This is something I have been waiting for the right time to write about. It’s hard to go back to that day. Every time I tell the story it takes me there. I can still feel the dread as the sun went down and he had been missing for hours. I knew something was wrong…
It was October 23, 2017. I woke up in a panic, I had overslept. I got ready as fast as I could, I had 45 minutes to be at the church. Keith was quiet which wasn’t odd for him. He was often quiet. He had bipolar I disorder, the most severe. I usually did a check-in with him in the morning. I asked him how he was feeling and if he had anything he wanted to tell me. He was usually pretty honest. He would tell me if he was thinking about suicide. He had had 3 suicide attempts in his life and I had been present for the second and came home and found him the third time. I had no warnings then I don’t know why I thought I would get one again, but I did. I didn’t check in that day. A decision that still haunts me. I didn’t even have time for our ritualistic hug and kiss before I ran out the door. I patted him on the top of his head and said, ” I love you, I’ll see you later.” He said, “Bye dear.” That was it, the last words we ever spoke to one another.
The class I was facilitating ended at 2:00. I stayed late to clean up from the food and visit with a few people. I called Keith to let him know I would be late but he didn’t answer. I drove home thinking what a beautiful day it was and that I should see if Keith wanted to go to the park and read, maybe take the dog. I walked into the apartment, it was still and quiet. I didn’t get my usual greeting at the door from him or the dog. I walked to the bedroom and the dog was in his kennel. I thought maybe Keith had gone for a walk. His cell phone was sitting on the kitchen counter, I just rolled my eyes. He often forgot it although he had gotten better about it. It bothered me that he didn’t leave a note, he always left a note. I waited about 30 minutes and when he didn’t show up I started making phone calls. I called his mom, dad and case manager with the facility that provided his mental healthcare. No one had seen him or heard from him.
I tried not to panic that afternoon as time rolled on. I got in my car and drove around looking for him. He would be unmistakable. He was 6’4″ and very thin and had a particular gait. I couldn’t find him. I was starting to panic. It was after 4:00. Keith’s mom decided to talk to the police. They said they would send someone out to my apartment soon. When it got dark I was a wreck. Where could he be? I knew he was on foot because I had the only car. He should have been back. My mom came over and then Keith’s dad. We all knew something was wrong but no one wanted to let our thoughts go to the worst possible thing. I put a chair out by the curb in the parking lot and sat watching the street so I could see him if he walked up. He never came.
The police showed up about 1:00 am. There was a lot of them so I knew it couldn’t be good news. We went inside and I sat in Keith’s chair, the one he was in the last time I saw him. The chaplain began telling me about a man earlier in the day that had jumped off of the bridge over the creek turnpike off of Yale Ave., and then he dropped the bombshell. The man was my husband. He had walked about 5 miles to that bridge. All I remember next was Keith’s mom on the ground in front of me holding onto me for dear life and not being able to believe what I had just heard. I even asked the chaplain if Keith was dead. It just wouldn’t register in my mind that he was gone.
The police followed us across town to Keith’s dad’s house and the police told him. He had left my house earlier in the night to get some sleep. I couldn’t go home. How could I? Keith’s shoes were by the door. His dictionary was by the couch where he could look up words quickly throughout the day. His toothbrush was in the holder in the bathroom. Traces of him were everywhere because he was still there, but he wasn’t. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I would never see him again. I couldn’t be there. I went to my sister’s house to stay with her for a few days.
My life as I knew it ended that day. I knew I would never be the same. It wasn’t until I met my current boyfriend that I began moving toward a new life. I’m grateful for that. The pain I have endured during my life with Keith in trying to keep him alive and the pain of losing him was almost too much to bear. I miss him a lot. I’m sure I always will. He is ok now though I am certain of that. It is the ones left behind that continue to suffer…