One moment became forever | Moment's Notice

By Maria A. Montalvo | Sep 15, 2018

For some reason, I imagine the moment to be 9:01 on that Saturday morning many years ago. We do not know.

We called and got a busy signal, over and over.

When our phone rang a couple of hours later, my husband heard unfathomable words. “Are you his son? I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but he is dead. It appears to be suicide.”

The rest of the day is a blur of serious faces attached to uniforms saying things we barely comprehended, including the description of the shotgun he used, the surprised looks from people at the shelter where they took his dog, and words from concerned family members who seemed worried that we would not recover from this.

I remember how hard it was to try to form sentences in a voice above a whisper. I remember my husband going to sleep at 4 that afternoon; just a few hours had passed but a lifetime had gone by. I watched him, so grateful he was sleeping, and worried he might not recover from this.

Today, less time is spent trying to unravel our guilt and regret and grief and far more accepting the sadness while also feeling the gratitude and love. Unfortunately, there are other moments that ended lives and changed others – my brother’s friend from high school, dear and funny, good to everyone and utterly cool.

My first crush, beautiful and kind. A neighbor. A great-uncle. A parent of a classmate.

But then there is this moment. A brilliant, young woman, just 22, graduating from college and starting a career helping special needs children. We sat at a table in a crowded room, and she said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

She told us that on the bleakest days we talked to her, we helped her find mental health resources, and most importantly, we listened. That made it possible for her to get the help she needed.

Her beautiful laugh and unassuming presence are still here – making others smile, putting people at ease to ask for help, and being a wonderful friend, a beloved daughter, a giving sister, an accomplished student, and an all-around goofball.

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Talking about it is uncomfortable, but necessary to create more possibilities to prevent the loss and heartbreak.

When you lose someone you love, it is painful to say out the word suicide out loud, to imagine those moments over and over, to feel the stares, answer the questions, and to respond to fumbling reactions.

It is also uncomfortable, to know how to not be satisfied with the answer “fine,” to acknowledge that a darkness can be too strong for a person to handle alone, or to ask someone if they are considering ending their life.

The circumstances that make up any moment are as complex as we are as humans, and the subconscious mind constantly reinforces our wish that we could control events around us, especially those that are negative or dangerous.

This month, organizations across the county and the country are providing resources about how to report suicidal ideation, how to respond to someone in crisis, and how to reach out for yourself.

Awareness of suicide prevention does not mean taking responsibility or assigning blame. Perhaps it is just a chance for another moment together.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255. You can call 24 hours a day. For more information online, go to www.nami.org/suicideawarenessmonth or www.snohd.org/SuicidePrevention.

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