birthdays and other thoughts…

I love this card that came from a friend in England. Right now I’m reading an old biography of Keith Richards–have owned it for many years, but never had a chance to read it–so all things British are making me happy. This card in particular touches me, because I know this year the holidays are bittersweet for the sender, so his thoughtfulness is even more appreciated. The 19th is his birthday–the same birthday as Aaron’s–and both of them are very much on my mind.

National Suicide Prevention Week

September 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Every day I think of our nephew Aaron. I think of all the times we laughed together. I think of his playful nature, his wisdom, his compassion, the food and dogs and books and movies he liked. I think of the many photos his mother shared when we lived so far apart that allowed me to watch him as he grew up. I think of his visits to The Compound as he got older and the cherished place he took among our family and friends. I contemplate how he loved us and protected us, especially his parents, from the truth of the depression that engulfed him.

No matter how much I wish I could, I can never forget the stark truth of his last day and the terrible phone call that began my reality of living in a world without him. He killed himself just before his high school graduation. His friends overflowed his memorial service to say goodbye.

This year we didn’t celebrate his college graduation. We won’t know which career choices he might have made. We won’t see him marry, or hold his first child, or be part of all the celebrations and challenges that every family goes through together. Aaron didn’t take that from us. Depression did.

I wish no parent, no child, no brother or sister, no aunt or uncle, no grandparent, no cousin, no friend would ever have to know this kind of loss.

For more information about recognizing the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, please visit the American Association of Suicidology website. If you are struggling, please visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

We love you, Aaron, and hold your memory in our hearts.

A Movable Garden

We have let the little garden grow as it would over the past few months. The lantana is wild and overpowering, but beneath it, there are still other plants and flowers thriving.

It’s the playground of lizards.

The fragrance of the lavender soothes.

The mystery of it lures dog noses to snuffle their way in, and they often sample the flowers to see if the taste has changed since last time.

We will dismantle it when we go, moving its parts in pots, and then replant them at our new house. We hope they’ll thrive. We’ll create another small garden there.

Aaron would have turned twenty-one today.

No One Else Can Play Your Part

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, which is today.

Where do I go from there? Providing facts, figures, statistics–if these are things you want to know, the entire Internet is at your disposal. You can go to the American Association of Suicidology and learn so much about risk factors and support. To Write Love On Her Arms provides a wealth of ways of how we can raise awareness about suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is another outstanding resource.

All of those sites are helpful and important and can give you much better information than I can in this blog post.

What I’d most like to put in any vulnerable person’s head is this:


If you are depressed, lonely, frightened, thinking of self-harming, desperate to make the pain stop, there are people willing to listen to you and help you find the support you need. You are not weak. You are not a burden. You are not alone. You are not broken past hope. There is always hope. Always. There is always healing. Always. If the people you wish you could count on don’t want to hear you or don’t know how to help you, there are others who can help you believe what you need to know:


You matter so, so much. It’s hard sometimes to believe it’s true, but you have a unique place in the world that no one else can fill.

Of everyone I’ve ever known or met who knew my nephew Aaron, there is not one–NOT ONE–who would not have helped him had he described the anguish he was enduring. His particular darkness was depression, and there is no way to fathom how much energy it must have taken him to hide it from the people he loved. He wanted to protect us. He wanted to make us laugh. He wanted to be a part of all the good things that family and friendship offer. He was not perfect. He could act out. He could get angry. He could make mistakes. In other words, he was human just like every other person on the planet has ever been.

Except that depression lied to him and tormented him and ultimately convinced him that there was only one way to stop the pain he was in.

So this amazing person who was so full of compassion for others–for special needs kids, for the most damaged dogs in the shelter, for the friends who needed a shoulder to cry on, for anyone in the family who was sick or who was going through something challenging–in one terrible moment that can never be undone, he stopped being. His parents and everyone who loves him never saw him take his diploma. Never saw him drive his car to his first class as a college freshman. Will never see him marry the person he loves or hold his first child in his arms or fail at the endeavors that adults experience and rise above and go on to do extraordinary things. The world, such a better place because he was in it, can never fill the void of his absence.

We can never have him back. We can never undo that moment. We can never stop asking the questions and feeling the doubts of whether we could have helped create a different outcome.

All because depression made Aaron believe the most terrible lies of all. That he couldn’t talk to us. That he couldn’t reach for us. That he didn’t matter.

He mattered.

You all matter.

Please don’t go. If or when you find yourself at that point, if there is no one else to talk to, no one else to reach for, no one else who’ll tell you how much you matter, please call this number.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

I love you, Aaron. We all do.

Aaron’s Garden

This is what Tom and I worked on Friday and Saturday, but I didn’t take pictures until Sunday because MOSQUITOS. Man, I can’t stand those things.

One time when Aaron was visiting, he asked where he’d be sleeping and I told him a sleeping bag under this tree, and the rats probably wouldn’t bother him much. First he acted like he thought I was serious, then he grinned at me. I like having his little garden in that spot and remembering his grin.

Tom created the raised bed with the stones and filled it with soil. I’m trying out a variety of flowers and ground covers to see how they’ll do. I’m hoping since this is a way to honor Aaron’s memory, I’ll try harder at making it thrive. But it’ll be trial and error until I see what works and what doesn’t. That’s all part of any process, right?

That little elephant planter was a gift from our niece Toni to Tom (she, the Auburn fan and future Auburn student, was kind enough to give him the Alabama mascot!). It has aloe in it, because if there’s one thing I can grow, it’s aloe. I have tons of it from a neighbor and my friend Pat, so anyone gets burned cooking or from too much sun, we’re good. His mom Lisa told me that Aaron loved elephants, so it’s a nice addition to his garden.

This little guy, who some say is a dachshund and some say a basset hound, was a gift from Lynne a few years ago. He has aloe, too. Aaron loved dogs, and he was a volunteer shelter dog walker when he was a youngster. So again, a good addition to his garden.

The plants include lantana, melampodium (a kind of sunflower), begonias, lavender, Irish moss, mondo grass, and my favorite Creeping Jenny, which I honestly wish could cover my whole yard–then I wouldn’t care that grass won’t grow. But I think it would probably want too much water, so I’m going to see if I can keep in under control in the flower bed. Same story on the Irish moss. Again, it’s a process of experimenting, failing, succeeding, more trying. Gardening is about hope–and mosquitos. To my way of thinking, we can use more of the first and way less of the other.