My father used to play a game with me as a small child. When he wanted to know what mom had bought for his birthday or Christmas, he would say, “Julie will tell me what mom bought. I can always get it out of Julie!” I had been sworn to secrecy by my brother because I was the little tattletale in the family. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep that secret. Little did I know that as an adult, life would ask me to not only keep them, but to take them to my grave so no one would get hurt. This story, I can share…
Steven was only 43 years old. He was top executive, divorced with children, and lived as a bachelor in a very nice home with lovely furnishings. Steven had a good life and all that he could want or need: a stable line of work, choice real estate, comfortable lifestyle, children, etc. But something went very wrong along the way.
One night, for no known reason to his family or friends, Steven ended his life. There was no note found or any indication for the reasoning behind his actions. We were brought in to sell and clear out the home completely.
During the clearing out phase, I personally found a stack of letters that were found in a closet. They were in no particular order and wide open. Many of them were notes and cards obviously exchanged between sweethearts. Unsure whether to dispose of these or not because the significant other might want them, I opened up the top card only to reveal words that might have offered a reason why he ended his life. I felt an overwhelming responsibility to do the right thing, but what was the right thing in this case?
There were two choices: I could dispose of the items and keep this secret locked away in my head forever, or I could call the family and somehow search for the right words to explain my findings in a very delicate manner. Having no previous experience with this particular scenario of suicide, I sat in silence contemplating the situation that had been laid upon my lap. I had in my hands potential evidence as to why this distraught man ended his life, and my heart grew heavy with the emotions he must have been experiencing. When my hands held his handwritten note, I could feel he was completely shattered.
After what seemed like an eternity of contemplation, I knew exactly what I had to do. The family had the right, no matter how painful, to know something as serious as this; I had to give them the opportunity to make the choice themselves. Calling the closest relative from my cell phone, I wanted to sound calm and reassuring.
When the relative picked up the phone, I greeted the relative and explained that I was still in the home working. “I’ve found a letter I think you may want to see, but I need your permission to send it to you. I believe it could offer you an answer as to the reason Steven is no longer with us. Would you like me to FedEx it out to you?” Much to my surprise, the family rejected my offer to send it to them and did not want to know the reasons behind his actions. Some things are just too painful. His words are forever etched in my mind to be buried with me later in life, unknown to anyone who loved him.
© 2011 Julie Hall