I am very much like my father. When I was young, I was certainly a "daddy's girl" -- perhaps even at that young age he saw himself in me and I, in him. As I grew, I took on more and more of his temperament - logical, strong, independent.
I remember telling my husband during one of our deep talks that I knew someday my parents, his parents, relatives, possibly even friends would die while we lived on. But I knew, I told him then, that my father's death would be the hardest.
I know my husband remembered this conversation as he took the call from my mom during the mid-afternoon hours on May 23, 2006.
I remember exactly what he said to me. I remember exactly what I was doing and what I did. I remember screaming, repeating no, no, no, no, no, please god no for an hour and a half as my husband drove me and our 1 year old son to my parent's house. But it wasn't until several days later, heavy in the fog of despair that I had predicted years earlier, that I allowed myself to realize what had happened:
My dad had taken his own life.
There isn't anything I can tell you at this point to sum up the next five years. My entire understanding of what "life" is changed with that one phone call. The figure that embodied security, safety, logic and love was no longer. And it was because of his choice. Nothing made sense, and I was left without a mental ground to stand on.
I have since tapped into a peace in my own life, but there are still floods of pain pulsing on doors to memories that I choose not to dwell upon. One thought, one word sends me spiraling back quite vividly to the minutes of that late afternoon in May.
Nothing can be done about what is passed. But my dad was not alone in his suffering. Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people are cloaked in pain right now.
Some share it openly. Others, like my father, go about their daily business in emotional silence. In increasing numbers, a few decide they can no longer bear the intense suffering and make a decision to allow others to bear it for them.
I have no judgment of my father - just a deep, burning need to alleviate others from the kind of suffering he was experiencing. So much of LifeUnity, of what I share on a daily basis, is rooted in that need to awaken people to the potential of Vibrancy in life, of hope, light, inner peace. So much is done in the hopes that each person takes responsibility for finding it within themselves.
This year, I will be joining my sister, Kristen, in a walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The walk, Out of the Darkness, will take place on October 15, 2011 here in Bloomington. I am quite proud of my sister, who has already created a page to raise funds. She has set a goal of $500 ...over $300 of which has generously already been met.
I want to help her exceed that amount. Not just exceed, but DOUBLE it.
In order to do so,
I will be raffling off a painting I created specifically for this event.
Faith and Love
11X14 on wrapped canvas
In the midst of the inevitable pain of life - the sorrows of loss, the stresses of "not enough", the seemingly unbearable realization of death - grows love and faith. Trite as it may seem, these two delicate forces are unstoppable.
It takes only a small seed of love - offered in the corners of a smile, a heartfelt thank you, a hug, an acknowledgement - and a small seed of faith - that life is more than this pain - to provide light in the darkness of suffering.
This painting was created while reflecting on my own light and darkness. It was completed to remind the viewer not only of that hope and warmth that is present amidst pain, but also of the beauty of the darkness. We plant the seeds of both light and dark in ourselves and others and journey through life in order to experience what grows...what Is.
Faith and Love is a textured painting, painted around the edges on the canvas, and will come ready to hang.
HOW TO ENTER
Everyone who makes a donation - no matter what amount - will be entered to win.
Simply go HERE ( http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&eventID=1327&participantID=231578 ) to make a donation.
*UPDATE: We have created a team page: Stephen's Survivors. The link above will now take you to my personal page. Previous donations appear on my sister's page here ; future donations will appear on my page. ALL donations will go towards the team's goal of $1000.
Click on the "support me" button in the upper right corner.
Once you have made a donation, you can either leave a comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know you have done so. I will keep track of everyone and draw a name on October 16th. I will notify the winner via email, so be sure to leave contact information with me.
Entries are on the honor system. If you can't make a donation that is perfectly fine (prayers and love work just as well). In an effort to raise funds, though, the raffle is only open to those who have donated to AFSP.
I'm not doing this to increase followers or traffic, so there will be no "extra entries" for following or the like. I would, however, greatly appreciate FB mentions or Tweets about this because this is all about raising funds and awareness for AFSP. Someday, hopefully, there will be no need for a suicide prevention foundation in America or anywhere else. Until that time, I want to keep awareness alive.
I want to thank you. Even if you don't or can't donate, even if this passes from your mind after you close the web browser, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read through this, for allowing me a minute to share my story...my family's story. My father's story.
Thank you to those who send love, light, heartfelt wishes for healing. Thank you not only for me and my family, but for those who right now are feeling pain. Your love, on some level, reaches them as well.
Thank you especially to those of you who are able and who take the time to donate. I believe that awareness through education and support through acknowledgement just as the AFSP does is crucial to heal a darkness that is often overlooked.
Nearly a year after my dad's decision, I made a video in acknowledgement of my process. It was made primarily for myself. I also knew I wanted to share with family - video footage of my father that they had never seen, emotions and thoughts that I had that I couldn't share in any other way.
I never intended to make this video public.
After watching it repeatedly, hearing the stories of others who have lost someone to suicide, and knowing that this pain, these emotions, these thoughts are not just my own, I have decided to share it.
I do so to bring awareness: To those who have not been directly affected by suicide to let them know of a "survivor's" viewpoint and to those who have been affected to let you know you are not alone.
I didn't want it showing up randomly in Vimeo's search engines, so I did password protect it. To view it, you will need to enter the password: "awareness" (all lowercase letters).
To sum up:
To donate, go HERE and click on the "Support Me" button.
To enter to win the painting, leave a comment below letting me know you donated (including your email) or email me at email@example.com.
To you, ......