I heard on the news recently that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has designated Saturday, November 23 as the 15th Annual International Survivors of Suicide Day.
This caught my attention and I really have not been able to get it out of my head for some reason. Well, the most obvious reason would be that my son committed suicide and I live with that tape playing in my head all the time—sometimes louder than others.
But the part of that news which caught my attention the most is “survivor of suicide.” I don’t think of myself in that way. I don’t think of myself as a survivor. I think of myself as a mother. A mother whose son died.
I have the memories of the 25 years he was on this earth and I have the almost 20 years now of missing him. My love for him has not changed one iota from the first passage of time through the second one. And although his physical life ended, he has continued to inhabit my heart and mind in living color—perhaps Technicolor—as in the movies and tapes that play in my memory and on those rare occasions when he appears in my dreams.
I enjoy the visions of a boy/man who loved animals and had a caring, sensitive nature whenever I witness an unexpected act of kindness. I am reminded of his loyalty and sense of patriotism when I see a boy/man in uniform. I am relieved that he has no more stress and anxiety when I hear stories of kids who are ridiculed because they are “different.” I laugh to myself when I see a quirky smile on a young man’s face. And I feel very proud to have had the influence of Alex’s life, and death, to help me become a better person.
Shortly after Alex died, a friend shared a copy of something she had read in a little book by Norman Vincent Peale. As Mr. Peale was writing of suicide, he included an excerpt from a memorial service conducted by the Rev. Warren Stevens; that text follows. Those words and descriptions could have been written about Alex. This short passage has had a powerful influence on my evolution to a peaceful state of mind.
“Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!
“For one thing—he has won our admiration—because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years he had!
“Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know and understands!”