Portland is a city of bridges, a beautiful city filled with bridges. It is divided east and west by the Willamette River, which runs straight through the middle. If you want to get to the west side, you have to cross a bridge and vice versa. It borders Washington state to the north and the border is the majestic Columbia river. If you want to get to Washington, you have to cross a bridge. Consequently there are bridges everywhere and several of them are quite stunning. I heard a presentation once where the speaker mentioned there are something like fourteen bridges in the Portland metropolitan area.
Don't ask me to recall them all, though. Even though I have lived here ten years this summer, coming up with the names of all fourteen would be a feat.
Up until this weekend, my favorite in Portland proper was the Fremont bridge which is really a highway bridge, in addition to one that crosses over the river. It soars over the city, connecting I5 with the 405. I have always loved driving over that bridge, though I rarely have the opportunity to do so.
However, there is a bridge which has always intrigued me by the name of the St. Johns Bridge. It is truly spectacular, crossing the Willamette at the north end of Portland and looks like one of those bridges which was probably built around the turn of the century.
Yesterday, we decided to head out to Sauvie Island. I had it in my head I wanted to can pickles this year and Sauvie Island is a community of farmers on a small island in the Willamette. If you want farm fresh produce without going all the way out to the Gorge, you head to Sauvie Island.
On the way there, you pass under the St. Johns Bridge. When I mentioned to Moose the fact that I had never actually crossed on that bridge, we decided to do so on the way back home. It was beautiful. I fell in love with that bridge the moment I drove over it. It sits up extraordinarily high, dizzingly high. I peered down below as we drove and thought to myself, "wow, it is a long, long way down to the river."
I kept thinking about how gorgeous that bridge is for the remainder of the day and decided I love it almost as much as I love The Bridge of the Gods out in the Gorge, and definitely more than I love the Fremont.
That is, until today.
This morning, I heard from a co-worker that a former co-worker of ours had passed away last Wednesday. I was stunned. She is close to me in age with a son between the ages of Rowan and Maximus. I recall when she was pregnant with him. We spoke a great deal during those months because I had recently had Max and was pregnant again with Rowan. To hear she had passed away was shocking.
Then I heard she had committed suicide.
Shortly thereafter, I heard how she took her life.
She jumped from a bridge. The St. Johns Bridge at 10:15am last Wednesday morning.
From the moment I heard this, I have been in a state difficult to describe. I didn't know her all that well and in fact, had barely seen her since she left work several years ago, now. But, I have been overwhelmed the entire day.
When I heard what had happened, my mind took me to a terrible place. A place where I see her jumping from the bridge over and over again. I can't tell you why I keep going to that place, but when left with enough free time in my thoughts I am there right again and then my thoughts go to her son, her terribly young son and her husband.
And I am filled with this sense of despair. How bad it has to be in order for a mother to contemplate leaving her pre-school ages child...
You see, I have been to the black darkness at times in my life. I have been down so deeply, I almost didn't think I could claw my way back out. But, I did. I always did and I did it in those times without any help. I did it on my own. I have never been down to that despair since I gave birth to my children. I left that tendency towards depression behind long ago.
Long, long ago....
In all those times, through all that darkness, I never once seriously considered taking my life. Every once in awhile I would have this vague fleeting thought, "If it got really bad, I guess I could do that..." But as we all know, that is not truly a suicidal thought. There is no planning involved.
My co-worker left for work that morning, called into work and said she was going to be late because she had missed the bus. She never showed up. At 1pm, her husband called to notify work what had happened.
And now she is gone and her child is motherless and I can't stop thinking about it.
I came home from my own work day and hugged all three of my children so very tightly and wondered how in the world someone could ever leave their child.