I picked up the phone.
She was sobbing. Through her tears, and hysterics, she informed me that my cousin had died by suicide.
I ran outside of the coffee shop, my three boys in tow, and began crying and saying “no” and “what” and “oh my word.” But there was nothing to say because Jami was gone, by her own hand, and there was nothing we could do.
I won’t pretend that Jami and I were best friends. We weren’t. But we loved each other. When I saw her, I made sure she was doing ok, I tried to talk to her friends, and, well, I feel like I didn’t try hard enough sometimes now. This isn’t a plea for pity so much as survivor’s remorse: I wish I could have done more, but I don’t know what more I could have done. And this is what is so hard when suicide is the cause of death. You always know that you could have done more, said a simple sentence or made a gesture, but you don’t know if that would have helped or if it would have saved them or what would happen. It’s the eternal “what if” game and I’ll play it for the rest of my life with regards to Jami, as I know her siblings and parents and grandparents and friends will as well.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about Jami. This is because September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Sept. 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. As well, I started and work at a nonprofit whose goal is to help people who feel lost, hurt, lonely, in pain, suffering, etc. due to mental illness or for whatever reason. And, well, Jami was/is my cousin and I didn’t help her. Her death flies right in the face of what I do and, yet, knowing the pain my family feels means that I work and fight and dig a little deeper so that no one else has to experience it.
I was honored to be asked to officiate Jami’s funeral. It allowed me to process some of my grief. And her funeral bulletin, with her picture and a poem the family loves called “I’m Free” sits on my desk and I look at it as I write blog posts, develop curriculum, talk to church and organizational leaders, and the myriad of other things that go into my daily life. I look at Jami and I remember why we do this and the help it can bring to not only someone like her, but their family and friends and loved ones.
I’m sorry if this rambles. But these are my initial thoughts as I began to think about doing good work during this month and week and day.
Jami’s life also played into our theme of “Play your Beat,” but I’ll talk more about that later this week. For now, look for those signs or ask someone if they need help. And help them. Let us help them. It could literally save their life.