As I wrote last week, the AFSP Overnight Walk had to go virtual this year. I was determined to still walk the 16-18 miles on my own. My sister came down to be the leader of the cheering section and to be in charge of our own mini closing ceremony with luminaries. We had started planning a few months ago and while our original thoughts and ideas didn’t exactly happen, the walk yesterday symbolized so much of the walk I have been on since my mom killed herself almost 22 years ago.
I decided to do the first ten miles yesterday morning. I had two people to walk with me in the evening so I thought I could break things up to try to make it a little easier on my body. So I set off with cheers from my sister, husband, and son. Step by step I walked ten miles. My dad texted to remind me to be safe. It honestly reminded me of how much the journey through grief after losing someone to suicide is so much of a personal journey. Although there are others rooting for you, it is a walk you have to do on your own. I have been the only one that can take the steps of the journey, one by one. At times the steps are easier (like when the sun is blocked by trees and clouds), while other times the walk is horrid (sun beating down and high humidity). Regardless of the conditions, you keep walking.
I took a break by having an amazing meal with my family followed by a nap. I enjoyed getting encouraging texts from an amazing friend in Missouri. I was humbled as I saw many donate to the cause. My sister and I decorated luminaries as we watched some of the virtual programming… we both started sobbing during the bead ceremony (people wear beads in different colors to represent who they have lost… we were gold for the loss of a parent). The collective grief is felt even through a computer screen. We cry as we make luminaries for loved ones of people we have met at some of the previous walks… these indivudals have now become close friends.
Last night at seven my amazing friend Raquel showed up to do miles 10-13 with me. I met Raquel at work five years ago, but she has become so much more than a work friend. Her coming to physically walk with me last night meant more than she will ever know. We left the house with cheers from my sister, husband, and son. As we walked, I thought of the amazing friends who have walked with me on this journey of grief. Many times them not knowing what to say, but let me know I was not alone.
The last 13-16 miles were shared with a counselor from one of our middle schools. I have known Jennifer for about a year, but we have not been close friends. She saw a post on Facebook on Friday and volunteered to come to walk with me. I was humbled and so thankful. As we walked the last three miles, I was reminded about how on this never-ending grief journey, I often find others willing to join me on this walk, and through the walk, there is a bond that forms.
My family set up our own closing ceremony with luminaires and walking through them last night was powerful and humbling. The luminaries were in honor of loved ones lost from people we know… there were many and it was an honor to walk in their memory… each of them deserves to be remembered for the life they lived, not how their life ended.
So no, this year’s Overnight Walk was nothing like the previous walks. I missed being surrounded by so many on the same journey… at the same time the walk this year offered me a different perspective and appreciation for those closest to me. I once again am thankful for those who have been walking with me on this journey since the first day (love you Mandy and Dad), Matthew who married into this journey, Keaton who never knew my mom but shares a bond with her I can’t describe, friends who willing walk with me, and new friends made along the journey.