The Two Suicides That Changed My Life
How witnessing a shocking suicide on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge—and talking the dead man’s father through his grief—helped me understand my mother and the lifelong pain she has lived with.
Photo courtesy Pebble Photography
I hadn’t intended to drive across the bridge that puffy blue-sky Monday morning. It was an accident. I was visiting the East Bay for a weekend personal development workshop and planned to see a friend in Berkeley. I got on the freeway, humming along to a radio station and realized I was in the wrong lane, going towards the city. I took a deep breath and said to myself: I guess I’ll see San Francisco today.
Driving up the rise of the bridge after pulling out of the tollbooth, a car swerved in front of me to avoid the parked car to the right. I braked hard, thinking there had been an accident. Then, in what seemed like slow motion, I watched a man walk to the edge of the bridge, climb onto the railing, spread his arms wide as though they were wings and step forward. It didn’t occur to me that I was seeing the last seconds of a man’s life until I saw his head on the other side of the railing. He had walked off the Bay Bridge.
I panicked and tried to keep co…