Over the weekend, my niece and I joined 2000+ suicide survivors for the 18 mile Overnight Walk through New York City. A record $2.5 million was raised for suicide prevention, research, and survivor support services. Our team contributed more than $5000 to the pot.
People assume, I think, that I write about Gabriel’s suicide and raise money for causes related to it, because doing so aides in my healing, or redeems the horrific reality, or brings meaning to my life. In reality, exposing this wound exacts an emotional toll that I’m increasingly unwilling to pay.
I shouldn’t be writing about my son killing himself; I should be writing about how he’s taking the world by storm with his many talents and passions.
I’m sure Mariel Hemingway would rather talk about her grandfather’s literature than his suicide too. But there she was at the Overnight Walk speaking eloquently and tearfully to the crowd about her pain, and filming a documentary about suicide, because, I think, she recognizes the danger to the rest of her family (including her daughter) in not talking about its legacy of suicide.
She wants it to stop.
In the last four years, with the help of both loved ones and strangers, I’ve raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 for causes related to Gabriel’s death, not because it’s fulfilling, but because I felt compelled to do something to stop the pain for others.
Now don’t hold me to this statement if I change my mind, but I think I’m done with public fundraising campaigns that draw attention to my loss. This means no more big events that require $1000 minimum fundraising goals in order to participate, unless I can afford to write a $1000 check myself. It was incredibly difficult, for example, to tell my neighbors that I was hosting a block party to raise money for suicide prevention because my son killed himself.
It was a great party, but I really hated exposing myself like that. I don’t want to do it again.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve given to one or more of my fundraising campaigns, I offer my sincere gratitude. Your money was well spent, so well spent in fact that I hope you’ll keep giving to The Children’s Tumor Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention until neurofibromatosis and mental illness no longer threaten the well being of those whose lives they touch.
However, instead of continuing to focus on Gabriel’s death, in my new position as News & Religion editor at UrbanFaith.com, I’ll honor his life. He cared deeply about the issues Urban Faith reports on, so I think it’s a fitting, subtle tribute to work on these issues too.
I’ll be updating the site too frequently to post links to my articles as they’re published, but I’ll try to post a weekly update. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
There’s much more to come.
As you read my words at Urban Faith, it can be our little secret that they’re written for Gabe.