“Membership in this group comes at a high price.”
-Evelyn Roberts (surviving widow)
The “Here for Life Walk” to remember our loved ones was held on Saturday, September 9. We had a beautiful, sunny, slightly windy day. Many, many survivors came.
Prior to the actual walk, we gather along the river bank of the Fox River. Survivors have pinwheels purchased at the event and would have written their loved ones name on it. I read the name of each loved one and the pinwheel is then placed along the walking path or the survivor walks with it. I either start or end the reading of the names by reading the names of the loved ones of the “Original Eight” otherwise known as the “Founding Mothers”. It seemed important to me to start with those names this year. Three of us have died. THAT hit me hard as I read the names.
One day, I am told, we will all be dead. Who will remember the history? Does it even matter?
The gazebo that is the center of the Memorial Garden at SPS, has a small plaque in it that lists the names of the Original Eight as well as the names of their loved ones. One day, maybe a hundred years from now, that, too, may well be gone. Why is this even important at all? My conclusion is that when one thinks of the river that flowed for thousands of years before us and will flow thousands of years after, this “today” stuff or this “history” stuff won’t matter.
What WILL matter is that, at one time, in one place, 8 women came together at a conference and started a group that came to be called Survivors of Suicide and that in this month of October I remember that and gladly rejoice that this group continues to meet the 3rd Monday of every month. We continue to fill a need.
My recent trip to Washington, D.C., with all of the history and richness of our country, reminded me of everlasting growth and change. I learn something new every time I visit DC. For example, visiting JFK’s gravesite, I learned that the Supreme Court Justices are buried to the right of it. I was able to visit the grave of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. John F. Kennedy died when I was an impressionable 16 year old high school junior. The Kennedy family and the Kennedy presidency is something that has fascinated me my entire adult life.
This time, visiting the grave, I was frustrated with those few people who were also there because they weren’t even born when he died. Comments like, “WHO was this President, again?” made me angry until I realized that his place in history is cemented but that their lives weren’t impacted like mine was when he died. But those same few people stepped over to Ginsberg’s grave and I heard one say, “Now THAT woman was amazing and did a lot of good for many people.” I just smiled.
Yesterday, I had breakfast with Andy and Julianne Weiss, long-time survivors of their military son’s death by suicide. Danny is always a topic when we get together and I’m usually the one to bring him up. As Andy said, in his (Andy’s) work with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance program for Survivors), the suicides continue to increase. He reminded me that it was at his first meeting of SOS where he had to say his son’s name, how he died, and when he died. He learned to say the word “suicide.” He learned to NOT say, “We lost Danny” because if he’d of lost him, he’d have been out looking for him. All of this gets passed on day in and day out in every city in our country and internationally as well. The importance is not the “who” who founded anything but the “why” and the learning about the “what”. The language, the emotions, the overwhelming sense of what has happened to each and every survivor is the universal “joiner”that continues to give on giving.
Forty-one years ago, on October 26, 1982, 8 women joined forces after meeting each other at a suicide educational conference. This happened all over the world as people met and formed groups. The common cause was suicide loss. Like AA or NA, the mutual understanding was present.
The quote at the beginning of this column was from survivor, Evie Roberts, herself now long dead. Her husband, Bill Roberts, died by suicide in their home. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend, and a fire chief. Membership in SOS DOES come at a high price and not one of us would choose membership; however, taking what is given to us and choosing to survive is just one option. Once we’ve survived, our goal is to thrive.
The group survives because of the commitment of each and every one of you to step up and help another.
We have survived; we are thriving as best we can.
Recognize and honor them and recognize and honor yourself….our battle is over but the war continues…