The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, February 28, 2005  

At Least I Hope It Isn’t

Good God, I hope this post isn’t -- and won’t ever be updated to become a post -- about suicide, but today’s submission by Philadelphia Inquirer television columnist Gail Shister, “Allen-Stephens Retiring, Husband’s Death the Last Blow,” sent chills up and down my spine.

Ms. Shister, discussing the retirement -- for lack, and I mean that, of a better word -- of Sheela Allen-Stephens of Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV (Channel 10, NBC; picked up on channel five on my TV, but that’s another story), wrote, among much else:

A force of nature in our town for almost 30 years, the popular features reporter will retire as of tomorrow.

“I’ve lost my husband, my health, and I have no job,” Allen-Stephens, 61, said in an emotional interview. “I’m not doing so good without him. People think grief has a certain time limit. It doesn’t.”

Lonnie Stephens, 52, a longtime cameraman at `CAU, lost his seven-month battle with multiple myeloma Dec. 20. The two had been married since Christmas Day 1984.

“Lonnie’s long battle with cancer took its toll on my health, my heart and my well-being. I lost the most important thing in my world.

“All I can say is that I’m not me anymore. I don’t know how long I can take it. I always thought of us as a one-two punch. I may join him soon. I’m good with that.”

Allen-Stephens joined `CAU in March 1977 as a general-assignment reporter, focusing on offbeat stories and entertainment pieces. [...]

Says she: “I hate not being able to step up to the plate. Some of that spark and magic is still there, but most of it is gone. I’m hanging on by an artery.”

Is it apparent only to me that Mrs. Allen-Stephens, who continues to live with extraordinary physical challenges, is in great -- excrutiating, even -- emotional pain, hurting badly and to a scary extent? There are yellow flags being thrown up and out and everywhere in the presumed fragments of Ms. Shister’s interview we were privileged to read.

I trust Ms. Shister took her conversation with Mrs. Allen-Stephens to greater and more private depths than were shared with Inquirer readers, but I, or we, don’t know that, do I, do we?

Mrs. Allen-Stephens so obviously needs help -- serious, professional help -- to deal with her grief and the myriad hellblocks life has sent her way.

I hope and pray she’s getting it.

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