“By the way,” I said to the young intern who had got us across from Rayburn to the Hart Senate office building. “Have you been touched by suicide?”
“Not personally,” she said, tilting her head to one side. “But my college room-mate’s best friend, committed suicide. I remember how traumatized she was.”
I nodded as we walked out of the elevator.
“Here you are,” she said outside Senator Schumer’s office.
“Thank you so much, for getting us here in half the time. Good luck with your internship.”
“Oh, just one thing,” I said, as she turned to walk back to the elevators. “We don’t say committed suicide, we say: died by suicide.”
“Why? Oh yes, I see..”
“Take care,” I smiled, and with Elizabeth walked into Schumer’s office.
We gave our names at the desk, and explained that we were waiting for two of our colleagues to join us.
While Elizabeth and I had been meeting Representative Lowey, Jessica and Meredith, the other two members of the New York delegation, met with Representative Massa.
“How did it go?” Elizabeth and I asked them as soon as they joined us.
“Who resigned?” we asked.
“The Representative, why?”
“A sex scandal or something.”
“Bloody hell,” I burst out. “What about your meeting?” Just then, coughing and sneezing, Meghan Taira, Chuck Schumer’s Health Legislative Assistant, joined us.
“The Senator is on the floor and cannot join us,” she said, leading the way into a spacious conference room.
“I didn’t cancel the appointment because you were coming from New York, but I am not feeling well and I am going home after this.”
“Thank you for not canceling, we would have been very upset,” I said, and then took her through the figures, nationally, NY State and by category.
“I had no idea,” she said.
“I had no idea either before my son died,” I said, taking out Andrew’s photograph and explaining how he had died.
“Very handsome,” she said softly, handing the picture back to me.
“Drop dead gorgeous actually, six foot tall… you would have wanted to date him if you had met him.”
Everybody laughed and then I talked her through the Garret Lee Smith Memorial Act and how urgent the Senator’s support was.
“And the Senator’s signature is not on this,” I said pushing a copy of a letter to President Obama asking that the White House reverse its Condolence letter policy. The letter was signed by several of his colleagues, but not Schumer.
“How come I didn’t know about this?” Meghan muttered to herself reading the letter. “If he hasn’t signed it, is because he didn’t know about it,” she explained.
“He needs to contact Debbie Stabenow and join the effort. We are counting on him.”
We went on to talk about the Health Care bill and how essential it was that Mental Health Care be an integral part of health care. She agreed with us on the Senator’s behalf.
Elizabeth went over the rest of the talking points and after obtaining assurances of support, we left.
Luckily Sentor’s Gillibrand’s office, at the Russell Senate Office Building, was not far and we made our way there in less than ten minutes.
The Hart Senate Office building was a modern building, Elizabeth had found it cold, but Russell was elegant, with attractive architectural details, beautiful carved bronze (I think) bannisters, wide, well-lit corridors and attractive offices.
Elizabeth and I wondered if as well as her Senate seat, Gillibrand had inherited Hillary’s office, when we walked in though, we realized that she hadn’t. Hillary’s, which we had visited seven years earlier with our SIDS hat on, was larger and brighter.
Again, we announced ourselves, gave our names and took a seat on the comfortable sofa and armchairs in the front office.
We didn’t have long to wait though. We’d hardly made ourselves comfortable, when Senator Gillibrand’s Health Legislative Assistant, Deidra Bennett, came out to meet us.
“Esmeralda Williamson-Noble,” I said standing up to shake hands.
“Oh yes, we exchanged emails,” she said smiling warmly as she lead us into an adjacent room.
“My name is Jessica Evangelista, my cousin died of suicide on February 7, 2009.”
“Meredith Jenning, I lost three friends to suicide, one of them was in the military.”
Elizabeth Obih-Frank. Andrew, Esmeralda’s son, was the son I never had, and I am here to support her in this great and important cause.”
“How long do we have?” I asked once the introductions were over.
“Oh… twenty minutes,” she said looking at her watch.
“By the way,” I asked. “Do you have any experience about Suicide?” She nodded, however, I will not share here what was said afterwards.
This time Jessica and Meredith made the presentation, they were impressive and obtained assurances of support. We found Deidra very conscious of the plight of military personnel and their families. She herself mentioned the stress that our military are under and that they need support integrating back when they come home.
“By the way,” I said suddenly. “As well as everything that’s in that folder,” I said pointing to the blue packet we had given her. “I have my very own agenda. I believe that practicing Yoga and Meditation are the long term answer to not only health care, but also Peace, Prosperity and Happiness.” There, I said it, and immediately felt like closing my eyes so that I wouldn’t see the strange looks directed at me.
But no….. my friend Deidra (I feel as though she is my friend) immediately jumped on board and we went on to have an excited conversation, all four of us, about the benefits of those Eastern practices.
“Look,” I said. “You get a bunch of your colleagues together, and I’ll come back with a certified Meditation teacher and we’ll teach them meditation (Deidra practices it already).”
All our meetings had been great, they couldn’t have gone better, but this last one left me feeling warm and fuzzy.
When we finally had to say good-bye to Deidra, I felt sad. We hugged each tight and I gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Promise you’ll call when you come to New York,” I said, as we walked away.
“You kidding? Would I come to New York and not call you?” she called after me.