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?
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