WALK ON–Sharing Sorrow Into Joy

“What if we joined our sorrows? What if that is joy?”

Ross Gay, American poet

1.

On the first Saturday of October, I met with team WALK ON, and we wandered together on Mt. Tabor, a wooded park in Portland, Oregon. A dormant volcano, this seemed a perfect place to offer our final efforts toward raising awareness and funds toward suicide prevention and support for survivors.

Although the official and annual OUT OF THE DARKNESS walk was cancelled (due to Covid-19) our team of six decided to gather. The morning was autumn-warm and sunny.

After walking for a while, we found a glowing spot on the mountain and sat for a simple ceremony. We each shared the WHY of our efforts toward this cause. As team captain (instigator!) I told my story and was deeply moved to hear my friends share their reason for taking part—and helping to raise a lot more money than I’d set as our goal.

My reason for getting involved was a stumbling. I had begun to research. I want to write a novel about a kid who loses a loved-one to suicide and struggles to feel safe and connected and eventually finds strength through connection. My research lead to AFSP—the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

When I was 8 years-old and not yet healed from a childhood illness, I came home from school one day to find my father’s dear friend lying dead atop his blue Chevrolet, in our garage. The man had come from Georgia to live with us. I now understand why: My father hoped to help John to want to live. For I don’t know how many months, he lived in that basement bedroom.

It was horrible, and it tore through my family’s life, forever silent. Even today–almost five decades later–my father won’t talk with me about what happened or the aftermath. No one talked about it then though at some point they sent me to a shrink who I refused to talk with about anything.

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No More Silence

I Want to Be a Part of the Change

June 14, 2020

It’s tough to figure out what to write and post. I know I need to listen, yet I also need to write and act—even when I’m not certain about what is the right thing to do or say.

Along with many, I’ve felt fear and a collective ache and grief since the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis. I’m sorry it’s taken until now for me to really wake up to the degree of ongoing injustice in the United States—for Black Americans. I regret my complacency.

The struggle for justice goes on.

 I’m no political analyst nor historian, but my grandfather flew airplanes for the German army during WWII. My great-grandmother, a house-cleaner and not well-educated—had tried to warn her daughter. She knew Hitler was dangerous. But my grandmother, her daughter, was swept up in the years, Nazi-youth, and didn’t listen to her mother’s warning. Hitler lead the country into the worst of human behavior, and he did it by instilling hatred between groups of people.

I felt shame for decades, knowing this history in my blood. But I grew up with the stories: Desperate people followed a crazy man, listened to a leader who lead them into darkness. He cradled their fears. He promised more wealth and power to those who wanted more for themselves and their children at the expense of the “others”.

So many died, and I’m sorry for these losses. The best I can do now is to keep alive awareness and to speak out and take part in action.

 Like so many people I know, a deep unease grew when the current president moved into the White House. Throughout his campaign he had spread hatred and demonstrated himself a bigot, misogynist, and clearly a man more interested in division than in unity or justice for all.

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