person behind fog glass

Last week was book­end­ed by two deaths that hit me hard. On Monday, Stephanie died of sui­cide, and on Friday, Suzanne died after a long illness.

I met Stephanie when I start­ed to serve St. James’ Church in Oldham County. She was one of the preschool teach­ers. She adored kids, was nev­er with­out a smile on her face, had a high-pitched nasal­ly voice that made my day, and was a mom to two won­der­ful daugh­ters, and a wife to a great guy, an acquain­tance from high school. 

After I was called to serve in South Carolina and then to Winchester, we remained in touch via Facebook. Even though she had her own pas­tor at a Louisville church, she would often ask me ques­tions about faith, reli­gion, God, and scrip­ture. I was hon­ored to be that safe place for her when­ev­er she need­ed it. 

Sometime dur­ing last year’s pan­dem­ic quar­an­ti­ning and Black Lives Matter march­es, she was con­fused that so-called peace­ful marchers could inflict so much prop­er­ty dam­age on their way, or hurt peo­ple dur­ing these protests. I offered my opin­ion that the hurt­ful things were com­mit­ted by oth­er hurt­ful peo­ple who high­jacked these acts of protest and so the peaceniks got blamed. That didn’t sit well with her and she “de-friend­ed” me on social media. 

I under­stood. Sometimes, that’s what we need to do to keep our bal­ance in life. 

Then last week, a friend reached out to tell me the news that Stephanie was shot and killed in her home — appar­ent­ly by sui­cide. I was heart­bro­ken. Her daugh­ters, who had gone to school and were friends with my son, are both in col­lege at UK, and her hus­band had just left for work. I con­tin­ue to pray for them, and for all who loved her, amidst my grief and confusion.

Suzanne, sup­pos­ed­ly the same one named at the start of James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain,” was the moth­er of one of my old­est friends and lived in Murray. We first met when she dropped off her daugh­ter and son at church camp when I was in 7th grade. 

She was a free spir­it who drove a wood-pan­eled sta­tion wag­on and smoked like a chim­ney. As a first-year stu­dent at Murray State, I would walk over to her house and hang out. She and her hus­band would share sto­ries of their kids, of their work at the local Episcopal church, and she would give me cig­a­rettes when I ran out. 

Once, while still in col­lege, anoth­er friend from church camp would write me let­ters, and in one of those, I read in-between the lines that she might hurt her­self. I called Suzanne to let her know my feel­ings about this let­ter, hav­ing always been taught to reach out to a wis­er adult in sit­u­a­tions such as these. She said she would help out. Twenty years lat­er, I dis­cov­ered that she con­tact­ed to dioce­san youth direc­tor who then reached out to my young friend. All was good. 

Suzanne lived her life with many health prob­lems — smok­ing prob­a­bly the least among them. Her body became frail­er as the years went by, and she final­ly suc­cumbed to her pain. Her fam­i­ly was all gath­ered with her as she slipped the bonds of this mor­tal coil last week and is now in ever­last­ing peace.

Now, more than ever, espe­cial­ly in this time of glob­al pan­dem­ic, we are called to rec­og­nize the val­ue and worth of all human life, and to treat each of our neigh­bors with dig­ni­ty and respect. We are also called to remem­ber our times togeth­er as tru­ly spe­cial and impor­tant, nev­er know­ing if it will be the last. Life is, indeed, short, and we do not have much time to glad­den the hearts of those who trav­el this way with us. 

So, be quick to love, and make haste to be kind.

  • Jim Trimble

    Jim Trimble is a priest serv­ing Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester. He grew up in Louisville, grad­u­at­ed from Murray State University, and worked in a vari­ety of roles at pub­lic radio sta­tions for 12 years. After sem­i­nary and ordi­na­tion, he served church­es in Kentucky and South Carolina. Married to Nancy Gift, a Berea College pro­fes­sor, he has a son and two step-daugh­ters, along with a num­ber of dogs, cats, and chick­ens near College Park.