Be Like a Phoenix

by W. Joseph Stegner, Jr.

I repeat to you, what was told to me,
when I almost jumped from the Golden Gate.
“However gloomy the skies may be,
they will eventually clear, if you wait.

“If you jump, it will be permanent.
There is no taking it back.
When the skies clear, you’ll already be gone,
because, on the water you chose to smack.”

He did not tell me in rhyme,
but he told me with honest concern,
that things would get better, if only I’d wait,
through emotions that currently burn.

A Coast Guard Cutter had staged below,
to retrieve my body, should it occur.
Fortunately, through my tears,
my vision wasn’t a blur.

I thought of the damage to those involved,
who were only doing their jobs,
and that piece of their peace I would steal,
the way witnessing trauma violently robs.

I reflected on a patient I had,
when I was a 9-1-1 Paramedic,
when a woman who threatened to kill herself,
only needed someone empathetic.

As I looked out over the ocean,
toward lovely San Francisco,
I thought of how my soul would have felt,
if off that cliff she decided to go.

I didn’t want to do that to the officer,
who was truly trying his best,
and I didn’t want to wound his conscience,
that he failed such vital test.

I climbed back over the rail,
and surrendered to the cuffs,
so he could bring me to the hospital,
to get through what felt so rough.

That was over nine years ago,
and he was absolutely right.
I’ve known more joy, and sunny days
that could not have shined more bright.

Pain can be real, and stick real strong,
and swallow the soul in gloom,
enough to think some good will come,
if you surrender to such doom.

You are loved more than you even know,
by your family and friends,
and you will forever tear their hearts,
if your life so unfaithfully ends.

At the time of your pain, you might think that it’s good,
as the only way to be understood,
but you will be gone, forever unknown,
unable to stand up for what you know you should.

“You can accomplish more, living, than dead,”
that officer also told to me.
Since then, I’ve published thousands of pages of poetry,
which, had I jumped, would never be.

And woe, the trauma to my family,
who would have been chained to shame,
who forever would have had their joy stolen,
at every memory of my name.

The same would be true of you,
and you could never take it back.
If you chose to end your life,
other’s lives would forever crack.

Be strong, Beloved Child,
however whipping are the winds.
However heavy the weight on your shoulders,
love eventually wins.

The good of life is delicious,
and happiness can often be felt,
even if it seems that you’re stuck
to the awful hand you’ve been dealt.

Be like a Pheonix, and rise like a star!
Let the world know who you gloriously are!

Storms will batter your ship with high seas,
and waves may sweep over the deck,
but hold your grip, oh Champion,
to rejoice that you weathered the wreck.

Don’t give up, and don’t give in,
to the lie that you’re better off dead.
You were born to bring goodness and light to this world,
don’t let your doubt be what wins, instead.

The skies will clear
Be brave, strong, and patient.
W. Joseph Stegner, Jr.
September 28, 2014

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

4 thoughts on “Be Like a Phoenix”

  1. Joseph,
    I could have written a similar poem. I too was talked off a bridge catwalk over the Mississippi river. Officers and paramedics are truly life savers daily. Staying in the hospital and accepting treatment was key. The skies do clear and life can be beautiful! Thanks for sharing your inspirational poem.

    1. Wow Suzie. So thankful you are here. In February, I talked someone off a bridge with texting because that’s how she reached out to me. I ultimately called her and she is safe today. My ASIST training was instrumental and I’m so thankful I could put it to use.

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