Monday, March 28, 2011

Remembering My Friend Kevin, Who Would Have been 31 Today

I wrote this piece three years ago when my friend Kevin died. Today he would have been 31. I miss him terribly, and wanted to share this with my readers and friends. Peace to you Kevin, where ever you are.

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.


Tina said...

I'm so sorry, Susan. This is a beautiful memorial. Peace to you Kevin, wherever you are.

susan said...

Thank you Tina. I'm really missing him today.

TDR said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks for sharing this. It is a good tribute to your friend, and a good reminder to the rest of us of what happens after a suicide. The pain is over for the person in question, but it spreads out to all those who cared about them.

Ruth said...

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to your friend Kevin. I hope your sadness eases a little.

susan said...

Hi Depressed Reader. Thank you for putting it so eloquently.

Hi Ruth, thank you, I just miss him, he died way too young. But like I said, his heart gave out. I am glad he touched so many people.

Unknown said...

That is so sad, such an amazing young man. The impact he made during his life is clear by how much you love him and how much he is missed. May he rest in peace x

Feminist Voice with Disabilities said...

I'm sorry, Susan - it is clear how much you cared for your friend Kevin. So many people are hurt by suicide, and I hope that if those dark thoughts ever enter my mind again, I will remember your tribute here to your friend who touched so many lives. We all touch someone's life, and it is important for us to remember our worth. He sounds like a wonderful, kind man who died way too young, and sadly did not realize how valuable his life was. I am sorry for him and his family, and all his friends.

Ana said...

I read the post but I prefer to keep silent.
Love you Susan!

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