ST. GEORGE — Desperate for answers on where her husband was, Brenda Legg made the grueling climb up the side of Webb Hill at about 3 a.m. on Memorial Day.
As she hiked along the rough gravel road, there was little light besides the bright glow of the city below. She was sleepless, anxious and alone, but she continued to trudge toward the blinking red lights of the radio towers at the top of the Webb Hill.
After walking for nearly a half mile, she reached a trail sign and gate that prohibited vehicles from continuing to the top of the hill. There was no other road, and the only way to drive around the gate was to go over large rocks and boulders.
“I had already searched four different places and spent hours,” she told St. George News. “It was dark, pitch dark still. The thought just came to me that if his car wasn’t here, and you couldn’t drive past here, then he must not be here.”
She sat on a boulder facing the twinkling lights of St. George and started crying. There was no one around, so she didn’t hold herself back in raising her voice.
“Mike!” she shouted, as loud as she could. “Mike, where are you?”
At that moment, she said she clearly heard a voice in her head. “I am right here really close to you,” the voice said.
When she heard the voice, Brenda’s heart sank and she started crying even more as she quickly walked back down the mountain to her car. There was no longer any doubt in her mind – Mike Legg was dead.
Several hours later, Brenda received a knock on her door at her home in Santa Clara. Officers from the St. George Police Department told her that her husband’s body had been found on the side of Webb Hill next to his car. He had driven his car off the peak of Webb Hill and died by suicide.
Love at first song
Brenda first met Mike Legg on an obscure dating website in October 2015, and 10 minutes after their first phone call, they met for their first date at Iceberg Drive Inn. After a two-hour conversation over an ice cream cone and a hamburger, they climbed to the top of the water tower on Red Hills Parkway and looked over the city together until midnight.
Mike joined Brenda at choir practice at her church the next day with a bouquet of flowers for her.
“I was immediately overwhelmed with this love exploding from my heart because of his voice,” Brenda said. “He didn’t have a professional voice; it was just sweet. … My heart was pounding and I could hardly focus on my own part because I was so touched.”
The rest of their time dating was bliss, Brenda said, and they choose to be married on top of the water tower where they had their first date.
“Every week in church, up to the week before he died, sitting next to him, we would bring each other to tears through singing the hymns together,” Brenda said. “We believed we connected through our songs.”
It was the second marriage for both. Mike was divorced, and Brenda’s previous husband of nearly 30 years had died from a failed surgery in 2010. Although it was difficult losing her first husband, Brenda said it was a relief in many ways because he was physically and emotionally abusive to her.
“(Mike) is the first person I have ever loved, ever. When I fell in love with Mike, I had never felt those feelings before. I felt peace and I felt cherished and I felt loved.”
Mike’s first suicide attempt was in 2010, two years before he divorced his first wife. It was a fit of rage, Brenda said, adding that the anger was still present when she met Mike.
“There were a couple of red flags before I married him that my mom noticed and my friends noticed,” she said. “They thought he was acting irrationally, but I just kind of shrugged it off as him being possessive because he wanted to be with me.”
Brenda and Mike had their first fight six months into their marriage. It escalated to yelling and ended with Brenda curled up in a ball on the floor crying. There were several other blowups, and they later discovered they both had borderline personality disorder, which can cause a person to have unstable moods and emotional instability.
Mike’s second suicide attempt was in November 2016. After an argument, Mike left Brenda and she didn’t hear from him for two days.
He had driven to an isolated road in St. George, where he tried to kill himself through carbon monoxide poisoning from his car. But the carbon monoxide made him so sick, he drove himself to the hospital, where he stayed for a week.
After Mike’s second suicide attempt, Brenda and Mike renewed their efforts to love each other and started therapy together. Between the occasional arguments and fights, they were able to find some peace again in their marriage for most of 2017.
“We learned that it didn’t matter how mad either one of us were, the best thing we could do was stop and go to the other person and just give them hugs and hold each other,” Brenda said. “That just helped remind us how much we loved each other and that whatever disagreement we were having didn’t actually matter that much.”
On the afternoon of May 25, angry over what Brenda said was “a whole bunch of little things,” Mike stormed into the house brandishing what looked like a pistol. Brenda later learned that it was only a pellet gun, but at time time it was real and frightening.
“He was yelling ‘I’m going to go shoot myself.’ I was looking at him, trying not to engage, but I didn’t know what to do. I was literally just standing there.”
Mike then called his mom and told her he was going to shoot himself. He got in his car and drove away before Brenda could stop him. After he was gone, she simply sent him a text that said “I love you. I always will.”
Despite multiple followup calls and texts asking him to call her back, she didn’t hear from Mike until 3:45 p.m., at which point he sent a group message to Brenda, his mother and his sister.
I know you’ve all been trying to call me. I’m standing on a pinnacle looking over this beautiful creation God created. I’m a child of my Father in Heaven. He created me too. I’m tired of not being able to control myself.
After asking for forgiveness from his parents and sister, Mike’s text went on to read: “Brenda, I love you with all my heart. You gave me hope and love that I could never find. God, please have mercy on my soul. I tried my very best.”
Although Mike’s death certificate lists the death day as being on May 28 because that’s when his body was found, Brenda said she believes Mike accelerated his car and sent it over the edge of the cliff immediately after sending that text.
“The minute he sent that text, I know he was gone,” Brenda said. “If he had waited at all and seen any of my replies to his text, he wouldn’t have done it. I know it.”
Beginning of the storm
When Brenda was still married to her abusive first husband 13 years ago, there was one time when she attempted suicide as well. In her own moment of anger, so she took a handful of pills and sat in a hot bathtub, ready to accept death.
“When I got in the tub, I saw what the funeral would be like and the people who loved me would feel after I died. I saw myself missing my children’s weddings and graduations and not being there for grandchildren when they came along. I saw all that and said, ‘No, I can’t miss this. I can’t do this to my family.'”
Brenda made herself throw up the pills and promised herself to never contemplate suicide again. It just wasn’t worth it to lose the people she loved around her.
“That pain (of attempting suicide) is exactly what it felt like when Mike died.”
The hardest part of losing Mike was knowing he had so much pain, Brenda said, that he wanted to end it all through death. The pain of losing him would have been easier if he had died in an accident or with a sickness than knowing that death is something he chose.
The stereotype of someone being depressed before attempting suicide did not exist in Mike.
“I only saw the blowing-up angry Mike in those few times that he was angry,” Brenda said. “But most of the time, we were happy.”
Even though it’s been nearly two months since Mike’s death, getting a full night’s rest is still rare for Brenda. She’s reminded of the pain each time she sees Webb Hill from across St. George. The pain and anguish within her is almost unbearable some days.
“This is a huge blow that I have to force myself to ignore in order to function daily,” she said. “I think about missing him constantly and wanting him back.”
Light at the end of the tunnel
Teresa Willie, a licensed prevention specialist for the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, said suicide is a plague, especially in Utah. Willie is also the coordinator for the Reach 4 Hope Utah suicide prevention coalition.
People who die by suicide usually don’t want to die, Willie said. Instead, they want their pain to end.
“People who attempt suicide perceive that death is more desirable than staying in whatever situation they’re in,” she said.
Willie also dispelled the myth that asking someone about suicide puts the idea of suicide in his or her mind. Research shows that asking someone if they are considering suicide can be a good way to identify a problem and seek help sooner.
“Really what they want is some support and to be listened to and acknowledged,” she said.
For family members and loved ones of people who die by suicide, the pain caused by guilt and questions can be immense, Willie said. The best thing these people can do to recover is to work with a counselor to move through the grief cycle.
“They need to understand that that loss is not their responsibility.”
Brenda said that speaking with a therapist since Mike’s death has been helpful. She acknowledged that there are times when she feels like she was responsible for Mike’s suicide but said those feelings are not correct, healthy or helpful in any way.
She said she has learned the best way to push through is to not blame herself or spend any time thinking “What if?” or “I should have done it differently.”
Even though the pain of losing Mike may never fully go away, Brenda said she can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. She’s raising a 16-year-old daughter right now, and she knows of many family members and others around her who love her, which helps her keep moving. Her faith in the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also helps her find hope in her future.
“I’ve learned to endure the moment right now when it gets really bad because that doesn’t last. The grief comes in waves. It’s not a relief to die. It’s never a relief for family members.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24/7, at 800-273-8255. There are also suicide prevention classes and resources available in St. George through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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