There are people and events that happen in our life that will forever define us. Define who we are- who we become. They change us at our core. Some of these are so simple that we don’t really think about them; getting married and having children. The changes tend to be subtle and happen gradually over time. Then there are the moments…moments that in a blink of an eye forever change you. They send your entire world into a tailspin and leave you reeling.
March 4, 2005 was one such day for me. I can define myself in two distinct halves the pre and the post Steven. Steven; a man I known for as long as I could remember. A man I named my firstborn after. Steven; my father’s best friend; my friend, my uncle, my hero, my first girlhood
crush love. Steven; a man plagued by demons that drove him to his death.
On March 4, 2005 I came home to the words, “Steven’s dead. He shot himself.” I could say my world crashed down around me but it didn’t. Not then. No, that was to come several days later as I stood in the kitchen of a friend listening to my mother on the other line of the phone. As I hung up he asked me if everything was okay. Those simple words of concerned caused my whole world to crumble. I collapsed in his arms and cried for the first time since the words, “Steven’s dead” were spoken.
Steven; my hero was gone and as I would come to find out he was no hero- he was broken. His fun loving exterior hid a deeply tarnished interior. An interior he never shared with me. I am not sure what made me feel more betrayed at the time that he had left me; abandoned me as I was getting ready to embark on adulthood or that my friend, my hero who I thought I knew turned out to be someone else. I was angry- oh I was so angry at him for leaving me. I blamed myself for not being able to make him happy because at my core I liked to make people happy. I wanted those that I loved to be happy and I wanted to do whatever I could to make them happy. Up until Steven’s death I had lived my life solely for the purpose of making others happy. I would have sacrificed my own happiness for theirs.
Tomorrow marks eight years since we buried him. Eight years since I sat in a pew at a church listening to some man; who didn’t know a damn thing about Steven talk about him like he knew him. The irony was Steven didn’t believe in God- not the God that man believed in. Eight years since I snuck quietly into the empty room where his coffin laid and quietly opened the top to say one last goodbye to the man; who had meant so much to me. Eight years since I stood in the cemetery in the gray gloom (Steven’s favorite kind of day) and tried to block it all out and wish it away.
A hell of lot has happened in these last eight years. I finished high school. I met my soul mate and married him in a whirl wind engagement. I have had three wonderful smart little boys. I have removed my mother from my life- the woman who bore me because she was and is toxic to me because I couldn’t make her happy and make myself happy. I am not the girl; who use to sit in his study and talk with him. I am not the girl; who was willing to put her dreams and wants on hold to make those around her happy. I have him to thank for that.
I am not sure if I would have ever found the courage to be me and live for me if not for Steven’s suicide and a year and a half later the murder of his wife. The two of them- in all of their tragedy taught me the most important lesson I believe a person can ever learn. You never know how long you have on this earth. You never know when your ticket is up and you had best make the most of it. Before, Steven died I always believed I would have time later down the road to make myself happy; to live for me. That I could make the people around me happy and there would be time later for my dreams and wants. Steven showed me that wasn’t true. Steven’s death and Sherry’s actions following his death that lead to her murder taught me that I needed to grab life and live it on my terms. They taught me that my dreams and happiness had to come first before that of others. I couldn’t let other’s live my life for me.
So, while I miss Steven dearly. While, I wish he could have been there to see my dressed up just a month after his death for prom. While, I wish he could have been there to see me walk for graduation. While, I wish he could have meet Mark. While, I wish he could have walked me down the aisle with my father on my wedding day. While, I wish he could meet my sons; especially Paul, whose middle name is in his honor. I don’t know if any of those things after my high school graduation would have happened if he had still been alive. I don’t believe I would have had the courage to grab the life that Mark offered me- a life of love, marriage, friendship and children after just 3 months of knowing him if Steven had not committed suicide.
So, Steven. Though, I miss you so, very much. Thank you. Thank you for teaching me the value of life and the value of living for yourself. I will always love you.