I wake up with the sun and tears are still steadily leaking from the corners of my eyes. I have guilt over posting this, but I don’t want to deny the importance of a man I met and knew briefly. I’m still shocked and part of me hoped it’d be just… a dream.
In December, right after returning from my visit to my brother’s before the holidays, I “matched” with a guy on Tinder. His profile said he was 36, and an athlete. The pictures were of a handsome guy with intense eyes and a kind smile. Totally my type.
He erased our conversations on that app some time in the last couple of months (I suspect because he gave an interview in which he stated he wasn’t on Tinder) so I can’t even go back to it. I’m not sure why, but that makes me sad. Maybe because it’s one of the few traces of him in my life that I have left.
After chatting for a little bit with this very funny man on the app itself, I gave him my phone number. We texted for over a period of two weeks before I ever met him in person. I wasn’t aware then that it’d be the only time I’d get to interact with this handsome sweet guy face to face.
His name is Steve Holcomb. I went on one date with him and now he’s gone. He passed away yesterday.
I’ve written about him before and left out the details because he is an olympic gold medalist, and somewhat famous. I’ll tell you the story, but mostly because my heart hurts, and also because…I don’t want to forget.
When we first started talking I joked with him about his medals and how many hot dates he got. He made light of it, and I think because he was so reserved and private, that he didn’t actually use his celebrity to get dates. I never asked. It wasn’t important. I in fact didn’t even give the medals or his “status” a second thought. It wouldn’t matter what he’d done if I met him and he was an ass. I’m just going to state it simply: Steven was nothing but gentlemanly and sweet to me.
*I may have said he was an ass in my previous post, and in all fairness, since he ghosted me, that’s how I felt. I now think it’s likely, he just didn’t have it in him to continue long distance communication. I’ll never know the truth.*
Funny. He was so dry witted and funny. That smile….
But I digress…
I met him on a Tuesday, I believe, for Sushi. The restaurant was a recommendation from a coworker and, funnily enough, he was slightly late. I had set reservations, and showed up early. I was more nervous than I’ve been in a while and it was all because… he drew me in. Something about him was, special. No, it wasn’t the “Olympic Gold Medalist” part. He exuded kindness, and understanding.
In my previous post I know I eliminated most of our conversation. It was “mine” was what I said. well, I think it might be important now. I say might because the cause of his death has yet to be announced. He was 37, and it’s anyone’s guess, but I think…because I’ve been there, I might have an idea.
During dinner, because I’m too honest for my own good, we talked about my struggles with depression. It’s a huge part of living authentically for me to not sugar coat for any of the men I date romantically how I’ve battled with the darkness in my own head. It’s part of me, and it’s not going anywhere no matter how much I work through it. I told him I’d gone through several bouts and that I had seen therapists. I also told him that I feel like sometimes depression becomes a bad habit. He said “Sometimes it feels good to feel bad.”
I didn’t “Google” his whole life. I didn’t try to find out as much as possible. This was a first date and I was going to roll with what he told me about himself. I later read his book and found out that he too had experience with demons in your head. At the time, I thought he was just a kind soul, with a great smile.
When we sat and chatted in the car at Sonic, he told me that most people aren’t the same person twice. You meet them or talk to them and then the next time they are someone totally different. I remember asking him why he felt that way, and he just said that everyone is putting on a show. I remember laughing and telling him that I didn’t really think that was worth our time and we were old enough to not play games. He just smiled.
We did make out on the driveway at his mother’s house before the night was over. other than that there wasn’t anything else that happened. I tried to see him once more before he left to go to Europe for the rest of the World Cup. There just wasn’t enough time. He was a busy guy. I got the links to all of the locations to follow his races online and we parted ways with simply “I’ll see you soon.”
I mentioned that everything I ever sent him was through SnapChat and I was deleted. I now wonder what the real reason was. There were photos, conversations, and personal things on that feed. I thought it was him just getting rid of me. Maybe, it was him protecting me.
I follow his social media. Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and of course had his phone number. We exchanged all of that information before we even met. I had joked with him that he could social media stalk me. It was a big joke but that was how we stayed connected, social media.
I watched his IG while he was away, and there were times I could feel that he was maybe fighting with some depression. One post in particular said something about seasonal disorder. I remember telling him that if he’d let me try to cheer him up I would. That he didn’t need to filter things with me. It’s all well and good to offer, but that person has to accept. He never acknowledged with me that he even needed help. Just that my pictures did cheer him up. I wish now I had all of those conversations saved, but sadly when the snapchat feed went so did those.
There is a feeling you get from someone that has battled depression if you’ve been there yourself. It’s an underlying tone of…. heaviness. They smile at you, but there is something just behind the eyes, something that begs for you to see them, for you to get it. When you’ve gone through the mental health battle yourself it’s not hard to recognize. I wish now I’d pushed a tiny bit harder to be there, and ask the right questions, but I was in my head about it. I was hurt.
I need to be really clear here that since I’m not close to the family, or any of his friends, or was anyone special to him, I may never know what happened at the end. No one will but his people, and only they can choose to let us into that world. He may very well have died from something natural. There are so many possibilities that it’s impossible to even assume I know. I just know what I feel in my gut is true, and what I gathered from him in the brief time that we had contact. My heart will find peace if it was just a freak health thing, and not what I fear- suicide.
When I lost contact with him the last thing we discussed was my struggle with a “funk” I was in. He was as always sweet to me, and said “tough times don’t last, tough people do.” That was the last thing I ever heard from the handsome man I’d hoped would come back and give me that second date.
I can’t even begin to tell you how I’ve felt since yesterday when a close friend sent me what had some across his sports news feed. I was unable to speak or leave work or do anything but cry. I didn’t know him as well as any of the teammates he had, or fellow competitors or the main people in his life, but I knew him well enough to know how special and wonderful he was and the loss hit me like I never would have expected.
The fact that I can’t even watch him in the next Olympics and know that he was doing what he loved the most in the world hurts as well. I never cared about that part in terms of dating him, but it was all part of who he was. He’d spent his life chasing his dream, and being successful at paving the way for others involved in the sport. It was his passion and you could tell when he talked about it. I just wonder at what cost it came to him.
I will remain glued to the news feed just like anyone who had ever met him and cares about how his life ended so abruptly. I will say, about a week ago his named popped up on my Snap viewers and I thought it was odd. When we had connected on social media he had two snap chat accounts. When he deleted me, it was only on one account and I thought the other one had been an oversight. Now, I’m not so sure.
I wish I had tried just ONE more text. Or that he had sent me a message. Something. Everything in the publicity about his death have an underlying tone of possible suicide. It makes me cry every time I think about it. I’ve been praying so hard since yesterday that God just wanted him up there with him, and it was peaceful, and not a finalization of a longtime battle with the voices in his head.
Pray for his family. I know he was close to his mother, and he had nieces, nephews, siblings, a grandparent that was still alive. I can only imagine what they are going through and will go through in a very public way very soon.
Steven, oh Steven…I really wish we could have talked just one more time. I really wish I could have seen your face in person again. I hope you’re at peace handsome. That the trip up to heaven was every bit as great as any trip you took down the ice in your sled.