Updated: Sep 9
I think most of us can remember where we were when a historical moment in our lives took place. For so many of us, we can probably remember exactly where we were when 9/11 happened. We remember what we were doing and even who we were with when we heard the news. Moments like that seem to carve out a place in our memory bank that lasts forever.
So let’s just agree the year 2020 will go down in history as one that most of us will never forget. It’s changed the way we live in more ways than one, and even the phrase “the new normal” has become “the new normal.” Working from home, as well as homeschooling, have become part of that new way of life. Let’s be honest, what we’re really afraid of is that life might never go back to the normal we knew before COVID-19 became part of life. Our world and our lives have changed forever, and not because of anything we chose. I get that. I totally get that, because our family experienced an event which changed our lives forever. It was definitely not something we chose either.
It all started for us on September 10, 2016, with our doorbell ringing like crazy at 2:30 in the morning. Now that’s a sound that no parent ever wants to hear but especially in the middle of the night. Our son, Austin, was just starting his junior year at Wabash College, where he was majoring in Economics with a minor in Business. He planned to go to graduate school, or attend law school, but the ringing of that doorbell changed all of our lives forever.
Earlier that day, I face-timed with Austin for 45 minutes. He told me all about his new classes and how he was going to work out that afternoon. We talked about his weekend plans to go watch the Notre Dame game with his friends on Saturday. He even called his dad later that evening to catch up with him. I only wish we would have talked longer….because little did I realize that would be the last conversation I would ever have with our son. Later that evening, Austin would lose hope for a split second and make a decision that would change the course of his life and have a profound impact on our family forever.
One thing I have learned over the past few years is that grief is definitely not something you can postpone, avoid or side-step. You actually have to walk right through the middle of it, and when you come out on the other side, you have a choice to make. You can withdraw and let it take you down to a place no one ever wants to go. Or, you can move forward, using your story, and even your pain, for good. But, you cannot do both. I realized very early that if our story could save even one family from living through what we have, then I would need to tell it....and so it began.
On October 17, of 2018, I shared our story for the first time with 60 teenagers. Just like most teens are when they walk into a room, they were loud and rowdy, but 24 minutes later you could have heard a pin drop. It was hard. They cried and I cried, after my talk. That’s when I knew I needed to tell it again. So now, it’s been almost two years since I started sharing our journey, and even as I type these words, I am still in awe of all that has happened. I have now shared our story with groups as small as 25 teens to a major fundraiser with over 700 in attendance. Our story was meant to be shared to save young lives, and has become the purpose of my life. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death in 10-25 year olds. This quarantine and isolation have only made those statistics climb.
Last Fall, the local newspaper featured our family’s story on Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day. By sheer coincidence, it is the same day Austin took his life. In the article, I am referred to as a “Suicide Prevention Advocate” and I suppose that could be true. However, I would much rather be remembered just as a mom who shared a story with a strong message of hope. Because I never want any other family to hear their doorbell ring at 2:30 in the morning.