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, 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.