. He would walk up to newcomers and introduce himself and start up a conversation. In the group, he was a great listener, dispensing the wisdom of a sage, leavened by a keen sense of humor.

It was amazing to observe him with people much older. At once, he was deferential, compassionate, and exuding great authority. You simply forgot you were talking to someone much younger. You simply wanted to be around him, laugh with him, seek advice from him.

It wasn't long before I asked Kevin to help facilitate the group. He took his new responsibility very seriously. He learned everything he could. We would talk for hours. He facilitated far better than I ever could, and it showed in the way the group responded to him. I had the book knowledge, but he had the real wisdom.

Yet, he still deferred to me. He was wiser than me, but wise enough to know that he could still learn, even from me. This is a rare quality in anyone, but in a kid half my age? Aren't they all supposed to be wise-asses?

Maybe he was grateful that I saw something in him. After all, he did have inferiority issues. He came from a broken home. He did not have a higher education. He was going through personal stuff guaranteed to knock the self-confidence out of the best of us. Plus, his illness, his illness.

He had his setbacks, his dark moments. Yet, over time - in group, over coffee, over sandwiches, hanging out - I watched him blossom. With his extraordinary people skills, the sky was the limit.

In late 2006, my marriage broke up. Kevin was the first to offer me support. He invited me over to his place. With his wife and friends, we played cards. He suggested various places I should check moving into.

Then came an offer from a friend in the San Diego area. Suddenly, I had my life in seven or eight FedEx cartons. I popped into the DBSA group one last time. Kevin was facilitating. He gave me a heartfelt tribute. I felt the goodness in the man. Goodness, true goodness. That was the last time I saw him alive.

He had so much to live for, so much to offer. Yet, on a miserable muggy New Jersey morning, his brain tricked him into believing something else. I can fully understand, even if I don't understand ...

11 comments:

Stephany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
susan said...

Thank you my dear friend Stephany.

Clueless said...

Susan, I am so sorry. It is so tragic to lose someone to suicide. He sounds like he was a wonderful man. Please take care of yourself and let yourself grieve. Sending blessings of comfort and peach.

Take Care,
Clinically Clueless

Sherry said...

Susan,
What a beautiful tribute. How often do we all lack that precious "gift the Giver gie us" of being able to see ourselves as we really are. We think we're hiding the "real self", the "bad self", not understanding that we really cannot hide that sort of thing from our loved ones and that the "bad" part is a lie. Sigh.

Keep keeping on. Hug your local holly cat--a great improvement over a teddy bear, I hear.

Not Very Anonymous Mom said...

i'm so sorry to hear this.

obviously, he was a very special man and will be missed by many.

peace.

Anonymous said...

Kevin was indeed a very special person. I did not know him long, but could tell in my first conversation with him. My heart aches for Jamie, but she is strong woman with a strong supportive family and set of friends. Both families will be in my thoughts and prayers.

jessi said...

"He had so much to live for, so much to offer. Yet, on a miserable muggy New Jersey morning, his brain tricked him into believing something else. I can fully understand, even if I don't understand ..."

These words really touch me.

Thank you Susan.

Love, and hugs...

jessi

superlagirl said...

So sorry for your loss.

Larry said...

I only met Kevin a couple of times, but his impact clearly was remarkable.

It is a tribute that he has such wonderful friends to eulogize him -- and a sobering thought that at the dark moment when he may have tried to break through to reach them, the barriers were just too strong.

Anonymous said...

I loved this. It made me think so much of Kevin. While I had not seen him for a while, he was like family and I will miss him forever.

susan said...

Thank you all for the kind words. I am still trying to process Kevin's memorial service this evening.


I have passed on all your comments to the author of this piece, John McManamy. Thank you.

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