Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Josh

Our fourth Christmas with our white tree, in memory of Josh. 

His initials, JLA, underneath a white dove. 

RIP Josh.
Everyone was home this year and we missed you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18, 2012 - 3 Years and 9 months

It was a big week for the Josh Anderson Foundation.  We are accomplishing our goal - to bring programs into high schools that could have impacted Josh, given him the tools to stop himself that dark night and choose life, not death.  See post for details.

I went to a couple of Jordan's presentations and while it was encouraging to see the impact of his words on both teens and parents, I left feeling sad which was surprising.  And the heavy feeling stayed the following day.  Why?  There is so much good that is happening - we are making a difference - we are doing something to save other young lives.

I guess it is because I am reminded once again, of our loss.  Hearing Jordan's story makes me wonder anew what I could've, should've done; the guilt and regret is so heavy, it smothers.  Familiar questions race through my mind, yet time does not make anything clearer.  I feel confused, baffled, helpless - just like the first year.  It is like groping in the dark for the light, which never turns on.

I am sure the sadness is also rooted in the holidays.  The boxes of decorations in the basement stay unopened - for the 4th year in a row. The extent of Christmas cheer will be wreaths on the doors, a tree and stockings - a far cry from Christmas' past.

All our kids, sans Josh, will be home this year which will be nice, but of course, not the same as it was before.   So it is two-fold, a double-whammy: grief over our loss but also grief over what will never be.

I have been watching The Voice and one song in particular, has resonated.  "Over You" was written by Blake Shelton and his wife Miranda Lambert, in memory of his older brother who died in a car accident when Blake was a teenager - see YouTube video of the performance.

"Over You"

Weather man said it’s gonna snow
By now I should be used to the cold
Mid-February shouldn’t be so scary
It was only December
I still remember the presents, the tree, you and me

But you went away
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you

Living alone here in this place
I think of you, and I’m not afraid
Your favorite records make me feel better
Cause you sing along
With every song

It really sinks in, you know, when I see it in stone

But you went away
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you

At the park, loved ones are remembered with mini trees, wreaths and poinsettias; bursts of red, white and green pepper the serene grounds.  Dear friends sent me ornaments for Josh's tree which I put up last weekend, along with his wreath - in Seahawks blue and Saxon green.

RIP Josh.
We love and miss you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Original Poem: "Work of the Living"

On a recent business trip to Norfolk, VA, I wandered into a local bookstore and found an anthology of poems edited by Harold Bloom called Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems.

These last phrases are taken from a particularly poignant poem by A. R. Ammons called "In View of the Fact."
...until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every 
loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter 
and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way....
In the margins I wrote, "work of the living" which then brought my mind back to the work we had to do after the awful discovery. 

Work of the Living
by Sue Anderson

When the dead die,
     their job is done.
Not so with the living
    whose labor has just begun.

Unfair, unsolicited work
    is thrust on the living,
While the dead rest:
    calm, at peace, in a sleep-like state.

Not so for us:
    people to call,
    explanations to make,
    family to greet,
    friends to hug.

The house swells with those
    coming to do their job:
    Remember the dead.

To do lists:
    funeral to arrange,
    service to organize,
    casket to choose,
    burial ground to pick,
    pictures to sort,
    final clothes to gather.

While the dead rest
    and wait for their final hurrah,
    calm, oblivious to all.

Not to mention the tears,
    floodgates open.
Who knew the volume of brine
    that could come from within?

    she is a relentless taskmaster;
    non-existent in the past,
    omnipresent now.

Do the dead know
    what work has been place on their loved ones?

If they knew, would they have:
    sliced or

Over time; however, 
    the work does lessen.
The load seems lighter,
    the burden status quo.

The job now is to light the candle
    of eternal remembrance,
Letting it shine in the world's dark spaces,
    to prevent other such deaths.

It is our job now,


Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012 - 3 Years and 8 Months Later

Josh has been top-of-mind lately.  You see, over the past few weeks, we have been preparing for a bar fundraiser (our second) for the Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF).  It was held Thursday night at The Tavern in Great Falls and was another success, matching the amount raised at our March fundraiser.  See this post for more details and slideshow.

But what was truly heartwarming about the evening was the incredible community support for our family, for Josh, for JAF and ultimately, for the young people in our area that we are trying to reach.  In numerous conversations with new supporters, heads were nodding as I stated the obvious: teens today face tremendous pressure, academically and socially along with expectations to excel in athletics and/or extra-curricular activities.  Combine this with issues that may be occurring at home and one can see the "perfect storm" for mental health deterioration.

Therefore the statistics in the 2011-2012 Fairfax County Youth Survey ( 31,106 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades) are alarming but not surprising.  Almost one in three students (29.2%) reported "depressive symptoms in the past year" which means "feeling so sad or helpless for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing usual activities."   FCPS's 10th and 12th grader percentages are higher than the national average.

Students were asked if they had seriously considered suicide in the past year.  Affirmative responses were reported from one in five girls and one in eight boys.  Once again, FCPS's 10th and 12 graders are higher than the national average.

4% of students reported actually attempting suicide.  It is good to see that our 10th and 12th graders are below the national average; however, in absolute numbers, we are talking about over 1,200 of our kids attempting to end their lives!

In our work with local schools, it is encouraging to see that school administrators, counselors, schools psychologists and social workers as well as PTSA presidents all understand that our kids are at risk and are eager to partner with us. As a result, true inroads and impact are being made in local high schools and one middle school - see flyer.

So last Thursday was about community and a demonstration of the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child".   It was about people of all age groups coming together to show support financially and/or with their time for the Josh Anderson Foundation, born out of tragedy, that seeks to prevent other needless teen deaths.   We are making a difference.  Josh's death is not in vain.

All this was swirling through my head when a dear friend asked me, "How are you doing?"

I was thinking about this while on vacation in California at the end of last month.  I have been in contact with two moms who have lost their sons earlier this year - one by suicide, the other by an accidental drug overdose.  They are just starting their grief journey whereas for me, it has been well over three years.  They are facing their first holidays without their beloved boys; it is my fourth.  I can tell their grief is so raw and acute whereas mine is a dull ache.  At every moment they are reminded of their loss; for me, Josh's absence is a sad fact of life.

All this makes me realize that I am at a different place, doing what I never thought possible in the early months - I have moved on, while taking Josh with me.  I do not feel stuck in "grief quicksand", for which I am grateful.

Another thing that I've noticed is that my memories are no longer overshadowed by his death.  I can now look back in time, remember a certain event, gesture, comment, facial expression or interaction and see it clearly - without pain.

The dark, grey clouds that colored my landscape those early months; swirling, relentless and all-encompassing have lifted.  I cannot point to a specific moment when they dissipated; it must have happened gradually, over time, while putting one foot in front of the other.

Back to the question:  How am I doing?  Thanks to all the support from family and friends, I think I am doing okay, and not just flippant okay, but really, genuinely and sincerely okay.

RIP Josh.
We love and miss you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012 - 3 Years and 7 Months Later

Once again, another month has gone by and it appears that my blog posts will be relegated to the frequency of these anniversaries.   There are times that I sit down to write, but nothing comes to mind.  I don't find it appropriate to share about mundane daily activities that fill my days.  For example, outside of my full-time job and working out several times a week, what is the significance of my sudden interest in WWI and WWII after reading the two tomes from Ken Follett: Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, then watching HBO's Band of Brothers and now reading the book from Stephen Ambrose?

And what does it matter that I am so disappointed in the Red Sox that I stopped paying attention in August; was hoping the Nationals would move on in the playoffs so baseball would hold some interest; wish the Patriots would play 60 minutes of football; am loving a new show (for me), The Voice; have lost interest in Glee and continue to like Homeland, The Good Wife and Blue Bloods?

Is this a sign that life has somewhat normalized for me?  That while I think about Josh every day, it is more in the vein of my other three kids, which means that his death is no longer front and center?  Could it be that I am "moving on"?  And if so, how do I feel about this?  The cursor keeps blinking while pondering.  I am not sure, so make a note-to-self; write about this in my next journal entry.  Whether I do or not, who knows, but at least the question is in my conscious.

In the meantime, Lauren's work with the Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF) is picking up.  We co-sponsored the powerful Active Mind's Send Silence Packing display on the University of Virginia's lawn" on October 4th.  Click here to see their blog post of the event.

Lauren had an opportunity to share with other students about that fateful day, when as a 4th year student at UVA, she learned of the devastating news that would change her life and work.  Click here to see the video.

We continue to make in-roads at local high schools and are being asked to fund a number of programs that will reach teens, our foundation's target audience; so much so, that we are considering an "emergency" bar fundraiser this fall so that we have enough money to last until the annual half/full marathon run fundraiser in March, 2013.   A good problem to have.

All in memory of Josh - whom we love and miss more than ever.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 18, 2012 - Three and Half Years Later

It has now been 3.5 years since Josh decided to leave us.  This might be a good time to take stock of where I am in my grief journey.

I continue to ask the unanswerable question, "why, Josh, why?" and still struggle with disbelief; not denial, but disbelief - there is a difference.  Guilt and her close cousin, Regret remain constant companions.  I visit Josh every weekend except when traveling, and write my weekly letter to him.  I do not ever foresee stopping this ritual.

I continue to find solace, comfort and illumination in books, most recently in the ancient Greek and Roman epics and tragedies.  A secret wish is to go back to college and pursue a literature degree.

Outside of my full-time job, I teach a couple of spin classes a week and have added running and Bikram yoga to my regular fitness routine.  The fact that I have continued exercising after Josh's death has probably helped me more than I give it credit.  I should ponder this further and perhaps write a post on this subject.

I have little to no patience with people consumed with the superficial, external, frivolous, shallow and trivial matters of life.  That probably sounds harsh but is true.

In contrast, Josh's death has brought a depth to all of my relationships: with my surviving children, extended family and friends who knew him.   I remain in periodic contact with several of Josh's friends which is a source of great comfort.

Fall always makes me think of football so I have thought about watching the highlight video of Josh's last football season but don't think I can.  We also have pictures and video of the memorial service, neither of which I have seen and not sure if I ever will.  I have not gone through his closet or desk - everything has remained as it was a couple of weeks afterwards when Tyler cleared/straightened things up (I could not go into Josh's room for that was where I found him).

I find hope in The Josh Anderson Foundation whose mission is "to provide teenagers with the mental health education, resources and support so that they will never turn to suicide."  It is critical that we educate the adolescent's mind, for in their darkest hour, if they do not reach out for help, the vulnerable teen who is seriously contemplating death must stop that dangerous dance.  Which means in effect, they are their own last line of defense.

With Lauren's focus on the foundation full-time, a good start was made in local high schools last spring.  I hope we can bring meaningful programs to many more schools this year.

I am excited that we are going to help bring the Send Silence Packing display to UVA's lawn on October 4th.   We funded the display in Fairfax, VA - see Gillian's moving You Tube video of the event.  I wish high schools would allow the display on their football fields for the student body - I guarantee the impact would be huge, perhaps bigger than anything else we could do.

I appreciate when high profile individuals have the courage to share their struggles with depression and even more pointedly, with suicide.  Tim and I watched an interview with Christina Kim, popular LPGA golfer in which she admitted to both.  She writes on a blog which Tim found for me - here is her "coming out" post.

Tyler forwarded me a post that he found via Facebook.  This guy, Chris Gethard, hosts a very popular comedy/variety late night show and took the time to respond to a fan who was suicidal.  The post is very raw and the language is explicit but comes directly from the heart.  I wish Josh could've read something like this on that fateful night.

RIP beloved son.  Missed and loved now more than ever.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"He Who Learns Must Suffer" (Aeschylus)

In a recent journal entry, I wrote, "I feel as though I am shriveling up inside."  This doesn't sound very healthy and to be honest, surprised me so I continued writing....
I feel like I am slowly shriveling up inside - or better said, contracting within myself - bringing the world around me into a close circle: my home, my family, my work and that's about it.  My "people world" is very small and only by necessity.  Truthfully, I find being with people and making conversation, exhausting.     
But my internal world has expanded for I have gone back in time, all the way to the ancient Greek and Roman writers, and to Shakespeare in the Elizabethan time and have found a newly discovered genre, tragedy, from which to garner meaning around our own tragic experience. 
In my journal, I did reflect that Tim has continued seeking and expanding his external world which is fine - just another way that we have handled our grief differently.

So my physical world has contracted but my mental world has expanded, via my reading.  For in the past few months I have read the following works:
  • The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer
  • The Aeneid by Virgil
  • All seven extant plays by Greek tragedian, Sophocles
  • The first play, Agamemnon, in the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus
  • The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
  • Seven major tragedies of Shakespeare
To supplement my reading, I have checked out from my local library and listened to several audio courses from The Teaching Company; my favorites being on The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aeneid  by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver.

What is it about these ancient works that have spoken to me, touched my heart and have provided inspiration, guidance and just plain "food for thought"?  I think it is summed up in the following quote:
God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer.  And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.   
(Aeschylus in Agamemnon, quoted by Edith Hamilton in The Greek Way).
The works of the four greatest tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Shakespeare) have explored the depths of human pain and suffering and the resulting dignity, resiliency and fortitude of the human spirit.  Lessons abound in these works.  And Aristotle is right - a catharsis does occur when reading or viewing tragedy, which is a difficult paradox to explain.  How is it that I feel purged, cleansed or more connected to my own deep feelings when I see or read about the suffering of others?

I googled the beginning of the above quote and found a talk given by Herbert Golder to The Alpha Omega Counsel in January 2010 called The Greek Invention of the Human.   Of special interest was the part where he talks about how Jackie Kennedy gave her brother-in-law, Bobby, a copy of The Greek Way, saying it was one of JFK's favorite books.  Bobby had been devastated by his brother's assassination and was unable to find solace anywhere.  This book helped so much that he took it everywhere, memorizing the quote from Agamemnon.   Just what did Kennedy find in the Greeks?  The same thing I did.
A civilization eager to look death in the face, but one that seemed to draw strength from what it found there.  The more the ancient Greeks pondered the transience and fragility and pain of human life, the more convinced they became of its dignity and its significance...So what Kennedy found in the Greeks was an ethos that embraced the tragic complexity of life and didn't back away from it, that wasn't afraid of it, embraced it, but drew strength from it and not defeat....Freedom to choose - the courage, the manner, and the dignity with which one confronts that fate; to turn death, to which we are all bound, into destiny. 
I wrote these quotes from Golder's talk in my journal because they express the relevance of the ancient works to our times, for despite how different my life is to those who lived in the 5th century BC or in Shakespeare's time, our hearts and souls are the same.

Here is a list of posts from my reading:

Dec 12, 2011 -  Quote from Romeo and Juliet
Feb 12, 2012 - Book review: Macbeth by Shakespeare
Feb. 26, 2012 - Thoughts for grieving parents from Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet
Feb 26, 2012 - Teenage suicidal ideation in Romeo and Juliet
March 31, 2012 - Book review - The Iliad of Homer
June 5, 2012 - Death, grief and suicide in Hamlet - Part I
June 8. 2012 - Death, grief and suicide in Hamlet - Part II
June 23, 2012 - The grief of Achilles in The Iliad
July 28, 2012 - Book review - Othello by Shakespeare
July 29, 2012 - Book review - Oedipus the King by Sophocles
July 29, 2012 - Book review: The Aeneid by Virgil

RIP Josh. I am learning through my suffering but it has come at a horrible cost.  I would gladly give it all back and be my old ignorant self - to have you here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Three Years and Five Months Later - August 18, 2012

I am off this weekend to move Gillian to NYC.  Too bad Josh were not here; he would enjoy a short weekend in the city, seeing his baby cousin and eating lunch at Katz - he loved their pastrami sandwiches

I want to share another poem from Billy Collins - it is actually the one that titles the collection.

Horoscopes for the Dead
by Billy Collins

Every morning since you disappeared for good, 
I read about you in the daily paper
along with the box scores, the weather, and all the bad news. 

Some days I am reminded that today
will not be a wildly romantic time for you,
nor will you be challenged by educational goals,
nor will you need to be circumspect at the workplace.

Another day, I learn that you should not miss
an opportunity to travel and make new friends
though you never cared much about either. 

I can't imagine you ever facing a new problem
with a positive attitude, but you will definitely not
be doing that, or anything like that, on this weekday in March.
And the same goes for the fun
you might have gotten from group activities,
a likelihood attributed to everyone under your sign.

A dramatic rise in income may be a reason
to treat yourself, but that would apply 
more to all the Pisces who are still alive,
still swimming up and down the stream of life
or suspended in a pool in the shade of an overhanging tree.

But you will be relieved to learn
that you no longer need to reflect carefully before acting,
nor do you have to think more of others,
and never again will creative work take a back seat
to the business responsibilities that you never really had.

And don't worry today or any day
about problems caused by your unwillingness
to interact rationally with your many associates.
No more goals for you, no more romance,
no more money or children, jobs or important tasks,
but then again, you were never thus encumbered.

So leave it up to me now
to plan carefully for success and the wealth it may bring,
to value the dear ones close to my heart,
and to welcome any intellectual stimulation that comes my way
though that sounds like a lot to get done on a Tuesday.

I am better off closing the newspaper,
putting on the clothes I wore yesterday
(when I read that your financial prospects were looking up)
then pushing off on my copper-colored bicycle
and pedaling along the shore road by the bay.

And you stay just as you are,
lying there in your beautiful blue suit,
your hands crossed on your chest
like the wings of a bird who has flown
in its strange migration not north or south
but straight up from earth
and pierced the enormous circle of the zodiac.

Josh - I wish you were still swimming in the "stream of life" with us and all your friends.  We miss you.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Poem: "Grave" by Billy Collins

We are on vacation - our fourth without Josh.  I keep thinking what he would be doing if he were with us.  For example - would he have gotten up to play morning rounds of golf or hiked the mountain or would he have wanted to sleep in?  Probably the latter.   I know he would've loved The Dark Knight Rises, the new Batman movie that Gillian and I saw yesterday.  We did some shopping at the outlet stores before the movie; it is still hard for me to walk through the men's section in places like The Gap.   There are too many things that I can picture him wearing. 

While at a bookstore in Wellesley, MA, the title of a collection of poems, Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins caught my eye.  He was the US Poet Laureate from 2001 - 2003 and the Poet Laureate of NY from 2004 - 2006.  His poems are refreshingly accessible; written about everyday events in everyday language, albeit in surprising, witty and whimsical ways.

This is the first poem in the collection - poignant and touching.

by Billy Collins

What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under a shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

but the differences being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell them all apart.

They make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
Then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among the 100 Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
of the 100 Chinese silences -
the Silence of the Night Boat

and the Silence of the Lotus, 
cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.

RIP Josh - forever loved and missed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Pain Is The Great Teacher" - Three Years and Four Months Later

Last month, I found a new genre of books which closely resemble the memoir; it is published diaries.   I read a few books about such journal writers - see this post if interested.

In one such book, The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life, Alexandra Johnson focuses on the lives and journals of a few - the one whom I quote below is May Sarton; a struggling poet and novelist who became famous later in life for her published diary, Journal of a Solitude. 
Pain is the great teacher.  I woke before dawn with this thought.  Joy, happiness, are what we take and do not question.  They are beyond question, maybe.  A matter of being.  But pain forces us to think, and to make connections, to sort out what is what, to discover what has been happening to cause it.  And, curiously enough, pain draws us to other human beings in a significant way, whereas joy or happiness to some extent, isolates.
I like this quote very much; it is succinct and feels true.  What can be learnt from joy or happiness?  As she says, they are states of being that we may aspire to obtain but then what?  Once there, isn't it simply a matter of enjoying and hoping to prolong that state of bliss?

Pain is a different story.  Pain is the great teacher.  I think of physical pain first.  When everything in the body is functioning as it should, we are pain-free.  Again, nothing to learn.  But when there is pain, we know something is wrong and are motivated to address it.  X-rays, MRI's, CAT scans can disclose the culprit.  The cause and effect is more readily seen.  If the ankle is broken, one cannot walk.

Then I think of mental and emotional pain - internal pain of the mind, of the interior, of the soul.  The symptoms are more vague and often hard to describe.  How does one accurately depict what is going on inside their head?  Their feelings?  In a way that others can understand?    I feel bad, I feel sad, I feel empty, my mind won't stop racing, I feel someone has high-jacked my mind, etc. 

It is this internal pain, within teens, that the Josh Anderson Foundation wants to acknowledge and address: by broadcasting loud and clear that it is OK to be open with their feelings and the craziness that sometimes spins around in their head;  by busting the mental health stigma that traps them into silent suffering; by letting them know where and to whom they can turn to for help.  All this so that NO other child will turn to suicide as THE solution to their pain.

My last thought on this is that pain does cause solidarity.  A brotherhood.  Suffering alone intensifies the pain.  Shared pain is lessened pain.  This is why people gather at funerals.  Why so many kids came to Josh's memorial service; they all felt pain and wanted to be with others that felt the same way.  And seeing all of them lessened mine. It was a cathartic gathering that provided the opportunity to say a collective "good-bye" to a beloved son and friend.

RIP Josh.  I am so sorry that we did not see your pain, that you could not share your pain with us and that this pain became so excruciating and unbearable that you could not see a way out.   I wish I had known - I would have helped you through it.  And I know many others would have been willing helpers too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

All Sorrow Feels Ancient - All Death Feels New

I recently came across one of the most profound sentences in all my reading since Josh's death.  It was not from the actual book, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels - which I quickly looked up on Amazon and Goodreads, saw enough that interested me and have downloaded the sample onto my iPad - but rather, was included in a list of simple sentences in Priscilla Long's book, The Writer's Portable Mentor.
All sorrow feels ancient.
Only four words which rings so true.  Why?  What is this "ancient sorrow"? These were the questions I sought to answer in my journal.

I envision this "ancient sorrow" like a wide moving river, flowing through time and space, generations and centuries, across cultures and species, picking up all sorrow in its wake.  And I'd like to presume that this "ancient sorrow" is the most intense, the most constant, the deepest and harshest when connected to the loss of a child.

I was oblivious to its existence but no more.  Intimate with it now - I am floating on it, living in it, and have been drinking from it daily, for over three years.  This "ancient sorrow" fills me up and I know that each day, others' sorrow adds to it.

Which brings me to my next thought: Death is inevitable.  One day, life will end.  It is a known fact, a reality.  But for some reason, despite the millions of people who have already "passed away", this intimate, carnal knowledge of death is unknown.  One cannot really "know" how it will feel - the loss of a loved one - until it happens to you.  We can read about it, watch movies, listen to songs and even be moved to tears but will not really know it until we experience it first-hand.

Why?  This seems very cruel. Why can't an ancient knowledge and understanding of death be imparted to us, down through the generations so that when it happens, we might have some familiarity, some understanding, some comprehension to help us navigate through the intense emotions?  Instead, we are left to our own devices: to struggle, weather and survive the impact of an emotionally destructive tidal wave, tsunami or hurricane - for that is how loss feels.

Yes, to quote Anne Michaels again, "All sorrow feels ancient."  What I will add is this:  All death feels new.

RIP beloved Josh.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Grief of Achilles in The Iliad

I have recently read The Iliad by Homer and was struck by Achilles' reaction upon hearing the news of his best friend's death in battle.
...the black cloud of sorrow closed on Achilles.  In both hands he caught up the grimy dust, and poured it over his head and face, and fouled his handsome countenance, and the black ashes were scattered over his immortal tunic.  And he himself, mightily in his might, in the dust lay at length, and took and tore at his hair with his hands and defiled it......Antilochos mourned with him, letting the tears fall, and held the hands of Achilles as he grieved in his proud heart, fearing Achilles might cut his throat with the iron...(Book 18: 22-34).
Many journal writing books espouse an exercise called "free-write" whereby for a certain length of time, you write whatever comes to mind.  The pen does not lift from the paper and you do not stop.  Even if it means writing the same word over and over until another thought or image flows from mind to pen to paper.  I decided to devote a couple of 15 minute sessions to this quote.  In focusing on the first sentence, this is a portion of what I wrote in my journal:
When Achilles heard about Patroklos' death, his reaction was both emotional "black cloud of sorrow" and physical.  This black cloud - not grey, not cream, not white as clouds usually are, but black, dark, ebony, rich and deep - this cloud closed on Achilles.  Enveloped him.  He was in a fog of sorrow - for that is what fog is - a cloud resting on the earth's surface which can become so thick, one cannot see.  If driving, one must pull over.  If flying, the plane is grounded.  A fog will render you senseless - cannot see, hearing is muted.  All sense of direction lost; landmarks are invisible.  The world is alienating, distorted and frightening.  In a fog I feel insecure and vulnerable like someone or something can come out to grab me.   To be in a 'black cloud of sorrow' - nothing will look or feel the same.  Everything is felt, seen, tasted, heard through the fog.  Like lens on a glass - everything will look black.  Feel black.  There is a black veil or sheath covering everything.  Living, sleeping and breathing in the black cloud of sorrow so that it is internal - no longer out of the body but within.
The next day I wrote this:
When Achilles heard about Patroklos' death and was enveloped in the black fog of grief, sorrow, pain and woe, he had a physical reaction.  An outward sign of inward pain.  He bent down and grabbed dirt, dust, Earth and poured it over his head - a self baptism - rubbing it all over his face.  Priam, King of Troy did something similar when he heard of his son Hektor's death - he took dung and smeared it on his head and neck.   Both fouled themselves saying my beloved is dead; I do not care about outward things any longer.  Why dirt? Why dung?  What would be the equivalent today?  Maybe someone who is so depressed they do not shave or shower, put on make-up, deodorant or perfume.  They wear the same thing, day after day.  Who cares what you look like or wear in the 'black cloud of sorrow'?  Achilles then drops to the ground, this mighty warrior whom no man could stand against, lays prostrate on the dirt in agony and grief.  Then, in an effort to feel real, searing, physical pain, he takes tufts of hair in his hands and yanks them out.  
Writing all this made me think of our reactions on that dreaded day.  And specifically how one of our daughters, whom Tim could not contact as she was in class - oblivious and naive to the tragedy that would change her life, listening to the lecture, taking notes and answering questions posed by the professor - when she heard the news from two best friends who were waiting outside the door, she collapsed and become almost catatonic.   Her friends somehow got her back to her room where she just sat on the bed while they packed her bag.  UVA is a good two hours away and thankfully, these two friends (angels) drove our girls home.  There is no way they could've driven themselves.

Feeling faint, knees buckling, doubling over, collapsing, sobbing, gasping, screaming, throwing up, punching walls, breaking things, or just going numb and still - all are physical reactions to the sudden news of a beloved's death.  Instantaneous and uncontrollable - each body will react differently as the mind absorbs the unthinkable and unimaginable.

I will end with this quote from The Iliad, ancient literature written centuries before Christ, of another vow from the living to the dead.   Achilles says of Patroklos:
I will never forget him, never so long as I remain among the living and my knees have their spring beneath me.  And though the dead forget the dead in the house of Hades, even there I shall still remember my beloved companion (Book 22: 387 - 390). 
I could say the same of Josh.  RIP beloved son - you are still remembered and will be as long as I have breathe in my body and even afterwards.....

Monday, June 18, 2012

3 Years and 3 Months Later - June 18, 2012

On my usual Saturday visit to Josh's gravesite, I happened to notice the dates on nearby markers and realized that many others have died since March 18, 2009.  How had I not seen that before?

Curiously, upon seeing other 2009 dates, my first thought was that was before/after Josh and secondly, 2009 seems like so long ago.   And when I saw a 2012 date, I thought,  Wow, that was just recently. 

This is another indication of time's relentless movement forward.  It hit me that I should expect the empty spaces around Josh to fill up over time.  That he is not the only one who died or will die and I am not the only mother or family member who grieves.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, on these weekly visits, I write a letter to Josh in a blank book specifically for this purpose.  In Alexandra Johnson's book, Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal,  she talks about keeping a travel journal "as if writing a long letter to a close friend.  By writing for someone else's eyes, you have to supply context - place names, sights, interesting local information."

This made me think about my letters to Josh.  For the past three years, they have housed regurgitations of the same question (why, Josh, why?) and my feelings (sad, bad or mad), interspersed with the telling of family events/trips.   But as I explained to him in this week's letter, I am ready to go a different direction.

I feel a need to tell him of what is going on in our lives and in the world around.  For example, I told him about smartphones, apps and my iPad as these are new products and services that he would be interested in.   What other innovations, changes, ideas and experiences will I be writing in future letters?

So now I have a new job on my weekly visits.  I am the traveler who will document life for my son who can no longer see, hear, feel, touch or smell.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Death, Grief and Suicide in Hamlet - Part II

Hamlet's depression continues as he wrestles with fulfilling the duty of avenging his father's death.
I have of late - but wherefore I know not - lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air - look you, this brave overhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire - why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors (II, II, 287 - 299).
And in one of the most famous lines of English literature, Hamlet ponders whether living, with all the "slings and arrows" that come our way is better than the eternal sleep of death, which puts an end to all "heartache and the thousand natural shocks."
To be, or not to be?  That is the question -
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them?  To die, to sleep -
No more - and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to - 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! (III, I, 57 - 65).
Hamlet is a tragedy of epic proportions. By the end of the play, almost everyone is dead.  In this midst of all this mayhem, I am most interested in how grief is portrayed.

Ophelia is the prince's love interest who is utterly rejected by Hamlet in his misery and paranoia.  Her father, Polonius is the well-meaning Lord Chamberlain of Claudius' court but often misguided.  He jumps to erroneous conclusions about Hamlet which causes him to set in motion events that lead to devastating consequences, one being his own demise.  When Ophelia hears of her dear father's death, she literally goes mad. Claudius's description:
Oh, this is the poison of deep grief.  It springs all from her father's death, and now behold!....Poor Ophelia divided from herself and her fair judgement, without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts (IV,V,73-74 and 82-84).
She wanders to the riverbank, climbs a tree and falls into the water.  She does nothing to save herself and so drowns.  At the cemetery, the gravediggers discuss how she who "willfully seeks her own salvation" would not normally be given a Christian burial and so conclude that she was from a wealthy family.

The burial ceremony by the priest is very brief.  Laertes, Ophelia's brother asks the priest to perform additional rites. Their short dialogue says it all:
L:  Must there no more be done? 
Priest:  No more be done.  We should profane the service of the dead to sing a requiem and such rest to her as to peace-parted souls. 
L: Lay her i' th' earth, and from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violets spring!  I tell thee, churlish priest, a ministering angel shall my sister be when thou liest howling (V, I, 217 - 225).
My margin notes:  Agreed!  Priest is a self-righteous b***!

Hamlet has been watching this and now joins Laertes in Ophelia's grave. This is their expression of grief:
L:  Hold off the earth awhile till I have caught her once more in my arms.  Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead, till of this flat a mountain you have made, t' o'ertop old Pelion or the skyish head of blue Olympus.  
H:  What is he whose grief bears such an emphasis, whose phrase of sorrow conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand like wonder-wounded hearers? This is I, Hamlet the Dane (V, I, 233-242). 
(Modern translation - Who is the one whose grief is so loud and clear, whose words of sadness make the planets stand still in the heavens as if they've been hurt by what they've heard?)
It is difficult to express the depths of my grief which is why I have come to love Shakespeare's tragedies.  He writes what I feel.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Death, Grief and Suicide in Hamlet - Part I

There is so much in Hamlet that resonates with me.  I have read through it twice; once on my own (using the No Fear Shakespeare version, which has the original play on the left side of the page and a modern translation on the right) and another while watching Kenneth Branagh's 4 hour movie adaptation.  I have written out long sections in my journal and pondered the relevance.   If you have never read Hamlet, I would encourage you to do so.

Hamlet is prince of Denmark. His father has been dead two months and to his chagrin, his mother Queen Gertrude, has married his father's brother, Claudius.  Hamlet's grief and despair knows no bounds as he witnesses this wedding on the heels of his father's funeral.  As a result of his melancholic disposition, he suffers a rebuke from the new King.
But to persever in obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness.  'Tis unmanly grief.
It shows a will more incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschooled (I, II, 92-97)
Basically Claudius is saying, "stop grieving and move on."  And that it is "unmanly" to be so despondent.  "How dare Claudius judge Hamlet's grief", my reading voice retorts.

When Hamlet is alone, we see the depths of his despair, wishing that suicide was not an act against God.  I don't like reading this but understand that for centuries, the church taught that suicide was an unpardonable sin.  We will see this again with the gravedigger's and priest's response to Ophelia's death.
Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!  O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world! (I, II, 129-134)
At the end of Act I, the ghost of Hamlet's father reveals to Hamlet that he has been murdered by Claudius.  He wants his son to exact revenge for the loss of his life, wife and crown.  In parting, he voices what all the dead would say:  "Adieu, adieu, adieu.  Remember me."  I love Hamlet's response - his commitment to remembering his father.
Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe.  Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter (I, V, 95-104).
"Remembering Josh" is the title of this blog - for a reason.  "Running to Remember Josh" was printed on the backs of this year's marathon/half-marathon shirts purposefully.  Is it too exaggerated to say that one of my life's ambition and goal is to remember my beloved son?  No, I don't think so.  It feels like a solemn, honorable duty - one that I could never tire of.  It is why his pictures are still all over the house, why I have a tattoo of his name, in his handwriting on my arm, why I visit his gravesite every week and write a letter to him, why I sometimes wear his clothes.

As long as Josh is remembered, he stays alive.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A New Dimension of Grief- June 1, 2012

How can it be the beginning of June already?  It is because time moves on, like a conveyer belt, with no thought to tragedy, grief, sadness, emotion or feeling.

An un-negotiable aspect of living is that one must move along with it.  But there is a problem - the dead are not with us.  Through whatever mode, they have gotten off and so are frozen.  In Josh's case, it was the fateful day of March 18, 2009.

And with time's relentless march forward, it feels as though I am moving further and further away from my beloved boy.

Why?  I wonder.  Is it because there are numerous experiences now, over three years later, that he does not share?  He missed both Lauren and Gillian's college graduation weekends.  He has missed three, soon to be four summer's worth of activities.  He has not been a part of three Thanksgivings and Christmas'.  He does not know his new baby cousin.

And so new memories of the past three years are fresh in my mind - memories that do not include Josh.  Is this why I feel further away from him? 

This feels true and is very sad.  And so my grief has taken a new dimension - of all the family experiences that does not include him.  At the beginning of my grief journey, I knew his death would mean a loss of future events/experiences.  Now, this loss is truly felt.

I think this is why our work with the Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF) is so important to me.  Not only are we doing good and hopefully saving lives, but it is a way to keep his memory alive and more importantly, a way to make new memories of which he is front and center.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012 - Three years and 2 months and 4th Mother's Day

Last Sunday was my 4th Mother's Day without Josh. I have re-read (with tears) what I have posted in the previous years.


This year's Mother's Day was not particularly sad.  Maybe it is because there has been so much encouraging activity with the Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF), the most recent being the Send Silence Packing display in Fairfax Corner the day before.

To see the money we have raised being put to good use, in high schools that Josh attended is uplifting.  To hear parents, administration and counselors acknowledge that our teens need to be educated on difficult mental health topics is heart warming because maybe, just maybe, we can save other kids. I am so proud of our daughter, Lauren who has spent the last 9 months working tirelessly and successfully to get meaningful, effective programs into local schools.  So when my mind's eye looks back between now and last Mother's Day, the JAF is a true highlight.

Maybe the good that is being done has counter-balanced the feelings of loss.  Or maybe it is just the passage of time that eases the pain.  Or a combination of both - I am not sure.

Today is another anniversary month and just like last month, I will share some thoughts and a poem from The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing edited by Kevin Young.

In his introduction, Young speaks to the healing process, marked by the actual lessening of felt grief.  He begins by quoting a section from Philip Larkin's "The Trees":
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief. 
The greenness of grief - its returning, like the leaves - seems to me one of the best ways to understand it as an experience.  It is perennial, yet ebbs and flows, "Like something almost being said."  Even grief's lessening can be something to be mourned; ironically, there are days when, by not feeling so bad, we fear and feel we are betraying our loved ones.
YES - I write in the margin!   Sometimes, instead of feeling sad, I actually feel content in my life right now because of the stronger ties to my immediate and extended family, to my friends and to the community through JAF, and wonder how can I feel content, when Josh is not here?  What kind of mother am I?  And then I feel guilt, but in a different kind of way.  Not guilt about his death, but guilt in moving past his death.   Kind of a "catch 22" or "damned if I do and damned if I don't".   Who knew the grieving process could be so complicated?

The challenging thing is that there is no user manual; no "How to Survive Grief for Dummies", no "12-Step Process to Overcoming Grief", no guide, course or program that gives the answers.  The grieving process is as individual as we are which means no two journeys will be the same, even if we experience the same loss.  I've mentioned this before and it still rings true - grieving is a lonely business.  This is why I find it so therapeutic to read, write in my journal and on this blog - it is a way for me to connect to other people through their writing and my own.

I hope my Josh can say these words from his present home.

Notes from the Other Side  
by Jane Kenyon 
I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here. 
Now there is no more catching
one's own eye in the mirror, 
there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course no illness.   
Contrition does not exist, nor gnashing of teeth.
No one howls as the first clod of earth hits the casket. 
The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour, 
and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jordan Burnham at South Lakes High School

Today was a good day in spite of being an emotional one.   The Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF) has taken a large step in pursuing its mission of providing programs for today's kids that might have helped our beloved Josh.  

Due to the tireless advocacy of one particular counselor and the support from the principal, the JAF made possible Jordan Burnham, a nationally acclaimed speaker for the young adult audience to share his story of depression and attempted suicide while a senior in high school - at the very school that Josh attended when he died on March 18, 2009 as a junior.

Although at SLHS for only one year, Josh's death impacted the entire student body.  Going there today, over three years later and meeting kids who were freshman at the time but are now seniors, sharing about how they still think of him, was hard.  I couldn't keep the tears back when one boy told me how Josh was like a mentor in football and that he will always remember him.  Another girl, a junior, told me how she had heard about Josh while at middle school.  Many, many others shared their gratitude for JAF bringing a speaker who was relatable, brutally honest, and inspiring. 

Jordan was able to speak to 800 students (about one-third of the student body).   You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium during the 45 minute speech.  The Q&A lasted about 30 minutes with very thoughtful questions posed by students.  There were about 100 students who waited in line afterwards to meet him with some breaking down in tears as they shared their own personal stories.   It was a very moving and impacting time that I wish we could duplicate in all the high schools in our area.  

As I sat there, listening to Jordan share about his internal struggles as an accomplished, popular, athletic kid, who came from a close family, I couldn't help but imagine Josh sitting in the audience.  What if he had heard someone articulate deep, dark feelings that he could relate to?  Would it have helped him understand what was going on?  Be truly open? Seek help?  Understand that he was not along in his feelings?  Would listening to someone like Jordan speak so openly about depression and suicide helped him?  I think so. 

Kids were tweeting Jordan before and after his presentation.  One particular tweet sums it upit is people like @jfburnham who have the strength & courage to tell their story that give me hope that there is a life worth living.

Kids waiting to see Jordan

Line goes up the aisle....

....up to the door

Photo ops

Guys came up to see him...

Jordan and student leadership group

Jordan and counseling staff

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

3 Years and 1 Month - "The Shout" by Simon Armitage

As evidenced by previous posts this year, my reading has taken me to the surprising realm of poetry - see Jan 1 post.

I have finished reading through this special anthology (The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing) and made little notes in the list of poems within the table of contents: "wow" next to some, stars by quite a few and "I don't get it" next to others.  It seems like a good plan to share some of the "wow" poems each anniversary month.

First, another quote from the introduction that rings true:
The process of grief, I have found, can mirror that of writing: it is surprising, trying, frustrating, daunting, terrifying, comforting, chastening, challenging, and at times, heartening; grief can provide fellowship with others interested in the experience; it brings out the best in us, and at times the worst, if only because it is utterly human.  It can feel inevitable, but it is so personal, so differently pitched for each, that it can reside across a great gulf.  Yet poetry, like grief, can be the thing that bridges the gap between us, that brings us together and binds us. 
 This poem makes me wonder what Josh's friends, close and peripheral, will remember after another seventeen years.  Will they still "hear" him?

The Shout
by Simon Armitage

We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face

I don't remember.  We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth, 

I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.

He called from over the park - I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,

from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell's Farm - 
I lifted an arm.

He left town, went on to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.

Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Marathon/Half-Marathon - $24,000 raised!

The Third Annual Running to Remember Josh was held in Washington DC on Saturday, March 17th, 2012 - (see post for background and YouTube video.  Our goal was to raise $16,000, matching what was raised in the first two years.  With the generous donations from family and friends in the community, the total is over $24,000!  Fundraisers/runners include Lauren and Gillian, Lauren's boyfriend and three of her friends.  Eleven other friends ran the half-marathon/relay while others came out to support.

A number of Lauren's friends live right in DC while others came from Boston, NYC and Atlanta.  Gillian's friends came from UVA, Virginia Tech, UNC and William & Mary.  One of our neighbor's daughter who is going to college to study photography took pictures throughout the day.  As mentioned in a previous post, a very successful bar fundraiser was held 3 days before.  Gillian created this YouTube video of the 2010 run that was shown at our pasta dinner, the night before the race.

We are very grateful for all of the support.  Lauren has been busy meeting with community groups and local high schools to implement programs before the end of the school year.  This is why we have raised the money - we want it to directly impact high school students.  We are starting locally, but have a vision of expanding to other school systems.

Below are pictures, showcasing our new logo and t-shirts and a slideshow from the day.  We hope more runners will join us for next year's event!

SunTrust Rock N Roll Marathon start at the Washington DC Armory

Lauren's boyfriend John, showed his support by joining her at the half-way mark and running her in

Why we are running.....

Gillian's first half-marathon, supported by three of her friends

Lauren and her best friend from high school (also Lauren) are running the marathon - I love their expressions

Both Lauren's at Dupont Circle (mile 6) - looking good! 

Gillian and her friends running up to Dupont Circle

Gillian and friends running to the finish of the half-marathon

Yea - she did it!!

Tailgate after the half-marathon finish

Both Lauren's at the end of the marathon - it was hot!

We are so proud of them!

All for our beloved Josh

Champaigne celebration!! 

Slideshow with more pictures

Sunday, March 18, 2012

3-18-2012 - Three Years Later

Many thanks for the emails, FB messages, texts and phone calls today.  And to my friend Rox, for coming all the way from Atlanta to be with us.  Getting on the computer late this afternoon, I saw this post on my daughter-in-law's blog which reminded me of a post written a little over two months after his death called Josh and Dogs.

I've been a bit numb.  The week leading up to today has been extremely busy with our two fundraising events - bar fundraiser on Wednesday and marathon/half-marathon run yesterday.  The support for both has been overwhelming and moving.  Despite the lack of time for true reflection, I did try to write a little in my journal this morning and here is the gist of my thoughts.

I am still in disbelief sometimes - not that Josh is gone - I know that is true.  It is more around the fact that it happened to us.  We are like many other close and loving families in our community.  Tim and I have been dedicated parents from the get go.  We were fortunate to have jobs that allowed both of us to be home during their younger years.  I don't think he and I ever disagreed on how we would raise our kids. We believed they should have rules and consequences if broken.  We worked hard not to discipline out of anger/frustration.  We were very involved in their academic, extra-curricular and social lives.  If they participated in a baseball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, football game or dance competition, we were there.  Tim coached the boy's baseball teams.  We knew their friends.  The kids were our #1 priority.

We struggled and muddled our way through the difficult teen years.  I am sure we were too harsh at times and too lenient at other times.  In fact, our older kids have said that we lightened up a lot with Josh - letting him "get away with things."  Probably true since he was our 4th, and we unwittingly gave into  parental fatigue.  As I reflect now, I wonder if we unknowingly did or said things that made our kids feel competitive with each another.  And while we tried to have open lines of communication, I am sure we said our fair share of "because we said so" to the questions of "why?" or "why not?"

That said, we did our best.  And with a clear conscious, I can say that everything we did, while not always right, was motivated out of what was best for them.  So I struggle now with the inexplicable question - if you love your child(ren) with all of your heart and would do anything for them, and have hopefully proven that through the child-rearing years, how could this happen?

How could your son decide to leave?  A loving home?  Friends too numerous to count?

How?  Why?   I am always brought back to these two haunting and unanswerable questions.  And it is because of these questions that we are focused and passionate about the Josh Anderson Foundation.  We want to fund programs in schools that could have impacted our son to take a different course of action in the midst of his extreme despair.  We want kids to feel comfortable enough to be open about their issues and to get help before it becomes unbearable.  We don't want kids suffering alone. We want to stop teenage suicide so no other family will suffer the same tragic loss.

RIP Josh.
I love and miss you more than words can express,

Friday, March 16, 2012

Successful Bar Fundraiser - March 14, 2012

The support for the Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF) has been overwhelming.  Pulled together in just ten short days, with herculean efforts from one of Lauren's high school friends and her family, the bar fundraiser held at The Tavern in Great Falls, VA was an incredible success, bringing in around $8,000!  

Friends signed up to be guest bartenders, local businesses donated prizes for our raffle, The Tavern gave 10% of the bar proceeds, and generous individuals and companies sponsored the event.  

Lauren's high school and college friends came out in full force along with many from the community so it was a fun mixture of a young 20's crowd and those mine and Tim's age.  As a parent, it is gratifying to see how the younger generation has embraced and supported efforts such as the JAF.  

We have some exciting programs planned in the spring which I will share as they are firmed up.  Everything we are doing is focused on one goal:  establishing programs that promote Youth Mental Wellness so that no teenager will ever turn to suicide.