17 Sep walk in memory, walk for hope
Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would become involved with the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention. The topic of suicide was so far removed from my life, and heart, and priorities. Organizations like this weren’t even on my radar until I suffered a loss so extreme, and so permanent, I was driven to the internet to find information, and maybe even some explanations. I found many organizations, foundations, and charities whose sole purpose is to raise awareness, educate communities, and share love… around the topic of suicide. It breaks my heart again and again to realize that I now belong to this ‘club’ and I, too, will find ways to raise awareness, educate communities, and share love… prompted by suicide loss. Apparently, I am what is called a Survivor of Suicide Loss… a title I had never heard of and certainly never wanted to be given.
I am thankful organizations like this exist. The founder spoke at the 7th annual “Walk in Memory, Walk for Hope” this weekend, and I was both inspired by her and saddened. I was inspired by her commitment to her project, and to remembering her son, who ended his own life in 1993. I am saddened by the realization that this mother is still experiencing loss, 20 years after her son left. But really, how could she not? She didn’t choose this life, it was thrust upon her. I applaud her efforts to help others and her determination to keep living. How many lives has she impacted through her commitment to loving & serving, to starting conversations & getting the word out, to developing an organization that provides education and helpful tools for people who are at risk for self-harm and suicide?
Will that be me? Will that be the life I choose now that the life I had planned is no longer an option? What is the alternative? At Mason’s memorial service, I asked if people could picture Holly without Mason… I certainly cannot. Fifteen weeks later, and I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that Mason is gone. Forever. The night before his last day on earth he tweeted, “10 rt’s and I will sing every word I say for the next three days.” What a weirdo! What a funny mind! THAT is my kid. THAT is Mason’s quirky personality. THAT is something you would expect from the kid whose heart was filled with joy and adventure and mischief. How could I let that voice, that humor, that unique individual just fade away? How can my supercharged, brilliant, firecracker of a son become just a memory? Nope. My future will be filled with Mason. My future will be dedicated to serving others and giving back to the universe what it so generously gave to me: JOY.
I completely understand why this woman does what she does, and I am thankful for her. She doesn’t even know I exist, yet by her actions and willingness to be used for good, she is leading me in the direction I need to travel. The walk was just the beginning… this is a picture of Mason’s team of supporters.
I was blown away by the number of people who showed up on Saturday, September 14th, 2013, to honor & remember my boy. The amount of love was overwhelming. I felt this same love at his memorial, but now…months later… when other people’s lives have gone back to ‘normal,’ I never expected to see so many smiling faces show up. Mason and I have the most supportive, incredible friends. I am truly blessed, and I felt more love than I have ever felt in my life. Thank you to everyone who came, prayed, walked, hugged my neck, took pictures, wore their shirts… some of you even traveled from other states to be there! I will never, ever forget how special you made me feel, and how proud of Mason I was reminded to be. He was a friend to the friendless, he encouraged the discouraged, and he was a source of love and joy to anyone who knew him.
The walk was preceded with a ceremony of remembrance during which we heard inspiring messages from various community leaders who have each experienced the impact of suicide at some point in their lives. Then, a circle was formed (no small feat, as there were hundreds and hundreds of people crammed into a middle school gym) and parents who have suffered a loss were invited to the center of the circle. This meant walking into the middle of the gym floor, by myself. This meant leaving my enormous group of friends, and my little imaginary safety net, to stand in the ‘spotlight’ alone. I was scared to move. I didn’t want to join the small group of parents in the center of that gym. I didn’t want to be included in the ‘club’ nobody wants to join. (What is the word for a parent who has lost a child? Does it exist?)
I did it, though. I walked out there alone. I started crying, stopped and looked back at my friends who were just aching to be at my side for this terrifying and devastating moment, then forced myself to keep walking to the center. It probably took all of four seconds, but it felt like a four hour death march. They said a few words directly to us, encouraging us to keep moving forward, to keep living, to keep remembering. I was so lost in my own feelings, I didn’t really hear the words but I felt the intent. Then, they asked for people who had lost a parent to join us in the center. My beautiful, fun, kind, and generous friend Shannon walked out to join me. She lost her mom, and walks a journey similar to mine. She recently got a tattoo of her and her mother, and I held her hand through most of it. We both agree that there is no physical pain that even compares with what we feel emotionally… she’ll be there, holding my hand, when I get my Mason tat in February, on his birthday.
When they asked for siblings to enter the circle, an amazing thing happened. Billy and Clay Crosby, friends of Mason and the sons of my friend Melanie, entered the circle and hugged me so hard, I thought my ribs would break. They told me how much they loved Mason and how much they loved me, and assured me that they would always be there. Mikala Miles, Mason’s friend from church, joined us. So did Chance, Thalia, Hannah, Karen, and Anna…some of Mason’s best friends from school, who have each shared with me stories of how Mason impacted their lives, and brightened some of their darkest days. More and more friends of Mason joined the inner circle. When I looked back at the outer circle, I saw Teenut (Mason named her that when he was barely 2 years old… her real name is Teena). She was standing there, unsure what to do, tears pouring from her eyes. I motioned for Teenut to join me. She was always Mason’s big sis, and looked out for him since she was 9. She has his basketball jersey hanging in her room, right alongside her own.
As they spoke to the ‘siblings,’ I quietly took inventory of the people in that inner circle. Most of us belonged to Mason. He was an only child. He was all I had. But there, on that Saturday, the sibling circle expanded and Mason was everyone’s brother. Another moment I will never forget.
After the ceremony, we ventured outside where white doves were released as a symbol of our love for the people we had lost. You might not believe it, but I have hundreds of witnesses who can attest to this, one dove broke away from the pack and flew in the opposite direction, then circled back over our heads, and flew in another direction. In a moment full of tears and thick with emotion, one dove cracked the reverie and reminded us all of a certain person who “does what he wants.” Cameras and phones were out in a flash, as friends hoped to catch that perfectly unique Mason dove. Unbelievable, but true. There was laughter everywhere from within our group, as the sea of Mersern tee shirts and Maseycakes tank tops began their walk in memory, walk for hope.
What a perfect day. Thank you for making it so very special for me. Thank you for loving my boy while he was here, and for loving him still even though he is gone. Thank you for crying with me, laughing with me, hugging me and comforting me. Thank you for withholding judgment, practicing grace, and demonstrating love at every opportunity. You are my family now, and I am so very thankful for you.
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