I learned to know my Grandma from photos and stories. I called her "Beebop." Her birthday was March 4th. It's the only date that's actually a sentence: "March forth." She had a gentle face. I see her features in my mom. My Grandma was one of my mom's Best Friends. I think of the yellow flower, daffodils when I think of her. Spring time.
She lived in Aurora. My grandfather had died. My grandma was alone. We lived a whole state away in South Bend, Indiana. We moved there so that my dad could take a job as a Professor at The University of Notre Dame. My grandma suffered from depression. My grandma made the choice to consume a bottle of sleeping pills and did not wake up.
I was three years old at the time so my memory of all of this is really through the stories told about it and the direction our family moved after. For many years, mom would make a torte cake on my Grandma's birthday. It had a crunch meringue topping, custard in the middle. And nuts. Pecan, maybe?
I watched my mom's world gravitate towards suicide prevention. We lived in Southbend, Indiana. Later we moved to West Dundee. She went to a lot of support group meetings. I remember her having a "cb" in her car: A radio so that she could talk to truckers if her car had broken down in a bad storm. I remember her driving to meetings in bad weather. Later, she had a black "pager." Remember those?
We moved to Aurora when I was in the 4th grade. My mom was given the opportunity to create the Crisis Line of the Fox Valley. A 24-hour call hotline. She worked a lot. I was a latch-key kid. I let my brother in our house with a key, and then called my mom to let her know we were home from school.
She was devoted to her job, but there when we needed it. There was a time I had gotten sick at school. I think it was a first for me. She was at home that day and flew out of the driveway so quickly that the side mirror scraped the side of the house. That mark was on the house for a long time. A mark of love.
In college, I took training to be a phone counselor at the Crisis Line. It was 80 hours of training. And I received college credit for it at Waubonsee Community College. I was active for about a year. Then life was busy, and my priorities took a shift.
The Crisis Line became Suicide Prevention Services on May 29, 1998. My birthdate. I know that was my mom's doing and intentional although we've never said it out loud. This was a leap and the start of more services and suicide prevention training for the public. Mom's public speaking engagements increased, and she began to travel more.
In 2008, I was well on my way in web design. The SPS website needed revamping and I volunteered to do it.
It was a labor of love for me. I learned so much about every aspect of the organization. The final website was 68 pages. The largest site I had ever made. It took about a month to create. I am proud of this fact. It was around that time that I volunteered to create a Facebook and Twitter page. I have maintained the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/spsfv) and Twitter page (www.twitter.com/spsfv) ever since.
I am the administrator on the Facebook page and I post daily. I think this is one of the most rewarding things I do in life. There's a balance to finding things about sucide without being too depressing. And a balance to not painting the world over-positively. I love engaging people and getting a positive reaction. Our online audience has grown to over 2,000 people.
I have to clarify something. I feel like I am a survivor of suicide (a person who has lost a loved one to suicide), but feel I only have partial membership. I see and communicate with people who have recently lost an immediate family member to suicide. Their fresh grief and world ripped apart. My heart hurts for them. I was three years old when my Grandma took her life. My grief is so different. I am humbled to be among such an amazing group of people. For a while, I put her photo away. I think I was angry with her for making a decision that hurt my mom. I felt it was selfish. My feelings have softened. I realize now that depression is an illness. And she was sick.
Over the years, I've witnessed friends hit depression lows. One friend in particular had lost her mom to cancer. Then more recently, lost a brother. We've created the "We must live to be 103 Club". Just another way to help remove suicide as an option. To move through grief and depression and know that something positive and worth while is on the other side.
To know my mom is to know love. I can't imagine my world without her. At 35 years of age (me) I still hate it when she's gone on a trip and not physically accessible. We talk on the phone many times a week. I see her about once a week. We've made an agreement to one another that suicide is simply not a choice. I think that's important to make that agreement with someone after you've been affected as a family. After it happens, I think it does become a silent option. Between my mom and I, it's not an option.
Moving to where we are today: My mom is the executive director of Suicide Prevention Services of America. A non-profit organization she founded. I am the volunteer webmaster. I am the photographer at SPS events. I love being among such amazing people.
I continue to be a cheerleader to rally support of SPS. But in the end, I do it for my mom. I am her biggest fan. She's one of my very best friends. I look at her path of travel: A school teacher. A mom. And then suddenly on a path to prevent suicide. The road is long and winding. She moved her life from a bitter Winter to a gentle Spring. There's a quote I like: "Flowers grow from dark places." ... Indeed.
To become involved with SPS as a volunteer: Email: Holly@spsamerica.org. We have support groups open to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. Our Sandwich, IL. group meets the first Monday of every month at the Salem Lutheran Church from 7-9pm. Our Aurora, IL. group meets the 3rd Monday of the month at the Advent Christian Church from 7-9pm. More info for both: www.spsamerica.org.
Join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/spsfv.
We have an event coming up called: 50 Men Who Cook. www.50MenWhoCook.com 50 Men gather at Lincoln Inn banquet hall in Batavia on March 24th from 6-9pm. Each man gets his own table to present bite-sized portions of food for the attendees to eat. There's live music, and a bar. Raffle items and more. Tickets are available for $50 online or $60 at the door. We are still recruiting cooks for the event. Want to cook? Visit: www.50menwhocook.com to sign up. Mayors, politicians, policemen, firemen, businessmen, dads, brothers, and more attend and cook.
Just a few of the confirmed cooks are: Mayor Gary Golinski of Yorkville, Jillian Duchnowski of the Yorkville Patch, Former Plano Mayor Bill Roberts, State Representative Kay Hatcher, Naperville Mayor Pradel, Robyn and Chuck Sutcliff of Whitewater Ice Cream Shoppe, Corey Johnson of Laborers Union #149, Former 1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bear Kurt Becker, and many more. We hope to see you there.