This year, National Suicide Prevention Week begins on Sunday, September 8. This would have been my father’s 92nd birthday.
As many of you know, my father, Philip L. Stevens, M.D., died in his sleep on July 2, 2015. It had been a milestone day in which he had celebrated the 60th anniversary of providing medical care to generations of families in Tonganoxie, Kansas. On the day he died, he saw 15 patients in his office.
In his later years, Dad had suffered from severe bouts of vertigo. He called me one day and said he had been so miserable from the vertigo that he had contemplated suicide. “But I didn’t want your sons to have had both grandfathers die by suicide,” he said.
Thirty years ago this month, September 30, 1989, the paternal grandfather of my three sons died by suicide. Like my father, this beloved elderly grandfather suffered from age-related health issues. Newspapers in his hometown headlined his suicide. To help explain his death to my children, who were then ages 2, 7 and 10, I wrote “The Story of The Bear.” After reading the story to them, my 7-year-old son said, “That was a good story, but it’s too bad the bear had to die.” And then I told them the rest of the story … how their beloved grandfather had died.
Happy birthday today, Dad, and thank you, on behalf of everyone who knew and loved you, for choosing life.