ONE YEAR AGO...
It was just past midnight when I got the worst phone call of my life. My wife had already gone upstairs to bed. I was hanging out downstairs by myself, channel surfing the TV, when my phone rang. It was my friend, Pat Hemenway. I don't really remember much of anything from the phone conversation other than the words, "Connor's dead." A chill ran through my entire body. I went numb. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Connor stepped in front of an oncoming train and committed suicide? I remember thinking to myself, "This can't be real. This isn't happening." I got off of the phone with Pat and just sat there, on the couch, in a state of disbelief. My mind was a screaming blur of thoughts and questions, but I couldn't speak.
|Jason Roach (Australia), Steve "Action" Jackson (New Jersey), Ray Collins (Australia), and Connor. Early morning fire on the beach, waiting for the sunrise in Mexico. Cabo Freak Fest 2010. Photo: Brian Wong|
I walked up the stairs to the bedroom. Standing at the side of the bed, looking down at my wife sleeping, I couldn't bring myself to wake her up. For a moment, I felt paralyzed by the idea of telling her what I needed to. In my head, the idea, "This isn't real if I don't say it," was making it harder to say the words. What was a few seconds felt like an eternity, the weight of reality growing ever heavier. Finally, I collapsed to my knees and broke down into tears. My wife woke up, startled by the sight and sound of her sobbing husband, and asked what was wrong. "Connor's dead." Speaking those words completely leveled me. I have never, in my entire life, felt so heartbroken as I did in that moment.
|Connor's first surf trip, Cabo Freak Fest 2010. Cruising the pacific side of Mex for waves.|
I wish you had stuck around, kid. You were only 15. You had so much life left to live. You left so much potential unrealized. There are so many grand adventures and epic bodyboarding sessions that you were going to experience...and I was looking forward to being right there with you. You left so many friends and family to deal with the pain, anger, and sadness of your loss. I know you had a lot to deal with in your life, but suicide was not the answer. You had so many people in your life that you could have turned to for help. The last time I spoke with you, you were so stoked about getting out in the water for the next swell so that we could hit up a bodyboarding session and you could try out your new board. I never would have imagined that our last session together would be me and your dad paddling your ashes out to the line-up at your home break.
|Connor's memorial paddle-out in New Jersey, February 2012. South End Beach in Spring Lake. Photo: Chris Zeh.|