The reason I walk…

As I sit down about to write this post, I’m nervous. I’m not sure why – but I have some anxiety. I’m not necessarily comfortable sharing such personal feelings, let alone put them in writing. But yet there is a part of me that thinks that I at least owe it to my brother, and to all the others out there that have taken there lives – to at least do my part to try and prevent it from happening again on this day of Suicide Awareness. And this is the way I know how. I want to share my story with you. I want you to understand why Sunday at 2:00 I will be walking at the Out of the Darkness Walk in downtown Omaha.

It was nearly 13 years ago, December 31st, 1999. Most of the world was preparing for one of the biggest New Years Eves of all time – it was about to turn to 2000. Y2K was all the rage and we didn’t know if our bank accounts would freeze, the power and computers would shut down – or what was going to happen. I was 17 years old and living with my parents. I had a premature, twelve day old newborn baby boy asleep in the back bedroom. My mom was working her job at a local bank in town, and my dad had taken the day off work and was asleep in his bed. For anyone who knew my dad – this was completely out of character. He never missed a day of work, but he had woken up sick to his stomach that morning – worried about his oldest son, my older brother. My brother had been missing for a few days – some of his friends had told us that he left town – but no one really knew where to. This was a time before cell phones were common and we were helpless to get in touch with him. I remember it was mid afternoon and a police officer came to the door, I quickly answered it and when he said he needed to speak with my parents I told him they weren’t home. I was afraid my brother had gotten into some sort of trouble – and I wanted to intercept the message. The officer asked where they were and said he really needed to speak to them. I reluctantly told him my dad was sleeping – and he asked me to go wake him up. I can’t put into words how awful the next few minutes would become, and how what he would say would change us all forever. I waited in the kitchen while my dad spoke with him, and then my dad came in and told me – my only brother, my best friend, had killed himself. I remember collapsing on the ground sobbing.

The next few days were such a blur. I had a new baby that had to be fed every 2 hours around the clock, we had a casket to choose, burial plots to pick out, and funeral arrangements to make. I remember not wanting to get out of bed but knowing I had a little one depending on me so I didn’t have a choice. The funeral was packed, and our friends and family were steadfast in jumping in and helping any way they knew how. I remember the morning of the funeral my dad asked if I wanted to take some kleenex in with me to the service and I told him no, I didn’t think I could cry any more. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Saying good-bye to someone I love so much was the worst moment of my life.

I have a good friend who has a son that was diagnosed with cancer when he was 5 years old. She often says that after you get through the treatments and the illness you have a choice to make. You either become the victim or the advocate. It’s such a true statement. It didn’t happen overnight for us, it didn’t even happen in the same time frame – but eventually, my family chose to become advocates in our own way.  This is why we walk. We walk to support each other, we walk to honor my brother’s memory and the 19 years of joy and laughter he brought to our family. We walk to bring awareness to suicide. It’s unfortunate but in the past few years I have watched suicide affect our friends and take the lives of the ones they love time and time again. And everyone’s situation is so different. From teenage girls, to daddy’s, to grandfathers. It’s an awful thing – but to put an end to it – we need to shed light on it. So Sunday we will walk – to honor, remember, advocate, and support.

If you would like to support the Out of the Darkness walk – join us at the walk at Miller’s Landing on Sunday. Registration starts at noon, the walk starts at 2:00. If you can’t make the walk but would like to donate please follow the link below. Thank you for taking the time to read and share my story.