Mutual friends introduced us. He didn’t know my story, and I didn’t know his. But after only a short time together, we were in deep conversation. I was talking about Joe and said something that made him question where he was. When I said that he’d died by suicide in June of 2020, I think he was taken aback for a moment. It wasn’t what he was expecting to hear. We sat and had a long conversation…one of my favorite things to do.
The following day I shared the Unbreakable candle with him and his wife. When I told them the candle’s purpose was to raise money for the kNot Today Foundation and that we had already raised over $12,000 to date, using my story and experience of living with Joe and the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse to help end this epidemic, they too wanted to help. They sat and read the card that came with the candle; his wife cried. He just looked at me with incredible compassion. I don’t remember what he said, maybe nothing, but the moment was meaningful.
Not long after, I was sitting alone outside, and I had this intense feeling. It was as if I knew he knew-he could understand and feel my pain, and I was aware of the energy between us. As I sat there, I thought to myself, I hope that he asks to talk to me alone at some point this weekend. I know he has wise words for me. I imagined us sitting in the room downstairs and having an intimate conversation. I could feel the connection between us, though I wouldn’t understand until later why that was.
Only about 30 minutes had passed after that thought when he walked back into the room, sat down near me, and said- “Marie, I’d like to talk to you alone today if that’s okay with you. I’m a bit of an expert on suicide, and I have some thoughts that I’d like to share.” I couldn’t believe how quickly it had happened! I just looked at him, smiled (ear to ear), and said I would love that. Though I didn’t know his story yet, I did know he would have something important to offer.
I’ve spent the last twenty months gathering thoughts and words from others that have been a tremendous help to me throughout this grieving process. I am grateful for those who have been brave enough to offer their perspectives and thoughts. It turns out that he facilitates a men’s mental health group and was no stranger to suicidal ideations himself. He was, as he said, an expert of sorts on the subject; he had tried to end his own life on several occasions. He wanted me to know, above all else, that what Joe did had NOTHING to do with me. He wanted me to understand that Joe was not capable of considering what his death would do to me, his family, or his friends and that he just wanted the pain to end.
He then began to share parts of his own traumatic childhood with me. What was going through his mind when he was suicidal, how he felt about dying, and quite possibly what Joe was thinking and feeling at the time of his death. I knew already that what he was saying was true, but having it validated by someone who has been “where Joe was” gave me a sense of peace. Though he no longer wants to die, he is not afraid of it.
This man didn’t have to share any of his story with me- he could’ve remained silent, and I would have never known his struggles or trauma. But he didn’t. He opened his heart and gave me just what I needed, just when I needed it; a more profound understanding. Another gift. I cannot say this enough: I do not believe that Joe “chose” to die. I believe that his brain was misfiring and that he was trying to manage horrific pain. The conversation I was now having, confirmed this.
Joe knew he was sick and was a man that NEVER wanted to be “taken care of” by anyone. He was firm in his will and determination. How do I think his life could have ended any other way than on his terms? It couldn’t have! Such a strong mind and body. Strong in every way imaginable. Though he couldn’t conquer this illness, he did beat his fear of death, and to a man like Joe Beckley- he won.
I never saw myself spending time with the people I’ve been spending it with; neither did I foresee the magnitude of the lessons I’ve learned throughout the last twenty months. When your beloved dies, everything changes. EVERYTHING. Why wouldn’t my circle of friends change, too? It has grown into such a beautiful, loving group. Ever-expanding. Helping each other is what we’re here to do. Telling our stories and hearing the stories of others. Being a witness for, and to one other.
Music is still helping, though it’s been up close and even more personal, lately. I love being surrounded by musicians and artists. I’ve been walking, writing, dancing, singing, listening, breaking bread, enjoying fires, and living in the moment, with those around me. I cannot thank them enough for allowing me to be vulnerable in my grief and their willingness to be uncomfortable. Not everyone can do that. There’s something in the sharing that gives you a greater sense of freedom. I thank them also for their stories -how honored I feel to be their witness, to be a small part of their healing, (we all have some of that to do.)
I have learned through grief counseling that this is a journey. It will only evolve, never end. I will never “get over” Joe or stop grieving him. But the goal is to remember in more love and less pain. I have friends that have begun their own grief journey now. Friends I love dearly. They are hurting; they, too, have experienced incredible loss, and helping them also helps me. Connection, community, and conversation. Yes, please. What better way to start my new year than pouring from my cup into theirs.
The lessons I’ve learned over the past twenty months about life and leaving, about love and grieving, are not only for me. These are thoughts and ideas meant to be shared and taught. To give the gift of time…to say nothing at all. Sitting and listening and simply bearing witness to the pain-well, my heart feels bigger just thinking about it.
Remember…words are not always necessary. And we are the balm for each other’s souls.
To your healing, and mine.
xo, and peace.
As always…thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and your lovely messages of hope, faith and inspiration. If what I’m writing resonates with you, let me know. Leaving a comment here on the blog is the best way to connect. I want to keep writing (I still have so much to say.) This is helping me. I hope that it’s also helping you.
Call: Lifeline 1 800 273 8255 (USA Only)Text: CNQR to 741 (741 Crisis Text Line (USA Only)
I just want the pain to stop… (video)
Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s a desperate act.
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