Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Final thoughts on the death of my friend Kevin Greim

Monday night. It was past 11 o'clock, I was just watching the news, trying to wind down before I go to sleep. The phone rang. I would never get the phone after ten, but I noticed on caller ID that it was my friend G- and it must have been bad for him to call that late at night.

I picked up the phone. "Susan", he said, his voice choking with tears and sobs. "You better sit down, it's bad. It's really bad".

G's father has been ill for quite some time, so I sat back down on the couch, expecting him to tell me his dad passed. But no.. This was worse. Far worse. "Susan, um, when was the last time you spoke to Kevin?"

" A few months ago" I assured him. G- continued. "Kevin died on Sunday morning".

My mind couldn't grasp this. I was waiting for "April Fool", but G- was too upset. "He suicided on the Princeton Junction train".

I started to cry.

We talked for a half hour, deciding in a few small moments of clarity, who we needed to call. I was told to call N- a friend of ours, S- another friend, and my ex, John. And then our support group. Between calls made over the next 36 hours, I cried buckets, and tried in my own way to deal with this. And tried to understand what Kevin, the most alive person I have ever met in my entire life, could wind up at the train station on a moonlit Sunday morning.



Mercer County, New Jersey is home to the state's capital Trenton. Years ago it was quite upscale, when the Roeblings lived there. It also contains the town of Princeton, where the university is located. It's a beautiful sleepy suburban town, comprising of the university, the Advanced Institute, set up for Albert Einstein, the Theological Institute, Westminster Choir College, and many large companies, including ETS, Squibb, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton Plasma, and many more.

And then there is the hospital. As hospitals go, Princeton is on the small side, it's claim to fame is that the singer Mary Chapin Carpenter was born there, and it served as the back drop on the current TV series "House".

It was at this hospital where I and my ex husband first met Kevin Greim. He came into our support group, wearing a backwards baseball cap, leather jacket and jeans. What I noticed immediately about him, was his smile. It wasn't a perfect smile, but it lit up the room. He had one of those rare personalities, all magnetic; people just gravitated towards him. You couldn't help but like Kevin, he had this amazing aura around him, and a lust for life.

Kevin was like a sponge. He wanted to learn everything, and as time went on, he contributed more and more to our meetings, eventually bringing his wife Jamie to our group. She too, made valuable contributions. What I recall most, is after the meetings, going to the Starbucks or Panera's on Nassau Street after our meetings. Kevin would talk to John, I would sit at a table and talk to Jamie. And just talk girl talk. About our weddings, the dresses we wore and how we felt. Our cats. When Kevin found out I loved cats ,he told me about one of his cats, six toed like one of Hemingway's.

John and Kevin developed a kind of relationship, each seeing each other more as a friend, but also as a mentor. Sort of like Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedelus. We would meet Kevin at Panera's for lunch and they would talk. Kevin would order a coffee, too proud to say he couldn't afford lunch that day. Of course, we would always treat.

What people don't realize about Kevin is that he had so much love in his heart for other people. When his friend N- had car troubles and needed to purchase a car- he took her too his old car dealership and helped her purchase a beauty. He loved facilitating in our group, and helping other people when he worked at CSP. He was always there for his friend G. He was always there for me when my marriage ended. He gave freely of his time, offering and ear and never asked for anything in return, only to learn, more about human nature.

And maybe that is what ultimately lead him on the last few hours of his short life to the Princeton Junction train station. His heart gave out.

I understand the lure of the train. Back in 2001, at my most suicidal, I too went to the same train station, parked my car in the same parking lot, left my handbag and a note on the windshield, saying simply ":I am sorry". Locked the car, put the keys in my jeans pocket, and walked down the tunnel up to the train tracks. And waited for the train.

About an hour later, I could see the headlight in the distance. I could hear the noise. It would have been so easy to jump down, and sit on the tracks. But then I looked up at the stars and strand of moon and changed my mind. Kevin didn't. I don't know in the last milliseconds if he stared at the headlight and said a silent prayer. i don't know if he looked at the full moon. We never will know. What I do know is so many of us, had we been there with him, would have pushed him out of harm's way quickly- and done the ultimate sacrifice so he might live.

No one will forget how he loved to talk about his family, his wife, his animals. The glee he had one night when he was showing off a new ipod his brother had bought for him. How he would go to Taco Bell, order 10 tacos and eat 7 at one sitting.

Between Sunday, September 14, and Monday September 15, Mercer County. New Jersey had two suicides. One was a 46 year old man who jumped off the overpass by Quaker Bridge Mall on to Route 1, in a perfect swan dive. And the other one was my friend Kevin.

My friend Kevin. Where ever you are now, may you find the peace you were looking for. I am truly blessed that for four years, I knew him. He will be missed by his mother, father, brother and wife Jamie, said the obituary. What it left out is all the other people Kevin touched in his 28 years on this planet.

Bless you Kevin.

23 comments:

G said...

I'm so sorry to read this Susan. He sounded like a great guy.

Gianna said...

Susan,
this is a beautiful tribute.
Peace to you and all Kevin's friend's and family.

susan said...

Thank you G and Gianna.

I am Ok, and I have a friend with me who drove up from DC to attend.

Jared Kamen said...

I just got the news of this. I was a co-worker of Kevins some 8-9 years ago. It took a second to put the name with the face. A Friend asked if I remembered Kevin Greim. Within a few seconds I could see him in my mind and it hit me "oh no....why is this name coming up?" and then I was told the terrible news. I can't pretend I was really close with Kevin over the years, but I do remember what a nice person he was and had a great personality. Life can be tough sometimes and we all look for ways to make things easier, I'm a bit saddened that this seemed like the right thing for Kevin to do. I am sure there is a huge hole in the lives of his friends and family that will never be replaced. Rest In Peace Kevin; I hope you've found a better place :(

kelli said...

I was very close to Kevin in High School. I met him my sophmore year in biglogy class. He sat right behind me. I will never forget when we gathered a bunch of people to go to Kevin's High School graduation we were so proud after all he had been through he finally did it. Then me and a few friends got stuck at his house during the blizzard of 96. I will never forget we felt like we were on the real world just being a bunch of friends and roomates. He was in the shower while we brushed our teeth. I feel so horrible that I heard about this to late to pay my last respects to him. I can totally agree how his smile could light up the room. Kevin you are loved and missed... My thoughts and prayers goes out to anyone who was had the chance to know him.

susan said...

Jared and Kelli,

Your words/comments made me cry. Friday nights memorial was beautiful. I was so pleased to see such a huge turn out and know he had so many friends that were really touched by his life.

I loved your comments and it really helped me see Kevin before I met him.

I too hope he is in a better place and found what he was desperately looking for in this life.

Thank you so much for sharing with me.

Anonymous said...

Your tribute was beautiful. I have never seen so many people at the Kingdom Hall for a funeral talk. What a beautiful job the brother did and what a touching prayer. Kevin will be missed terribly by many.

Larry said...

Susan:

You and I are both ex-reporters.

What you may not know is that one of my mentors was the former obituary writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was simply brilliant in summarizing people's lives, from storekeepers in small towns to world leaders.

Your grief inspired you to eloquence he couldn't have even touched.

May Kevin's legacy be to remind people that even someone with so much love in his big heart cannot survive if the disease is even bigger, and untreated or unresponsive to treatment.

And may he be finally at peace in the next world.

Christa said...

Susan:

I was thrilled to find your site. It appears we have similar missions. My mantra is "Don't Give Up!....Giggle On!" and the secondary mission of my site, www.giggleon.com, is to spread awareness about suicide and depression and to offer support to families and friends of suicide victims.

I am VERY sorry to hear about Kevin.

As I read the story about how you heard the news of his suicide I recounted hearing about my friend Jim's suicide. I will never forget that day.

If you're interested, you can read about it here http://www.giggleon.com/never-give-up/#more-275

I plan to check out your site at greater length and hope to have the chance to chat with you.

Kris said...

my brother & i worked with kevin many years ago when my brother told me the news i just couldn't believe it .. i remember our conversations and how he made work go by s0oo much faster when we joked around on the walkies .. kevin u will be missed

brian said...

Thank you Susan. I just heard about Kevin's suicide from old friends who were friends of friends with him. If that sounds pretty removed, it is. We went to high school together but I can't remember ever coming out of my shell to make friends. I comment only to say that, despite having nothing else to know him by, ten years later, I somehow have a crystal vision of his smile. And it suggested back then the genuineness you've eloquently confirmed. I am solemn about the loss to those who loved him, as it must be they were lifted regularly by this man's warmth and truth. Best to you in grief and comfort.

Anonymous said...

I don't know any of you or Kevin, but I sit here crying. He sounds like a fabulous person. I cry because my husband is bipolar and I hope that one day he does not find the despair that Kevin felt and decide to kill himself. I know this illness is tough! I see my husband's struggles and it scares he and I everyday. I wish the best for your group and may Kevin rest in peace knowing how many lives he touched. I will never forget his story and I never even met him! Take care and God bless you all! D

Anonymous said...

Susan,

I have not been to the Princeton group in awhile and have not kept up with the blogs so my answer is several months late. Sorry about that.

I was shocked and saddened to hear about Kevin. Kevin always seemed to be an outgoing and freindly person who wanted to know everyone, which helped to draw out shy people like me. When he quit attending the group regularly I missed him and found myself asking about him often. When he had the job with the mental health facility he was in his element and seemed distressed when he lost it. I had hoped that things would turn around for him. I guess they did not.

Since I am going through another distressful period right now, I did not need to hear this. I plan to come back to the group just to keep in contact with each member of it, if not for me then for Kevin so you won't have to hear about any more sad stories like this.

DH

susan said...

@anonymous- I am really touched and I am sorry I made you cry. Bless you.


DH-

I am sorry if I caused you any distress. It was not my reason for posting this. i just wanted people to know this was a very kind man more than someone who caused the train from NY to DC to be over an hour late. I look forward to seeing you again in the group. I have a hyperlink for the group on my site if you need anything.

Love,
susan s

Anonymous said...

Susan,

This is Dave (DH). I am sorry that you took my remark the wrong way. I am glad that you reported on Kevin's death otherwise would not have known about it. There is never a good time to report a death, even if I was well. I just hoped the best for Kevin although I had not seen him in approximately one year.

Just keep writing and reporting as you do. Your ex said that you were a good writer and your blog shows that this is true. Blogs like yours are helping me to get through some trying times right now and I am glad that you are posting things.

Dave

Merry_Christmas said...

Susan,

This is a wonderful tribute to Kevin. I came across your blog while looking for funeral information on the father who died by suicide at the Princeton Junction train station this past week. He has children in the WW-P school district as do we and we wanted to reach out to offer our love and support.

Our son, Kenneth(Kenny)Silas Baker had a similar experience near our home on May 19, 2009, when we lost him on the tracks near our home in Plainsboro. They sound like they had very similar personalities Keven and Kenny.

I am very pleased to hear that you were able to survive your close call at the train station. We are now trying to help as many people as we can. Most do not realize how prevalent suicide is and that most people can be helped if they are able to reach out. We also believe that the societal stigma associated with mental pain and suicide must come to an end.

We set up web site to remember Kenny and offer resources to those in crisis at: www.EverybodyLovesKenny.com

We would also like to invite anyone who wants to help to attend the NAMI walk this May 22, 2010. (No donation necessary and there will be Free food afterwards. :) Together we can change attitudes.

His Facebook page regarding the walk:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=312090823641

The direct link to donate if anyone wishes.

www.nami.org/namiwalks10/MER/EverybodyLovesKenny

We really want to try to get the youth in the area to become more active. 1 in 12 teens will attempt suicide this year.

Kevin certainly had a great friend in you Susan. Please keep up the great work. God Bless!

The Baker Family

susan said...

Hi Bakers,

I think I met someone from your family last year at the Nami walk, I was walking with Princeton DBSA- I was the co-President last year. I am also a member of Nami, I talked a bit to Erica. It's a small world.

I am so sorry about your son, I wanted to blog/write about him he sounded like such a wonderful son and person..... who touched everyone at the walk. I am on Facebook- please friend me, or email me at hollythecat at gmail.

I didn't know Princeton Junction claimed another soul this past week. Please let me know. I cannot afford to get the Packet anymore and lost my press pass when I went on disability.

May I add your website to my suicide prevention links and wall remembrance?

Thank you.

Susan S.

Steve said...

How terribly, terribly sad.

susan said...

Steve, yes, but he touched so many people in his short life, we were all so blessed to have known him.

It's sad that he isn't alive anymore, it's sad that we cannot call him anymore, he's still in my cell phone, how strange is that... but maybe since so much time has passed, we are blessed that we knew him and had our lives were so greatly impacted by him, he's really never gone, you know? And he continues to live in our hearts, so he's still here.....

susan said...

oh thank you for visiting. I really like your blog.

Val said...

Couldn't resist taking a peek at your blog, given its intriguing name... [via Gianna]
We lost my cousin Kevin to a self-inflicted gunshot, almost 20 yrs ago. He was 19. Unfortunately I never knew him well enough to understand his demons, but it's haunted all of us.
My tears are for both our Kevins.

Mark Diefenderfer said...

I was on train 7887 the night of the accident. I can't even put into words the feeling I still have to this day knowing I was on that train. I never would come to realize how much a stranger can make an impact on your life until that moment. I think about that moment almost every day and appreciate life a lot more because of what happened. I am so sorry for the loss of Kevin and you wrote a fantastic tribute to him. God Bless -Mark Diefenderfer

susan said...

Mark, thank you for your lovely comment. It touched my soul, and I thank you for it. I wish you had met Kevin.

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