Marine Corporal, Terry L. Bevins
Angela Olthoff, volunteer for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, (AFSP.org) in her own words…
I will never forget that day, a day that was suppose to be like any other Saturday while attending my grad school class. Nate was still away on a trip and it was just Rudy, my 7 lb. Shih Tzu and I lying in bed. The alarm began to buzz and I hit the snooze button as many times as I could before I knew I would be late for class. I finally hit the alarm one more time, and told the Little Man it was time for me to get up. Rudy looked so cozy which sent an urge of regret throughout my body. I too wished I could stay in bed and sleep the morning away!
With my heavy eyes still tired from the long week, I hurried to get ready so I could stop for my diet coke and still not be late. Oh, the little things in life…fountain drinks! Just as I was putting the final touches on my “weekend look” (sweats, sweatshirt, glasses and a touch of mascara) the home phone rang. “That’s odd. Who would call this early on a Saturday morning?” Everyone knows how I like to sleep in and would not dare call at this time! Maybe it was my husband, Nate, who was out of town calling to check in since he knew I would be in class all day.
As I grabbed the phone, I was surprised to see the caller ID display Casey Bevins. “That’s weird,” I thought. I did not even know Casey had my number. “Why would my cousin from Indiana be calling me this early?” Maybe good news. “Another baby?” I knew he would leave a message and I could check it later since I was already pushing my time limit for getting to class. The phone rang a second time. “Casey Bevins,” it read again. “Maybe the voicemail cut him off,” I thought. Again, because I was running late and I knew he could leave a message, I did not pick up.
Finally, the phone rang AGAIN! “Ok, this is NOT good!” I knew I needed to answer it. I picked up the phone and on the other line was a female voice saying, “Angela, I am so sorry to keep calling you this early, but we have a situation here.” Situation? I knew immediately that something was wrong and instantly thought of Whitney, my cousin who recently moved to Denver from Indiana. “Maybe they needed me to check on her.” For some reason, the word “situation” always stays in my mind from that day, but the words that followed are somewhat of a blur. As I paced back and forth, I can remember stopping in my tracks at the top of our stairs. The sunlight that shined from downstairs soon became darkness as I heard the words, “Terry is dead.” These words caused me to instantly freeze and my body flooded with emotions! “How?” I screamed. “Linda (his wife) found him dead this morning. He killed himself.” Immediately I fell to the ground, and a voice of fear and sadness took over. “NO! This can’t be happening,” I shouted. “I’m so sorry,” Sarah kept saying. “We have been trying to reach your mom and Aunt Kris but no one is answering. We did not know how else to get in touch with your mom.” I ran downstairs trying to put things into perspective. “Ok, let me call my mom on the other line.”
The next moment is something I replay over and over again. I wish I had waited to call my mom and instead told her in person that her brother was dead, but the rush of emotions stopped any type of reasoning I may have had. Never did I imagine that I would have to tell mom this horrific, life changing news. How do you tell someone that her brother killed himself, especially knowing that her dad had taken his own life 29 years earlier? My chest began to get heavy as the phone rang at her house. The cheerful voice on the other end said, “Hi there.” I froze. Words would not come out of my mouth. They got lost in the rush of tears and loud sobs! “Baby, sweet baby, what is wrong? I can’t understand you.” “It’s Terry,” the words finally rushed out. Sarah was still listening through the wireless towers connecting us miles and miles apart. “Mom, Terry killed himself.” I will never forget those words and the emotions! My mom was speechless and it was apparent that she too was in a fog of confusion.
As I drove to mom’s house, it began to sink in that my Uncle Terry was gone and I would never see him enter the room with his big smile and say, “Hey there, how’s it goin?” Could I just go back to the last time I saw him? Could I revisit the last lunch at Steak and Shake, when he took time out of his work day to meet mom, Grandma and me? Could I just return to that final goodbye and embrace his loving arms that much longer? Could I just go back and take in his laughter and his “Terryisms” one more time? Why did this have to happen? Why Terry? Why did you leave us on this day? A day that will leave an ache in my heart forever!
The events of that day, the days to follow, and the suicide of my Grandfather when I was only 3 years old, created a desire to share my family’s experience with suicide and help spread awareness. As a high school teacher, I was able to do this from time to time but it was not enough.
A few months after Terry’s death, I found out about the Out of Darkness Walk. My aunts and cousins participated in the walk in Indiana and encouraged my mom, brother and I to take part in the annual walk in Highlands Ranch, CO. So in 2012, the three of us participated and the experience placed a greater desire in my heart to get involved with this specific organization. It was powerful and it made me realize how many people (too many people) have been impacted by the loss of a loved one to suicide. The data shared that day was astonishing and the statistics were worse than I originally thought. “So what can I do?” That was the question that weighed heavy on my heart.
Due to my busy teaching schedule, my one year old daughter, and simply just letting my “busy” day-to-day life get the best of me, I put the idea of volunteering at the bottom of my list. Then my family, nine of us, participated in the Out of Darkness Walk this year. Again, it was a HUGE eye opener for all of us and I knew I could no longer ignore the nudge to get involved, especially since I had left teaching and no longer had that forum to share my experience and spread awareness with our youth. There was something missing from my life. The “Making a difference in the world I live in,” was missing. I used to tell my students on a regular basis, “Those who show up, make the world go round.” So it was time for me to “show up!”
So here I am today, a volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. My first volunteer event, International Day of Suicide Survivors, connected me with this site, StarSpangledBoomerang.com, which pushed me to think about Veterans and suicide. We have always said that the “Demons from Vietnam” were finally too great for my Uncle Terry to ignore. As a Marine, Corporal Terry L. Bevins, served one year in Vietnam and witnessed things that I could never imagine. We learned more of what he endured after his death since he never discussed it with us. A dear friend of Terry’s shared with his daughter some of the horrific experiences he witnessed while serving his country in Vietnam. My Grandfather, Corporal Harry L. Bevins, was an Army Veteran and I now wonder if his suicide was connected to what he lived through in World War II. A lot of “unknowns,” “why” and “If I had only done…!” go hand and hand with suicide.
My goal for myself and others is to learn more about the causes and effects of suicide, and raise awareness one action at a time! I am excited to see where my volunteer work will go and encourage others to get involved in something that is near and dear to their own heart. After all, “Those who show up, make the world go round!”
Angela and her family at the 2014, Out of Darkness Walk. Angela far left.
Army Corporal Harry L. Bevins, Jr.
Love and miss you Uncle Terry and Grandpa! Angela Olthoff. Associate Broker from Your Castle Services. (303)962-4272 ext. 399. yourcastle.org