When Megan got married a couple of years ago, her husband had two extroverted brothers, an extroverted mother, and a best friend who was a pastor -- there was no shortage of folks clamoring for the microphone at the wedding reception on Ben's behalf.
Megan's family looked to me and basically all said in unison, "We aren't saying ANYTHING... will you do it, please?!" They loved Megan more than anything in the world, but public expression was not their strong suit. I was happy to stand in their stead, grabbing the mic, and using the opportunity not only to tell Megan how much she was loved but also to thank her and her family for all that they had done for me.
I let them know that they weren't just like family to me... they were my family.
And with Megan's marriage, my family was growing and I was so grateful. It was such a beautiful weekend and I remember Megan and I saying to each other, "I'm so glad Steve is here for this moment."
Steve battled mental health challenges for decades -- and he wildly succeeded, spreading more love and light during his 67 years than can ever be fully expressed. There were two times that I can recall Steve trying to take his life by consuming a handful of pills, but I also know that many things were kept from us, especially as kids. Though he had not attempted suicide for over a decade, I think there was always a fear in the back of my mind that something like that could happen again, so I tried to mentally prepare for a tragic outcome. No one could ever have prepared for what ended up happening.
During a time of global chaos and pain, Steve's brain got overloaded and on April 29th, he intentionally left this world in one of the most extreme ways one can.
I fucking hate it.
I FUCKING HATE IT.
And I also fucking hate that I can understand it.
Steve was one of the most peaceful, quiet, contemplative people I've ever known. That is who he was. That was not fake. He was not putting on a show. That was a genuine choice he made of how to be in this world. Under the surface of that, he was also simultaneously feeling everything extraordinarily, wildly, impossibly deeply. That is also who he was, but those internal realities were kept mostly muffled inside himself.
At the end of his life, he was certainly feeling levels of grief, frustration, despair, and confusion that I don't think most people can even comprehend. I'm sure he couldn't comprehend it either and he tragically could not find a way to express/process/eliminate what he was feeling without eliminating himself.
I did not tell my son that Steve took his life or how-- I simply told him that "Aunt May-May's dad passed away". Without skipping a beat and in the most matter of fact way, my son responded, "Well, I think Steve became a star. New stars are born all the time. Did you know that? Now he is a star." It astounds me how literally and spiritually accurate that assessment feels.
The truth is, Steve was not just the kindest and gentlest man I've ever known-- he was the most courageous. A true warrior. He won so many more battles than he lost. People don't often think of kindness and gentleness as strong qualities, but what people fail to see is the amount of strength it takes to be kind or gentle in a world that is as cruel as this one can be. Steve's kindness was not naivety. It was the exact opposite. It was an act of rebellion.
Steve sang in the same choir for decades and members of that choir came to sing on Jan's lawn last weekend, since churches are closed and there are no funerals happening during the pandemic.
They sang a song called, "I Believe" by Mark Miller. It is one of the most beautiful and honest expressions of solidarity and love and honesty and despair and hope that I've ever witnessed. The lyrics are anonymous words found inscribed on a cellar wall in a concentration camp in Cologne, Germany during WWII.
“I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining. I believe in love, even when I don't feel it. I believe in God, even when God is silent.”
Thank you, Steve. Thank you for everything.