Thursday, September 17, 2015

His Name Was Sam Girouard

His name was Sam Girouard, and he would have been 34 last month.

I met him when I was 16 years old, in classes at Whatcom Community College.  He was outgoing, funny, and had kind eyes and a joyful smile.  He was tall, over 6 feet, and gentle, and when I imagine him I picture him in his khaki vest.

His name was Sam Girouard, and he was my friend.

We became friends and studied together.  It wasn't long before he developed a crush on me, and I developed a crush on him.  I had a boyfriend, but Sam would tell me that he didn't treat me well enough.

His name was Sam Giroaurd, and he was my boyfriend.

Our dating relationship was short-lived, but nice.  I loved the way it felt when he hugged me.  He fell hard and fast, and I was on the rebound, and it was a recipe for disaster.  He was the first person I ever hurt in a romantic way.

His name was Sam Girouard, and he helped me become a better person.

After we stopped dating, we tried to be friends, but I was not being a good friend to him.  I was being selfish and only thinking about wanting to spend time with him, whether it was painful for him or not.  He was the first person I think I ever owned up to my behavior with as a (semi) adult person, and because of him I learned a big and important lesson about how to be someone's friend.

His name was Sam Girouard, and he was one of the smartest people I have ever met.

He was a paleontologist.  He graduated High School and Community College at age 17, and when I met him he was 16 and already attending classes at University.  He started collecting fossils when he was 8 years old, and when he was 12 he went on a paleontological expedition with UW.  There were articles in local papers about him, and he appeared in Time for Kids.  Before he died, he published 2 papers in scientific journals.  He LOVED rocks and dinosaurs.  He told me that when he saw the opening scene in Jurassic Park where Ellie & Dr. Grant see the park for the first time, he cried because it was so beautiful.

His name was Sam Girouard, and 16 years ago this month, he got his hands on a gun and he ended his own life.

Sam contacted me the week before he killed himself.  We hadn't talked in months.  We were supposed to meet for coffee, but his car broke down.  I didn't know that he was meeting me to make peace and say goodbye.

His name was Sam Girouard, and I cried at his funeral.

I sat with his family, and friends, and all the girls he'd charmed, and heard people talk about how Sam made us laugh.  His geology professor from WWU held up a piece of meteorite and talked about how they travel so fast through the atmosphere, burning really bright, and how we are lucky if we get to see their beauty.  He said that's how Sam was.  People talked about how he gave away every fossil he ever collected, how he was so proud of his parents, and how he talked to the neighbor's children about fossils whenever they asked.

His name was Sam Girouard, and I named my oldest son partly in his memory.

I don't think about Sam every day anymore, but I think about him often.  After he died, I corresponded with his parents for a while, and still am in touch with them every so often.  Even now, 16 years later, I am crying thinking about what a terrible loss the world suffered when we lost this boy.  I still miss him.  It hurts so badly to think about what his life could have been.  In the grand scheme of things, in my life, I spent so little time with Sam.  But he touched my life.  I don't have many regrets in life, but I regret that I never got to tell Sam that he changed my life, and that I loved him.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.  Most of us have been touched in some way by suicide.  Yesterday I watched on Facebook as many of the bloggers I have followed for years experienced the loss of one of their friends, for some of them, their best friend.

I have been to dark places in my life.  In the last several years, I have faced depression that was so physically painful at times that I felt like my chest was breaking apart.  And in all of that time, I have never considered ending my life.  Imagining the amount of pain that people must be feeling when they see killing themselves as their best or only option takes my breath away.

Suicide is not a selfish act.  If you have thought about killing yourself, you are not a selfish person. If you are feeling like hurting yourself, or like the world would be better off without you, please try to find the strength to reach out.  I know it's hard.  I know that it's one of the hardest things you will probably ever do.  I hope you are able to find the strength to take that step.

I may not know you, but I can tell you that if you go, there are people here who will miss you.  There are people who will grieve, and wish for more time with you.  There are people who want to help - friends, and strangers.    You are valuable, and you matter.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
1-800-273-8255

Washington State Youth Suicide Hotlines

Washington Suicide Hotlines

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this Rachel. My wife and I lived a couple doors down from Sam and his parents when he died. What a loss that was and is still. We were just remembering him and remembering Sam and Paula and I searched for his name and found your writing. Tom Bromet.

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