Two Hundred & Twenty Feet

San Francisco, 1988. The Golden Gate Bridge. It was the middle of the night, a fog swept in from the north and made everything look like a Bogart movie.

Rick was going to jump. He was really going to do it this time. He’d left a note to his wife which read: “…I wish I’d been stronger.”

He stepped toward the ledge and gazed downward. He began to weep. His tears fell several hundred feet into the San Francisco Bay like morbid raindrops.

“If you don’t want me to do this, God,” he shouted to the sky, “then stop me!”

But God, apparently, was taking the Fifth.

The first thing you should know about the Golden Gate Bridge is that it’s not just a bridge. It is an architectural masterstroke.

When the bridge was completed in 1937 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. There was a weeklong party to christen it. Al Jolson sang a few tunes, the sky was lit with fireworks, and 200,000 walked across the bridge in one day. The party got so wild that, 85 years later, people still have hangovers.

America went bananas for the Golden Gate. They’re still wild about it. The bridge is the most photographed structure in the world, surpassing the Great Wall of China, the Sphinx, and Dollywood.

Clocking in at 1.7 miles long, 90 feet wide, and 220 feet above the water, with 80,000 miles of wire passing over the vertical towers, the bridge is nothing short of a human monument.

I have walked the Golden Gate. You get vertigo up there. Big time. The first thing you realize when you’re on the bridge is that the thing never quits rocking. Over 100,000 cars cross the Golden Gate each day thereby turning the bridge into a giant vomit-inducing Disneyland ride.

The bridge is also the number one suicide site in the world. There is no way to know how many have jumped since ‘37, but some estimate the number to be around 2,000.

People travel to the the Golden City from all over the globe just to kill themselves. This is why signs promoting crisis centers plaster the bridge like graffiti, and phone boxes connected to suicide hotlines are mounted at various intervals.

A few years ago, the city began the installation of a steel net beneath the bridge to deter suicides, but it’s not finished yet.

Still, if a guy wants to jump, ultimately, he jumps. And it happens all the time. Often, jumpers take buses or cabs to the bridge. Other times, police officers find abandoned rental cars in the parking lot.

Which brings us back to Rick.

He closed his eyes. Now his toes were dangling off the iron. Another gust blew. He waited.

Still nothing from God.

It’s easy for people to shake their heads in disbelief when they hear of suicide. It’s easy for critics to talk about how nonsensical suicide is, how stupid, how selfish. I’ve heard these critics all my life, ever since my father removed himself from this earth.

There was this erroneous idea surrounding my father’s self-engineered death that maybe if he would have only tried a little harder, or talked to a shrink, or taken pills, or prayed more fervently, that he wouldn’t have done something so stupid.

And perhaps these things would have helped. But the underlying message was: His death was his own fault.

My only answer to these people is this: The chemical sadness in a human brain that induces thoughts of suicide is no different than cancer or lymphoma.

Rick scooted closer to the edge. He began to sob.

Then he was interrupted.

“Hello?” came the voice. “Sir? Hello?”

Rick turned to see an old woman standing behind the guardrail. She was grandmotherly, wearing a scuffed coat and a stocking cap.

She smiled at him.

“Hi,” she said.

Rick looked around. “Hi,” he said in the the kind of phony, happy-go-lucky tone you might use at, say, a PTA meeting.

“Why don’t you come away from there,” she said.

Rick looked at the bay. “I’m sorry, but this is none of your business, lady.”

The woman, however, wasn’t leaving. She spoke to Rick in her mom voice. “I said, why don’t you come away from there.”

She was a one-phrase woman. The lady used these words over and again for nearly half an hour until she went hoarse.

Finally, Rick did as she said. He struggled to crawl over the guardrail onto the bridge. Headlights shot past him in the darkness. And when his feet hit the pavement, he was weeping so hard he almost passed out. He went to thank the woman, but she was not there. So Rick jogged the length of the Golden Gate, from one end to the other, looking for the Samaritan. But he never found her.

There are many who believe there is no God. Even more believe that, even if there is one, he probably doesn’t care about you personally. All I can say to this is:



  1. Bonnie Hirschler - February 22, 2022 7:06 am

    It is so nice that at 2 in the morning I can read your column and smile. Thank you for reminding us all that God is there and that God cares.

  2. Rhonda - February 22, 2022 8:38 am

    God is master and maker of ALL molecules.
    He arranges them or rearranges them to whatever he needs them to be. I am absolutely convinced of it. So I am sure she was ” made for the moment “..
    Praise God from whom all blessings flow

  3. Leigh Amiot - February 22, 2022 9:21 am

    God heard Rick’s prayer and answered in the form of an angel. Thank the Lord Rick found a reason to “come away from there.”

  4. oldlibrariansshelf - February 22, 2022 9:56 am

    A grandmother friend of mine awoke at 2:00 one morning with her grandson on her heart. She would have texted him if she had known how. Later that Saturday morning his mother found he had taken his own life. Thoughts of suicide silently permeate the depressed mind and many people nearby never comprehend. Thank you for today’s column. Thank you for ALL your writing!

  5. Ed (Bear) - February 22, 2022 9:57 am

    I have bipolar disorder. I’ve had plenty of thoughts about suicide, but when it gets right down to it I chicken out. I go on. I reckon that I would rather deal with wanting to die than actually die. Maybe I’m just fortunate to not be sick enough to die from suicide. Lots of people die from mental illness.

    Suicide is the mental equivalent of a terminal physical disease. It’s not a willful act to “commit” suicide. “Commit suicide” is a misnomer because it indicates that the victim was in control. The victim is not in control. The illness is in control. Suicide is the triumph of a disease just like a death from cancer. Only suicide is invisible making it impossible to physically diagnose and track.

    Victims of suicide include all the people surrounding someone who has a suicidal illness. Maybe my older brother’s death from suicide has helped me fight mine.

    • Gramma B - February 23, 2022 6:16 am

      So sorry this has touched your life – just reaching out and sending a hug. You are loved.

    • Kathy - February 28, 2022 2:49 pm

      God Bless and keep you strong ❤

    • Susie - February 28, 2022 3:30 pm

      Ed, years ago , I was where you you are. My mom stepped in and got me help. Then, years later, I was to that point, and it dawned on me I could NEVER do that to those who loved me. The difference I saw between the first and second times I was on the brink was on the brink was I was only thinking of myself and no one else around me, I was selfish, back then. The second time, I was more mature and saw what it would do to those who loved me…..and I simply could not do that to them. So, I guess, learning and maturity got me thru the second time. I’m past it all now. My thoughts are with you, so do reach out for help. Embracing you in my thoughts, Ed.

  6. Ann - February 22, 2022 11:04 am

    Amen!…..this is truly so full of feeling and faith and hope and great despair. Always ,thank you for your words from the heart. Your pain and healing gives insight to many. Blessings!

  7. Paul McCutchen - February 22, 2022 12:47 pm

    Amen brother Amen

  8. Russell Bush - February 22, 2022 1:34 pm


  9. Keloth Anne - February 22, 2022 1:39 pm

    Thank you for taking time to write about mental illness, depression and suicide. So misunderstood and and gets cripples so many—-often they suffer in silence and one day they lose to depression—-truly a terminal illness. Your heart wrenching words touch so many and you are so loved and so appreciated ♥️♥️♥️

  10. patp - February 22, 2022 2:20 pm

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  11. Karen Erwin-Brown - February 22, 2022 2:21 pm


  12. Jacki Knight - February 22, 2022 2:22 pm

    Thank you Sean, for a wonderful reminder of God’s grace….and his angels.

  13. Jan - February 22, 2022 2:39 pm

    Amen. God loves Rick. He loves you, Sean. He loves us each and every one. Thank you for the reminder!

  14. mim - February 22, 2022 2:40 pm

    Thanks for digging into the hard subjects. They’re important.

  15. cflowers - February 22, 2022 2:59 pm

    Oh my goodness…Remember the story about the guy who was about to die in a flood that had a helicopter, a boat, etc arrive to give him the opportunity to be saved, all the while he was turning them away shouting that God would save him? I firmly believe that God comes to us in various forms to “save” us…we just need to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. I lost a teenage grandson in December…we don’t know if it was an intentional or unintentional overdose. I know he was not in a good place and fully know that if he took his own life, it was not something that he would have done if he was mentally/emotionally “well”…I am so sorry about your Dad.

  16. Cathy M - February 22, 2022 3:06 pm

    There are so many desperate people in the world who feel like Rick. They are truly sick and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wish there was an angel to save each of them bc the rippling effects of their death haunts their loved ones forever. God bless everyone of his children who suffer from depression and mental illness. It not only wrecks the one who is suffering but takes down entire families. My personal experience was with my mother who was bi polar. All these yrs. later, I will have to say that dealing with it made me a more compassionate person than I would have been before. It also made me very grateful for my own good mental health and my adult children who escaped it. Don’t judge anyone unless you have had a first hand experience with mental illness. It is hell on earth for all involved and money can’t fix it. God bless all🙏🏻

  17. Shelton A. - February 22, 2022 3:06 pm

    Thanks be to God for Rick. God acts for us when there is nowhere else to turn. I know. Rick’s fear and pain are very real to me, though now only a memory. But it’s one that cannot be forgotten. Thanks for sharing Rick’s story. I hope it helps someone who needs to read it and have faith that God is there for them. Blessings and peace, Sean.

  18. Stacey Wallace - February 22, 2022 3:10 pm

    You are 100 percent right, Sean. God is DEFINITELY real, and He loves us all. Also, His timing is always r”perfect.That’s why he sent His angel to help Rick at precisely that time. Love to you and Jamie.

  19. Shelton A. - February 22, 2022 3:13 pm

    God acts for us when we desperately call on him for help. Mental illness, bi-polar disease, depression are very real and truly frightening. Thank you, Lord.

  20. Cynthia Russell - February 22, 2022 3:53 pm


  21. Sue Adams - February 22, 2022 3:56 pm

    Well said!!

  22. Pat - February 22, 2022 4:52 pm

    Thsnks for helping people know that God hears all of us. Whenever we talk to God, he hears us individually. He always answers us.
    You writing this story is God speaking to us all thru you!.
    Thanks for passing on his love and hope yo us

  23. Patricia Gibson - February 22, 2022 5:24 pm

    You are so right Sean! God was on that bridge ❤️

  24. Nancy - February 22, 2022 7:05 pm


  25. Linda Moon - February 22, 2022 7:30 pm

    Wow. You’ve walked the Golden Gate. My hat’s off to you. Yes…if a guy or girl wants to end their life, wherever they choose to do it, he or she will. I hope you’re not still listening to critics about your father’s suicide, Sean. I’m angry right now after reading their erroneous ideas. I have lots of natural feel-good chemicals that bring me laughter, even when I’ve battled cancers. That best medicine didn’t make them go away, but it made it easier for me to get through it. God, I believe in the Samaritan and in the Great Physician. And I believe in the wisdom and gifts of John Dietrich’s boy. Thank you for your son, Mr. Dietrich.

  26. Lydia - February 22, 2022 9:34 pm

    Great one,Sean!

  27. Pinny Bugaeff - February 22, 2022 10:26 pm

    God darn right! Love your daily writes.. I am a closet writer..everyday .you give me hope, XXX

  28. Karen Holderman - February 22, 2022 10:44 pm

    God’s angles are everywhere.

  29. MAM - February 22, 2022 10:54 pm

    AMEN! God IS with us. We just have to recognize that He is with us!

  30. Olivia Grizzle - February 22, 2022 11:22 pm

    I know without a doubt there is a God. I have never doubted this. He lives in my heart, and I believe in angels. He cares about us all so much that he sent his only son to die for our sins so that we might have eternal life in heaven with him. I am thankful this man didn’t jump, and I hope he is doing better now. We all have a purpose in this life.

  31. Susie - February 23, 2022 12:22 am

    In hard times, I’m almost envious of those who be
    I eve in god, as some find comfort in that. I have my doubts, tho. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt is first cousin to faith. The opposite of faith is certainty. That I do not have; it simply cannot be proven,,either way. But that’s ok for me.

  32. Susie - February 23, 2022 12:26 am

    And furthermore, if I did believe in angels, they would most likely come in the form of end-of-life Hospice nurses. Amen to THAT one!

  33. Kathy - February 23, 2022 3:32 pm

    I believe God sends us angels often urging us to “ Come Away From There” …
    There are times in my life that I wish I had listened ..

  34. Susan - February 24, 2022 1:14 am

    Oh God was there with him the whole time…. Never left him. God indeed spoke through someone kind and compassionate that night in that simple repeated sentence…
    And you are so right, that kind of sadness and despair inside someone’s mind IS no different than any other illness, and equally frightening.

  35. Marcia Enquist - February 25, 2022 7:52 pm


  36. Ken M. - February 26, 2022 11:32 pm

    Bull, indeed. God shows up when we
    most need him, and usually not how we expect. Praise God for that angel He sent for Rick.

  37. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - February 27, 2022 12:17 am


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