On Wednesday, May 28th, 1975, my father left his apartment on Cape Cod, and drove his car to a secluded parking area that served a handful of cottages on Arey's pond in Orleans, Massachusetts. During better times, we had gone there as a family, and it was a very special place for my father. On this day, he was resolved to end his battle with mental illness. He took his life that day in his 1970 pale-blue Volkswagon Squareback. The same car that he drove us around in to and from the Cape. The 'way-back' of the car as we called it, was always covered in a light layer of beach sand from the days at Nauset Beach and Pilgrim Lake.
He was thirty-two. He had been a high school English teacher at Roxbury Latin, where he also coached JV football and basketball. He was a son, an artist, musician, husband, and father. My father was gifted in many ways, and everyone remembers him as a charismatic, kind, and thoughtful man. He was full of life. He was loved and admired by so many, including his students, who sought his company. Prior to the onset of his illness, he was light-hearted, a natural physical comedian, and outgoing, but none of that matters to mental illness. My father was no match for the darkness that consumed his thoughts, as hard as he tried to beat it, and so on that day in May, he killed himself.
Like many who are victims of suicide, my family was left wondering what we could have done. My mother had spent the final few years of his life trying to hide anything he could use to harm himself. A year before he died, she finally had to ask him to leave our home when she discovered he had stopped taking his medication. Two weeks before he killed himself, my grandparents had urged him to come stay with them in Pittsburgh, hoping they could give him the help he needed. He agreed, knowing he'd never make that trip. The week before his death, he visited us one last time at our house to celebrate my older sister's tenth birthday. When he left, nobody was aware that he snuck our vacuum cleaner hose from the house. That was not on the list of items my mother thought to hide from him. My sisters and I have spent the past forty-four years wondering how our lives would have been different had he lived, or whether we could have made a difference for him had we known what he was experiencing.
I am now fifty-one years old, and I know I can make a difference. I have been given the honor of joining the Samaritans 2020 Boston Marathon Team. I grew up near the Wellesley portion of the course, and I spent many Patriot's Day mornings standing on the side of the road cheering on the runners. They were superhuman to me, and it never occurred to me that I might one day be among them. I can't call it a dream come true, because until recently, I never entertained the idea of running a marathon, but that is now my reality. I am honored and excited to be a member of this team; running with kindred spirits who've all been deeply affected in some way by suicide.
The Samaritans are committed to preventing suicide. Through the principles of befriending, they utilize many tools to help support people who are suicidal, as well as using thier resources to help people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Thier impact is immeasurable, but their need for contributions is great. I have committed to raising $13,000 for the Samaritans. I want to do more.
I feel unstoppable when I think my run can help prevent suicide. I feel unstoppable when I think I can help reduce the stigma of mental illness. I can help to end the shame, the alienation and anguish bequeathed to families like mine who have survived the suicide of a loved one. My run will help to provide real resources for someone like my dad, someone struggling with pain so deep and devastating that suicide seems like the only way out.
I am asking you to work with me in helping the Samaritans raise the funds needed to help prevent suicide. With your help, we can push the darkness back, and save some lives. Additionally, I hope to see you all standing on the side of the road cheering me on as I live a life, I never thought was possible.