Over the last couple of weeks, I had some trepidation about embarking on this walk organized by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention for last night. I had some fear about it. I guess I thought that all the feelings would overwhelm me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share any of my own experiences, and I also had been struggling with my emotions. But I think the sharing of these feelings is important.
I probably should have be grateful that I was able to raise a little bit of money for the AFSP. I raised enough money to attend the VIP reception that was held at the Reef, part of the Aquarium complex. At first, I felt rather alone. I was not sure that I belonged there. The orders and the drinks were wonderful. The company of participants there all had experienced some type of trauma related to suicide. The executive director of the organization was there. He is a very welcoming person and was very approachable.
I connected with a couple from Connecticut. They have been doing these walks for several years. There are two of these walks a year, and Dallas was picked for one of the sites this year. These walks are the organization’s main fundraisers. It had been years since this couple had been in Dallas so they were kind of excited about experiencing a good rib dinner. I was happy to provide some names of good restaurants. Tom and his wife lost their son to suicide several years ago. It took a few years for the haze to lift. Tom mentioned that he never knew his father, and that his father died in Normandy before his mother knew she was carrying him. Tom was raised by his mother who was very gracious person and never remarried.
Tom’s father was buried in France. He talked about visiting the grave site, and about this trip to find out where his father had died. During his trip, he met a Frenchman who was riding his bike. This person was 91 years old. He remembered the hospital where the wounded Americans were taken. This elderly gentlemen directed Tom to the site where the hospital had been. The building had long been destroyed, but when Tom got to the site a rainbow appeared. Based on the coincidental sighting of the rainbow arc, he knew that he had found his father’s final resting place. At that point, there was peace in his life.
The day after the reception at the Reef, the day of the walk, it was warmer than anticipated. The opening ceremonies were moving. Different color beads were given to individuals. These beads were categorized by color and represented in what way suicide impacted that individual. I met the group leaders of “Miles for the Military,” a wonderful couple from Virginia who lost a son who was in the Navy to suicide back in 2002. They have been doing these walks since their loss. The husband works as a civilian at Ft. Meade. Both are retired military. They had no warning of the suicide. There were no notes. While he was on leave, the son took his Corvette out for a ride. He backed the car into a wooded area, a secluded place, and shot himself. They did not find the body for two days. They, too, were in a fog for some time, and eventually they found this organization. These walks have helped relieve the pain of their loss.
I walked with a woman by the name of Veronica who is still in the military reserve. She is married and has two small children. She has been impacted several times by suicide. In particular, she talked about a chief petty officer who was both her supervisor and friend. As with the Ft. Meade couple’s son that I mentioned above, there was no warning. The impact on the unit was enormous. She spoke about him with fondness. As we walked, she indicated that she has had these feelings of suicide in the past herself. Yet, it was uncomfortable for her to talk about them. I said that was the case for me as well. We did a lot of laughing, and it was apparent that she had been training. I could not get past the midpoint of the walk because my feet, knees, and hips were hurting.
The day after, I was moved by the fact that everybody was emailing each other and asking how they were doing. This seems to be a group that really pulls together. I’m glad that I walked.