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    For Anton

    Howard Stieremann (2)“Love has gathered us here today. We are here to celebrate the love that the couple has for each other, as well as the love that each of you has given them throughout their lives.” I recite those two lines at virtually every wedding I perform. I sometimes wonder whether they are too hokey, or perhaps too traditional. Nevertheless, the lines encompass a sentiment I believe: love is central to a marriage.

    Last month I had the opportunity to tell my closest friends and family that I loved them. Well, I actually created the opportunity, as we always have the ability to do this, but so many of us rarely state our feelings explicitly. The declaration was prompted by a friend’s unforeseen phone call.

    The subject line of the e-mail I sent to my loved ones was: “Sending love–warning, heavy email.” I then wrote: “I just got off the phone with my friend Eric, who shared with me that his partner, Anton, lost his life to suicide. Eric was blindsided. He remarked that life can be so fragile, and to share with those dearest to me that I love them. So please know that you are important in my life. I believe you know that, and I wanted to state it explicitly. Love, Howard”

    I composed that brief e-mail while sitting in a chair in the corner of my bedroom, numb from the shocking news. Reaching out to my loved ones allowed me to feel connected. Also, it resulted in wonderful responses from them. My family and friends’ support was the comfort I hadn’t realized I needed. Additionally, sending love, a small yet huge gesture, helped me to feel that at least some tiny good could come from the devastating experience of suicide.

    In preparation for Anton’s memorial, Eric wrote a poem, which he shared with me. I found it so moving that I asked for his permission to share it. He responded, “If your article can help one other person endure the loss of a loved one, I would be honored if you included the poem in your column.”

    In Memoria

    Lacerated by thorns of grief

    The tumbling sky laments a torrential howl

    WHY ‐ the night calls to itself

    Silence, echoes a bereft reply

    Why was the distance immeasurable?

    An ocean, unfathomable, that tenderness could not traverse

    How, must the play continue?

    The stage absent its leading man

    The curtain never to rise for a
    final act

    This land has reached its end

    Bavarian roots entwined by distant sea and sky

    Aggregates scattered, returned to their fount

    Coursing with fire, wind and water into ancient veins

    May you forgive my inability to unearth your deepest solitude

    and ever feel the love, forgiveness and gratitude for the time you have shared with us

    Though dwelling in the emptiness of your presence

    The joy and strength you shared, abides and comforts me

    You were my salvation through the vicissitudes and impermanence of life

    A steady companion, seeker of knowledge and consoling ally to one suffering poverty of body or spirit

    An engineer, an artist, accomplished photographer, a renaissance man

    Son, brother, uncle, friend, and partner

    Although you were much more than that

    You, were simply, my heart

    My bearski,

    Anton ‐

    In memory of Anton, please tell your loved ones that you love them.

    (Editor’s Note: People grieving from suicide, which is a very isolating form of grief, can find assistance at San Francisco Suicide Prevention:, the Friendship Line of the Institute on Aging:, and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center:

    Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit