Our daughter has recently attended a survivors of suicide support group in Atlanta at which those who lost fiance, parent, son, daughter, sibling, friend to suicide gathered. It was very emotional as these survivors shared their thoughts, feelings, pain and grief. One young lady is just like our daughter: one of four children where the youngest, a brother, took his life. One marked difference however, which I see as tragedy upon tragedy. She said that all of her friends have abandoned her.
Our daughter was shocked and immediately thought of herself. "What if my friends did that? How could I ever get through or "survive" this horrible loss?" It prompted her, upon returning home, to email her closest friends a note of thanks for being there: supporting, encouraging and loving her through the past 12 months.
As I shared this with Tim, we shook our heads with incomprehension. We felt sadness and sympathy for this young lady who is trying to make sense of a devastating loss and marveled at how our experience has been completely different. We have felt nothing but the highest level of support from the community, work colleagues and friends. And very important to me, Josh's friends.
I shudder to think what it would be like if we felt shunned or judged because of what Josh did to himself. One of the reasons that I think we are doing "as well as can be expected" is because of the love, thoughts, and prayers still being received. Our half/full marathon run has raised over $3,000 so far. The letters and notes that accompany the generous checks are full of support and encouragement. We hope to well exceed our goal of $4,000. This keeps me going on the challenging 10 mile runs that are part of my training.
And as each day goes by, I hear of more of ours and our children's friends who plan to be with us over that weekend. To remember Josh: tell stories, laugh, cry and just be together. It makes what would be an unbearable 1 year anniversary something to share with those who love and miss our beloved boy.
I have visited with several of Josh's friends in the past couple of weeks. One is organizing a "black out" on March 18th at school (participating students wear black to remember Josh). Another said that several of his friends have approached the principal to ask if an empty chair could be placed in what would have been Josh's seat at graduation. "Yes" was the answer, with our permission. When asked, all I could do was nod in affirmation as the tears rolled down.
I received an email from another of his friends who sent a copy of her well researched and thought out position paper for English/Government titled: "The Zero-Tolerance Policy in Schools Is Not Effective". I am encouraged to see students study, think about and write about policies that affect themselves and classmates. And in our case, a tragic and senseless loss of a young, vibrant life which was directly linked to such a policy.
A few weeks ago, I visited Josh and found this letter to him. With permission, this is what it said:
Josh,I don't know where to begin. There's so much to say. I wish you were still here so badly I can't describe it. It's incredible how much your passing has affected us all. I wish that so much had been different, but most of all I wish you were still alive. I feel like I could have been so much of a better friend to you. I am sorry that you didn't have enough reason in your eyes to stay with us. I miss you always & forever. I hope that wherever your are, you are happier now then you were on earth.
I feel the same way as what is penned in this heartfelt note by a young friend.
I speak for Tim and each one of our children when I say that without the love, support, encouragement and prayers from family and friends, we could not bear our loss.
Thank you and God Bless