Raising Awareness, raising money, raising our courage. These are ways we fight the epidemic of suicide.
My intent was to be there at the very beginning and to get involved, since I knew that I was truly ready to face this event. Last year’s Out of the Darkness Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) was a challenge for me. This challenge was a part of my healing – healing of the wound left by the loss of my one and only son to suicide six years, two months, and seven days ago.
It was important to keep busy doing whatever I could. I fully engaged by helping to hang the banner by the pavilion, and assisting with setting up booths, snack tables. Everyone was diligently performing their assigned tasks. While we worked I kept hearing discussions about “the tree” that the staff was anxious to set up. They didn’t know if the tree would make it due to the rain. They didn’t know where they would set it up either. This tree was really piquing my interest.
Tree of Lives
Soon, walkers gathered. There were families, who had just lost loved ones, walking around with signs and photos showing the dates of their loss. Some wore shirts with sentiments such as: “Your Life Matters You Will Never Be Forgotten.”
Then I saw a bronze-looking object with pipes of different sizes being unloaded from a truck. This, as it turns out, was to become the tree. Once the pipes, which were actually the limbs, were assembled to the base, there stood the tree, in spite of the wind and rain.
It became a reality, and the meaning was clearer to me.
We were then directed to the craft table where we could choose stock paper, glitter, markers and colored twine to affix pictures of our loved ones to the tree. Slowly, I chose stock paper in my favorite color (blue) and glued to it the picture of my son when he graduated from the University of Phoenix, at the top of his class with a master’s in International Marketing.
Say His Name
Yes, I was very proud of him. My McCants LeVon Carter, born November 13, 1978 was a quiet child who became more confident after high school. He loved and looked up to his older sister, and was so proud of his two nieces. He insisted that they pursue their education. When his nephew came along later, he was equally proud of him.
He was a lifelong learner. My son loved to read car magazines, and books by Ellen G. White, especially The Great Controversy. He graduated from Bowie State University in 2003, and immediately pursued his MBA.
His love was vibrant, and he surprised his sweetheart of seven years, Meredith, with a proposal on stage at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland. His proposal took place when they both graduated on the same day, with thousands in attendance. He later married her on his birthday. He loved Meredith and their two daughters.
Walk into the Light
It was an emotional moment to see the golden tree which bore pictures of our loved ones, even though I wondered why I was even at this event.
Once the ceremonies began, speakers told of their lost loved ones; some also told of trying to end their own lives. We know that people of all ages, ethnic groups and economic strata commit suicide. In fact, the numbers are higher for suicide than for all the veterans who lost their lives in Vietnam. A recent Washington Post article stated that suicide is a national epidemic, and that it needs to be treated like one. Organizers reminded us that AFSP needs more funding to lower these growing, alarming statistics.
The Walk will occur again, and my plan is to participate, again. Last year I walked the five miles, and met some of the walkers. There was a woman who was walking for her son, who lost his close friend to suicide. She wished her son could have been part of the Walk, and hoped her participation would serve as a vehicle for discussion and encourage her son to open up about his feelings.
If I Can Help Somebody
Overall, there was not much conversation as we were all there to represent the loss and to make a statement about the need for funding from the medical arena and the government. Losing a child is truly a tough journey. My desire is to help others get through this painful journey, which may be avoided by assisting others before they feel the need to take this final step.
Fortunately, I have had occasions to offer assistance to parents and family members by encouraging them that they, too, can make it through this trial. God does not give us what we can handle; God helps us handle what we are given
Find out how you can participate in a walk near you. Here’s one near me: