For my husband on his birthday...
Even though today marks eight years, I can remember it so clearly. It was just a few hours before the clock struck twelve and it would be my husband’s birthday. He loves presents, but always makes it difficult for me to get the right thing. He acts as if his birthday doesn’t matter to him, but I do think he likes a bit of a fuss.
The message on my phone wasn't very clear. There was a great deal of background noise. I could hardly hear him say, “Call me now, it’s an emergency!” I tried calling several times, but he wasn’t answering. Finally, I called my father-in-law and I could have never predicted what would come next. His voice was different; it was slow and soft as he calmly explained to me that my husband’s brother had just killed himself. He was 26 years old. It was incomprehensible. I couldn't make sense of it. Even after years of working in mental health, I could not even begin to grasp what I was hearing.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. He and my husband were best friends. Al was always there. He did everything with us. I remember he would come out on the boat with us. He never got out on the ski or wake board. He never drove either. He just liked to come along for the ride. He liked to spend time with his brother. The feeling was mutual. They were very close. Where you found one, you would very likely find the other.
It only takes a momentary glance to see the sadness in my husband’s eyes. I have come to know this silent sorrow all too well, because it dwells in our family. I have experienced other family members dying. I have talked about my father's death, which had a profound effect on me but this is different; there is a silence that accompanies suicide. The silence is deafening. Each December we are quiet, our conversation subdued, as his birthday passes and the holidays come and go. Then there is today’s date, and even though we rarely speak of the night he killed himself, we are all thinking about it. I don’t really know how to say it other than directly. I miss Alfred. I really miss him. There is so much silence. I wish we could talk about him more.
With his permission, I decided this year I would give my husband a different sort of gift. On the night of June 27 -28, 2009, I will join thousands of other people on a 20-mile walk into the dawn in Chicago Illinois as part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's, Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. I have formed a team called 'Common Things' and I will walk for Alfred and our family. If you like, I will walk for you and your family too.
The goal of this journey, which will begin at dusk and finish at dawn, is to raise funds for suicide prevention. I would like to help end the silence and erase the stigma surrounding suicide and its causes, encourage those suffering from mental illness to seek treatment, and show support for the families and friends of the 30,000 Americans who die by suicide each year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults and the second leading cause of death for college students.
If you would like to join my team or participate in any way you can go to my team webpage.
Please help save lives, reach out to those families who are devastated from losing a loved one to suicide and help create an outlet to help end the silence.