This morning I joined 700 other San Francisco survivors of suicide in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Together we raised over $90,000 for suicide prevention research and education, and helped raise awareness about mental illness.
It was foggy and cold as we gathered around Lake Merced. As we walked, the fog burned off, allowing the sun to shine through. Someone asked me if I had participated in last year's Walk. No, I said, I didn't have a reason to walk last year.
At one of the tables near the registration booth they were giving away Mardi Gras beads. Each color symbolized a different type of loss: orange for loss of a sibling, gold for loss of a parent, white for loss of a child, red for loss of a spouse or partner, purple for loss of a friend, green for someone who themselves struggles with suicidal thoughts, blue for someone who supports the cause. Every time I went to the table, I cried. I wore orange and blue beads on the walk, and they now hang on the rearview mirror of my car.
There were many speakers who talked about suicide as a public health crisis, suicide as the nation's most preventable cause of death, suicide as the day everything changed. The common thread of these speeches, or at least what I took from it, is that it's all about connection. We have a short time here on Earth. The more we can connect with others, the more lives we can save, the more we can heal, the richer our lives will be. Connection is what life is all about.
I walked today with my saucy suicide survivor sisters. I'm grateful that I don't have to do this alone. I know people don't want to hear about Mike's suicide as much as I think about it. It's good to know there are others who are with me on this grief journey.
When I sent out the fundraising emails, I was surprised how many people shared that they had also lost a sibling to suicide. I walked today for their lost loved ones, too. From last week's blog post to now, I was able to raise $1,200 for AFSP, which exceeded my goal. I love my friends.
Apparently there is a gun club next to Lake Merced that graciously agreed to stay closed during the Walk. I would have totally lost it if there had been gun shots firing while I was walking in remembrance of Mike.
Mike's birthday is on Tuesday. He would have been 38.