I hate when the phone rings after 11 pm. I know it’s either a wrong number or bad news.
When Linda picked up at midnight last week, it was clear this wasn’t a wrong number.
“Oh no, Steve..oh, no…” and she hands the phone to me. That’s when I first learned from my longtime Keloland colleague and friend, Steve Hemmingsen, that he had suffered the most personal devastating loss any parent can experience; the death of a child.
In this case, his only son and namesake, Stevie, who, at the age of 36, suffering from secretive but severe bouts of depression, took his own life.
At his memorial service on Sunday, hundreds of family members and friends turned out to show their support and sympathy for Steve, Betty and Stevie’s sister Lois…knowing full well that is all we can do. There is nothing anyone can say to ease the agony at such a time although the words of Monsignor James Doyle and Fr. Chuck Cimpl, along with the beautiful singing of Shawn Cable, were reassuring and helped express the sorrow and compassion we all feel for the family.
At the close of the service, Steve rose to offer a beautifully crafted eulogy to his son who not only shared his name but other characteristics..both physical and mental. In Steve’s words, “He was me.” In a voice as steady as possible under the circumstances, Steve talked about all the good times; the things that Stevie loved..and the family and friends who loved and thought the world of Stevie. But he also shared how no one was aware of the extent to which the demons of depression had crept into his son’s psyche. He masked them well. In a note Stevie left behind, he said no one is to blame for this; he only wanted peace. I pray that he has found that peace and, just as importantly, that those left to mourn will receive an outpouring of compassion and friendship from all of you who follow our writings here as we can only imagine what the Hemmingsen family is now going through.
P.S. this is Steve’s e-mail address: Anchor1@itctel.com