Surviving the Unsurvivable One Year Later

Pamela O'Hara
3 min readNov 25, 2020

One year ago today, almost exactly this same time on the Friday morning before Thanksgiving, I saw Geoff for the last time. We playfully bickered over the strength (he would say weakness) of the pot of coffee I had made. I probably stood at the top of the garage stairs waving as he backed the car down the driveway. He would’ve warmly waved back then turned to poke whichever kid sat in the seat next to him, forcing the reluctant teenage hand flick that is the sustenance of a mama’s day. I don’t remember specifics because I’d lived that morning many hundreds of times before and had no reason to think that one would be different.

But it was. It snowballed into a growing concern at not being able to reach Geoff for a spontaneous lunch, or to coordinate school pick-up, or to make evening plans. Concern grew to fear when he did not come home for dinner and we started calling around for help locating him. And fear turned to shock when the police knocked on the door.

I knew before I was told that he had taken his own life. I’d been afraid for months and yet was stunned when it happened. I knew he suffered. I knew how bad it could get. I knew he thought of death. And yet my brain could not really believe the possibility because I saw the joy, too. I saw the pride in his children, the love for his family, the laughter with his friends, the success in his work and the ambition for his future. They were all there and it doesn’t make sense that he would forget them. But here’s the thing; suicide doesn’t make sense. It’s the diseased brain’s failure, at that fundamental moment of survival, to make a logical decision.

I hate to think that the cause of his death puts into question the joy in Geoff’s life. That man truly loved life. He loved every person he came into contact with. One of the many hard moments of the year was telling his dry cleaner how he died. She would not believe me. She thought I had the wrong name. I had to show her a picture from my phone before she accepted that we were talking about the same man and then was too shaken to charge me for the pile of shirts I was picking up. That happened again and again and again. People can’t reconcile his life with his death because they are irreconcilable.

He loved to live.

It took me the entire year to finally clean Geoff’s shiny, starched wardrobe out of our shared closet. In going through the pockets last week, I found this picture taken at a Bar Mitzvah just three weeks before he died. The last photo we have together. So appropriate that the joy and silliness are what come through.

I loved to live with him.

Editor’s note: this story was originally published on my private Facebook account on 11/22/2020. I was asked to make it public so others can share, and I gladly do so in hopes that it will help others understand the complex realities of suicide.