I was on Twitter recently and read that Suicide Prevention Week is September 4 – 10 (#suicidepreventionweek). I didn’t realize there was such a thing, but I am glad to know that now. I have had the idea for this post for over a year now, so finding out the significance of this week was the final push I needed to write it.

As I shared in this post, I have been touched (and heartbroken) by the suicide of a loved one and have struggled a lot with the “what ifs” and “hows” related to whether my friend’s death could have been prevented.

In March of last year (2010), when I was still nursing Abby, I was siting in our glider rocker, in the kids’ bedroom in our old house. Abby was breastfeeding and I was listening to NPR, as I often do (and did even more frequently while nursing). I was listening to The Bob Edwards Show and he was interviewing a young folk singer named Meg Hutchinson about her music. They were talking specifically about the inspiration behind one of her songs called “Gatekeeper.”

Meg shared that she had read an article in The New Yorker called “Jumpers” awhile back (October 2003) about the prevalence of people committing suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. The piece was hard to read, but worthwhile.

The article spoke of a man named Kevin Briggs, who was a motorcycle patrolman with the Marin County, California police department that earned the nickname, “Gatekeeper.” Apparently this guy has approached 200 men and women who looked as if they were about to jump off the bridge to their death in the Bay and successfully talked them and down and out of taking their own lives (at least in that moment).

As the story goes, and as Meg sings in the lyrics of her gorgeous song, the “Gatekeeper” apparently would ask these lost souls ready to take the plunge two simple questions:

1) How do you feel?

and

2) What are your plans for tomorrow?

In doing so, the Gatekeeper was able to distract these men and women long enough to get them to reconsider committing suicide that day.

Isn’t that just incredible?!

I can still picture myself nursing Abby and hearing this story and being so moved and inspired.

Later that day I downloaded “Gatekeeper” and couldn’t wait to listen to the rest of the lyrics to Meg’s simple and very moving song, as I had gotten a taste from a clip they had played during the interview on NPR. Not long after that I found and read The New Yorker article she had referenced.

My favorite line in Meg’s song is, “maybe every day, in ordinary ways, we hold each other on, we keep each other here.”

I think that is so profound and it certainly rings true for me.

There have been countless people throughout my life that have been “Gatekeepers” to me. Though I have never seriously considered taking my own life and strongly believe that I will never do so, I have survived some very rough patches where my self esteem and self worth were severely challenged.

I love the idea that in “ordinary ways” we can make extraordinary differences in the journeys of loved ones and even strangers that we meet throughout the course of our day-to-day lives.

Kevin “the Gatekeeper” Briggs has done so by asking those two simple questions of strangers he has met contemplating jumping, Meg Hutchison has done so through her music and song, Bob Edwards has done so with the stories he shares on his radio show and you all have done so for me over the years through your comments here, your caring ways, your love and your support as my readers, fellow bloggers, friends and family members.

Thank you so very much.

So today, I ask you:

How do you feel?

What are your plans for tomorrow?

I hope you will consider sharing your answers in the comment section here and please know how much I care about and appreciate having each of you in my life. xoxo

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dresden September 4, 2011 at 11:11 am

wow. What a beautiful post.

I feel tired but thankful.
Tomorrow I plan on cleaning.
xo

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2 Jjiraffe September 5, 2011 at 2:05 am

Wow. I live in Marin County, and a lot of people I know know someone who has taken their lives on the GGB. There is some awful allure there that I just don't understand. I'm glad that there are people like Kevin Briggs helping those caught in the fatal beauty of the GGB. Great post.

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3 Lavender Luz September 5, 2011 at 8:51 am

Love those two questions. Getting a person both into the present and considering the future.

I feel excited about the promise of the day.

Tomorrow I plan on getting the guest room ready for a guest.

How about you, Kathy?

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4 Kathy September 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Dresden – Thank you. I hope you got a good night's sleep and I am glad that you are feeling thankful. Hope your cleaning went well today.

Jjraffe – Thank you for sharing your connection to the GGB. That is so sad that you know so many people who know someone who has taken their own lives there. I am glad that there are people like Kevin Briggs too and I appreciate your kind words, as always.

Lori – Thank you. I really love the two questions too. I am glad that you were excited this morning about the promise of your day! I hope that your preparations for your guest's arrival go well tomorrow. You are so kind to ask about me…

Tonight I am feeling tired, but as D said in her comment, I am also feeling thankful, especially for my family and my health.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to celebrating Sean's 1st day of 2nd grade and to my family returning to our school year routine, after a wonderful and whirlwind summer!

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5 Kristin September 5, 2011 at 11:16 pm

What a beautiful post.

How do I feel? I'm good but I'm a little worried about my oldest. He seems overly worried and concerned about school…almost like he's borrowing trouble where there isn't any. It seems like when he gets in this anxious, worried stage it is hard for him to break out of it.

What are my plans for tomorrow? We have to take my van in to be worked on, school for the kids, and talk to my mom about my oldest (her degree is in Psychology).

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6 Kathy June 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

Thank you Kristin.

I am glad that you are good and sorry that you are concerned about your son. Parenting can be so hard when we are worried about our kids. (((HUGS)))

I hope that van got fixed and that your talk with your mom was helpful.

I know I am writing this reply nine months later, so I hope all is well with your car and your son.
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7 Keiko September 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Kathy, your post literally gave me shivers. We focus on suicide prevention at lot at where I work, as we had a student commit suicide on campus about 5 or 6 years ago. Since then, our school has received federal grants for suicide prevention education. Every year, I sit through training with our student staff where Counseling Services shows a clip of a Golden Gate jumper who jumped and lived. And every year, it gets me, and every since RA who watches it.

So now, I'm feeling pretty good. And tomorrow, I'm planning to get caught up on some much needed work for RESOLVE of New England. And carpool with my hubs tomorrow to and from work. And maybe bottle our home brew tomorrow night too.

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8 Kathy June 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

Wow. That sounds like an incredible clip/story about the jumper who lived. That gives me chills to read about. I think suicide prevention programs are so important, especially on high school and college campuses. Though I know you left the job you were working at when you wrote this awhile ago, it still inspires me to know about the work you were doing there to help those who might be considering taking their own lives.

I am glad that you were doing pretty well when you wrote this comment (almost 9 months ago). I love that you were carpooling with your husband to/from work and that you home brew! Sounds yummy! 🙂
Kathy recently posted..Happy DayMy Profile

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9 Anonymous September 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Thank you so much for this post. My mom recently opened up about suicidal thoughts she had over a year ago. I am going to share these questions with her in hopes that it might continue our conversation.

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10 Kathy June 4, 2012 at 9:55 am

You are so very welcome. I am sorry to hear about your mom and hope that sharing these questions help you to continue your conversation, as you say. I know you wrote this comment many months ago, but please know that I read it at the time you left it and it meant so much to me to know that this blog entry touched you and may help you to reach out to and support your mom. (((HUGS)))
Kathy recently posted..I Went BackMy Profile

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11 Jackie @JackieSTaylor May 28, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thanks for tweeting me in this direction.

It was such a powerful story, and we need to remember to be mindful that we are all each others gatekeepers.
Jackie @JackieSTaylor recently posted..Jackie Reads: The Riot WithinMy Profile

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12 Kathy June 4, 2012 at 9:47 am

You are welcome Jackie!

I agree. Thank you for visiting my blog, reading and commenting here.
Kathy recently posted..Gatekeeping (5th Edition)My Profile

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13 Justine August 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Reading this in the wrong order (I was supposed to comment here first … sorry!), but still amazed by the story of Kevin Briggs. I often think about how many people just walk by each other every day and never know … never connect to other human beings. How many people have walked by the jumpers, I wonder, and have, perhaps unknowingly, done nothing?

Your series is a wonderful check in with your readers, but it’s also a good reminder to us to check in with other people in our lives, too … to touch base with them in a way that is both simple and profound.
Justine recently posted..Left Behind: A Time Warp Tuesday PostMy Profile

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14 Melissa Olivero July 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

What a beautiful piece! I can see why you chose this one. I am so very sorry for your loss. I am glad you are able to share about the story and the message.

Thank you!
Melissa Olivero recently posted..Art and Self-Esteem or Meet The Masters Artist Trading CardsMy Profile

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