Slice of Life

Caring, kindness ease shock of grief

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneOctober 15, 2012 

Deep sadness can produce such sweet goodness and caring, at least in Cambria. I got a call recently from a gentle woman with deep concern in her voice. I’ll call her Addie, to protect her privacy.

She wanted to know if I’d heard about a suicide that had happened in this area, in a vehicle the day before, and if so, what I knew about it and why it hadn’t been widely reported.

I explained that responsible journalists consider most suicides to be personal, private deaths, unless it involves a high profile person or happened in a very public place.

Addie seemed to understand, and I thought our conversation was winding down until she said, very softly, “I found her.”

Everything stopped — my voice, my breath, even my heart, I think — as I continued listening.
Addie explained where, how and why she’d noticed the woman wasn’t moving at all. (I won’t detail any more, out of respect for the victim’s memory and family.)

Officers confirmed to Addie that the victim had committed suicide. “How terribly tragic and traumatic,” I said. “I’m so, so sorry you had to go through that.”

“No, no,” she said. “I’ve got resources and a lot of support. And I’m going to talk to a therapist today to help me through it. But my god, I can’t help thinking about what went so totally wrong for her, what was so bad” that suicide was the only option.

I’m grateful Addie is wise enough to get help. This could haunt her for the rest of her life. At the very least, she’ll never again feel the same about that location.

I know. I’ve covered sudden-death stories, about victims of drowning, shootings, auto accidents, fires. Each one still lurks in my nightmares and my memory.

And yes, suicides. Like a murder-suicide in January 2009, in which a woman took her 8-year-old daughter into the ocean. Both died and their bodies washed up in the surf at a popular state park.
Every time I drive past that spot, I think of them. And I’m sad, all over again.

All this flashed through my mind as I listened to Addie explain that, despite what she’d been through, her main concern was for the family. “My heart is breaking for them,” she said. “I just want them to know that someone cares, that we’re here for them if they need help.”

I smiled, thinking that here, after the horror of finding the suicide victim, sweet Addie was worried about and wanting to help other people.

That’s so Cambria.

This is a hugely caring community, especially when bad things happen to good people. North Coast residents band together to offer help and comfort to those who need it most.

When a tragedy strikes, we all want to help. Sometimes we can, sometimes we cannot.
Very often, the recipients are the ones left behind, and all we can do is make sure they know that people care about them.

Sometimes the result is a huge, communitywide effort. Other times, it’s a smaller fundraiser sponsored by Sons of the American Legion or another group, business or individual.

For instance, Bonifacio (Boni) and Lupita Viveros and their family held a benefit barbecue Friday, Oct. 12, to help Joselin Avilez and her family.

On Oct. 3, Boni told us that Avilez, a 25-year-old longtime Cambria resident and Coast Union High School graduate, was in the final stages of brain cancer.

The next day, Avilez died. But the Viveros family held the benefit about a week later anyway and, with donations of ingredients and supplies from generous local businesses, Boni’s sold 562 barbecued chicken meals in less than five hours, raising $9,401.20 to help cover final expenses for the young wife and mother of four children — a woman most of the diners had never known.

Such caring can make a huge difference. I know, having had a few tragedies in my life. The mere fact that so many people wanted so desperately to help us afterward was such a balm and a comfort.

So, thank you Addie, for reminding us how much people in Cambria care about each other. Such selfless love is a true treasure of living here.

Email Kathe Tanner at Read more “Slices” at

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