Live long enough, get to know enough people, and eventually suicide will touch your life.
Maybe he’s just a friend of a friend.
Maybe it’s someone you knew in high school.
Maybe it’s someone closer.
Maybe it’s someone much closer.
On Friday, the Rays paid tribute to someone almost no one in the audience had ever heard of.
Jean Ramirez committed suicide last January. He was 28 years old.
A 28th-round pick by the Rays in the 2016 draft, Ramirez’s career ended early. He didn’t even reach the Charlotte Stone Crabs until his playing days were over in 2019.
He remained with the organization, however, as a bullpen catcher. In this small way, he was able to make every baseball player’s dream come true when the Rays reached the World Series in 2020.
In this way he was loved. Friday, we remembered him. The Rays’ starters all wore his number 98, and a banner bearing his initials was unfurled near the bullpen. His parents, Toni and Carlos, watched Wednesday’s game from behind home plate.
In the case of Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe, Ramirez was part of the family.
“I feel like it’s a cliché at this point but, like, it’s the family we have here; it’s really like that,” he said, adding that whether a 21-year-old everyday player like Wander Franco or someone behind the scenes like communications director Karly Fisher, “everyone is family and losing a family member like that, in such a way close and partial to myself, it really stung me a bit.
In 2019, Lowe and his wife, Madison, started Home Runs for Hope, a charity that donates money to the Tampa Bay Crisis Center with every home run it hits. They are strong advocates for mental health awareness.
In his first at bat on Wednesday, wearing custom painted shoes created for him by Ramirez last fall, Lowe threw a grand slam, which launched the Rays on their way to a 9-4 win over Baltimore. .
“It was definitely a really awesome day for a performance like that and it really felt like we weren’t alone,” Lowe said. “It was pretty cool to be able to go out there, especially in front of his family, wearing the cleats he made. It was a really special day.
Ramirez was one of approximately 130 people who committed suicide that winter day. This statistic comes from the Centers for Disease Control. This is the average daily number for 2020, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
We all think we could be heroes if we met someone with suicidal thoughts. According to a study commissioned by the National Action Alliance and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 95% of Americans think they would do something if someone close to them was considering suicide.
In fact, 30% fear it will make a suicidal person’s state of mind worse, 24% fear that talking about it will increase the likelihood of a suicidal act, and 22% don’t know what they would say. or would.
And that’s if we really know that someone is considering suicide. So many victims never openly display the signs, or only become aware of them after the fact.
On Friday, as the Rays paid their respects to a deceased family member, my best friend Tim was in a cabin 2,300 miles away, packing keepsakes into boxes and trying not to look out the window at the beautiful scenery of the southwestern Utah.
Tim and Adrienne’s son, Jordan, was a red-haired delight who sported his father’s impish smile and most certainly could carry a better melody than him. While he was his own person, he certainly had his dad’s ability to make people smile.
In high school, he was a member of the marching band, jazz band, band, and orchestra. He was a member of Peer Helpers, a program that helped students who were experiencing emotional, social, or academic difficulties.
Jordan also participated in the Every 15 Minutes program, which challenged high school students and seniors to think about alcohol, driving, personal safety, the responsibility of making informed decisions, and the impact of their decisions on family, friends, their community and many others. others.
After high school, he joined the Marines and was a Private First Class in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. He planned to go to college.
Jordan committed suicide on July 25, 2015 while sitting on the bank of the river that flowed behind his family’s cabin.
This morning, before going to the ball field, I was thinking about the Ramirez ceremony and I was overwhelmed with emotion. His power struck like a thunderbolt. Ramirez’s celebration of life had me spinning in circles remembering Jordan’s death. I contacted Tim, who was quick to tell me that such emotional triggers are common to anyone who has lost someone to suicide.
I asked Tim how he’s coping, more than six years after Jordan’s death:
“Well, of course, that changed over time. And in the first years after his death, there were all kinds of things that could trigger sadness.
“There was one day in a sandwich shop when this little red-haired boy, probably three years old, walked in and it just reminded me of Jordan and I absolutely fell for it. Of course Jordan died when he was 20 and hadn’t looked like that in a while, but I think that was partly because it was a representation of him when he was young and probably didn’t have the pain that he was going through at the end of his life which led him to commit suicide.
“But there are all sorts of other things that would also bring joy. I remember his mischievous sense of humor and all sorts of situations that always make me smile. He also wrote songs and played guitar, but it took me five years to be able to listen to any of his music without completely losing it.
“I know I can finally listen and watch his musical performances and feel great joy because I can see what the music has done for him. We honestly think that his songwriting and his guitar probably allowed us to have him with us longer than we would have because we later found out after his death that he had been having suicidal thoughts ever since. middle School.
“One thing we discovered while attending a support group for survivors of suicide loss is that everyone’s grieving process is different. These triggers, both of sadness and comfort, are unique to each person’s relationship with the one they have lost.
“As we have now become facilitators for the same support group to help others move forward – or backwards – after experiencing the same kind of loss as us, this is the best way to keep his memory alive and l ‘to honour.
“It gives meaning to his loss. He was always someone who wanted to help people, and what better way to honor his memory than to help others left behind by someone who committed suicide.
A million years ago, Tim’s dad took us to this cabin to fish and be guys. If you’ve never been to Southwestern Utah, there’s no place like this. Clear waters, pencil-scribbled mountains, and all the colors of wildflowers wherever the painted desert gave way.
For Tim, those colors have faded.
“Dad sold the house and we are moving. It’s a mixed bag for me, because we had so many great memories with him – with Jordan – here. But we haven’t been able to ride here pretty much since he died because it wasn’t a place to relax for us anymore.
“It was a place where we could vacation and get away from things, but it became a place that just had that weight – because we understand how much pain he was in at that time before making that choice. .
“And that’s just where I lost my boy, so we stopped coming here.
“It’s a trigger that we’ve never overcome. Even now, as we load boxes into trailers, this riverside location – which offers great views of the mountains and water – looms like an endless dark cloud. It won’t go away.
This celebration of Jean Ramirez and my personal memory of Jordan are two sides of the same coin. Suicide is as much a part of who we are as anything else. Overcoming the fear of doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing is paramount. Our role is not so much to dissuade someone from acting dangerously as to empathize with their pain and simply be there for them.
Even then, that might not be enough. The person who commits suicide may never have hinted what was to come. It’s a sobering reminder that we all need to work harder to just be kind and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Speaking of shoes, Lowe has two pairs of custom painted cleats prepared for him by Ramirez. The ones he wore Wednesday were also on his feet last September when he recorded his first four-hit game.
“So there’s a special little mojo in the cleats, I guess,” Lowe said with a smile.
He’ll keep those cleats, but the other pair will be auctioned off in May as part of a Rays event for Mental Health Awareness Month.
“Love these cleats too. It’ll be hard to part with them, anything, but you know it’s for such good reason that I’ll be perfectly fine parting with them,” he said. he said, “Mostly to be able to help his family or make a donation in Jean’s name.
“You know, I hope we can continue to work with his family, his mother and his father, to really amplify this, if you need help, if you’re not feeling well, go get help It’s OK not to be well Go get help It’s OK to do it.