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.

Remembering Aaron

Two years ago today, Aaron–son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend–took his life. We think of him every day. Our love for him is infinite and unwavering. The world was a better place with and because of him. We never stop missing him. His memory sustains us.

Tom and I began a project today in Aaron’s memory. There will be more photos as we finish it. I just wanted those who love him to know that we hold him, and each of you, in our hearts.

A little emotional

Back in September on World Suicide Prevention Day, it was suggested that we set a candle in the window to remember someone lost or show support for suicide prevention. I did that and put a photo of our nephew Aaron next to the candle. In the months since, I’ve left the photo there. It somehow makes him feel like a part of every day, including Christmas now that lights are strung on that same shelf.

Aaron would have been twenty today. I can’t believe he’s not with his parents, brothers, and sister to celebrate leaving his teen years. I know whatever he’d be doing, we’d all be proud of him. We’re still proud of the incredible person he was every day that we had him with us.

I’ve talked before about Aaron’s compassionate heart and how one thing he gave his time and energy to was dog rescue. I felt his spirit very much today as I took photos at Rescued Pets Movement’s transport this morning. I’m sure that was part of the reason that I felt near tears the entire time, but it was something else, too. Everyone remarked about how calm and quiet all the dogs were as they were being put into the van. I think it was because, among all the animals, there were three mama dogs with their puppies. The grateful, loving energy they put off was palpable. I believe they knew that the people there were literally saving their lives and their puppies’ lives. It was a very powerful thing, and when I drove away, I thanked Aaron because even though I can’t hug him and tell him happy birthday in person, I can feel his loving spirit near me whenever good things happen.

My favorite picture I took today was of Portia. Those are her puppies in the crate behind her.

Safe journey to all gentle souls.

World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. From the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) web site:

Light a candle near a window at 8 PM to show your support for suicide prevention, to remember a lost loved one, and for the survivors of suicide.

Tonight, a candle burns in our window for our nephew Aaron, who died on April 25, 2012. We love you and miss you, Aaron.

Button Sunday

National Suicide Prevention Week begins September 8. This is the 39th annual dedication of a week to raise awareness of the issues around suicide: causes, prevention, warning signs, survivors, and grief.

People whose lives have been affected by suicide often find it difficult to talk about it. But the more we learn, the more open we are, the better chance we have of preventing suicide and the more we can foster healing for those affected by suicide.

If you want to learn more, or if you are a suicide attempt survivor or a suicide loss survivor, there’s a lot of information on the American Association of Suicidology site. If you are struggling, please check out the Suicide Prevention Lifeline site.

And please, please, if you are alone or scared, no matter what problems you’re dealing with, you can call 1-800-273-8255. This helpline has trained counselors available 24/7. Please make that call, because we need you here.

April Photo A Day: Life Is…

Life is beautiful. And fragile. And so fleeting.

On this date last year, a beautiful spring day like this one, my nephew Aaron’s struggle with depression–a struggle his family wasn’t aware of–led him to end his life. He was eighteen.

I’m sure everyone in his family and many of his friends could write entire books about how their last year has been shaped by the loss of Aaron. Daily struggles. Tears we felt would never end. Laughter brought by funny Aaron stories. Fragments of information that showed his compassion and sensitivity–acts he never shared because humility was part of his nature. The people who became for us, as Mr. Rogers would say, “the helpers,” and sustained us as we grieved. The people who drifted from our lives, perhaps because suicide is too raw, too real, too close. The unexpected gifts of dreams and signs and moments that make us feel Aaron’s still with us even if we can’t see him or hug him.

In other towns and cities, family members and friends who knew Aaron celebrated his life in their own ways. Some attached letters to balloons and released them. We didn’t write letters here, but Tim helped me pick out balloons.

We released seven of them from the rose garden at Hermann Park: from Tom and me, from Tim, from Aaron’s father David and Geri, from his Aunt Debby, from his brother Daniel and nephews Dave and Steven, from his Cochrane and Johnson cousins, and from other friends and family members–including the dogs–who met and cared for Aaron.

He is so deeply loved and will always be missed.

All I ever wanted was to know that you were dreaming

I have a passion for home, but I long ago accepted that I have no passion for house cleaning. One of the things I don’t mind doing, especially if I have a window, is washing dishes. This is why I rarely used a dishwasher, even when I had one. Debby and I used to argue over who had to do the dishes–I think that’s a natural teenage sibling thing. I remember those arguments best from the house we lived in just before she was married and moved out. (David and my father rarely did the dishes. Different times…)

After I became the only kid left at home, dishwashing was left mainly to Mother and me. I remember lots of evenings staring out the kitchen window of the last house I lived in with my parents, watching the street, the main road through our little town, and smiling when my friends or boyfriend drove by and blew their horns.

Now both my sister and I are content to be in suds up to our elbows, as my mother always was (she also rarely used a dishwasher other than her kids). I do a lot of thinking at the kitchen sink, and looking at this photo, I realize why my thoughts so often turn to people I care about. Just the items on the shelf over the sink and on the fence seen through the window evoke reminiscences of Tom, Lynne, Lisa S, Timmy, Paul, James, Tim, Jeff, my parents, Debby, Jess, Laura, Lindsey, and Rhonda–and Margot and Guinness. It’s a place of friends and family, as homes should be.

Last year during this time, Aaron and I were trading texts about his coming to stay here a few days during spring break. Tom and I were so happy he wanted to spend time with us, Tim, and the dogs, and I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

So many memories…

Today is Riley’s birthday. How I’d love to call him and wish him a happy one. He’s another of the people I think about and miss deeply. The year 1980 was one of the most significant in our long history of friendship. I can remember the house I was living in then, and all the time he spent there, and how Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” LP stayed on my turntable almost constantly. There are so many pieces of Stevie Nicks’s “Sara” that tell a story of Riley and me. I’m sure lots of people feel the same way about the song for many different reasons–true of all the best songs, I think.

For Riley…