Tonight my niece Betsey, along with her mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law, will participate in the Out of Darkness Walk, an event sponsored by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Beginning at sunset, they will walk 18 miles or so through the streets of Washington, D. C., crossing the finish line about the time the sun rises tomorrow.

. . . The sun rises tomorrow. If I had a magic wand, I’d make sure every single soul has at least that much hope . . .

In November 2010, Betsey got home from work to find that her boyfriend Nick had committed suicide. Mourning for Nick was woven in with concern for Betsey, of course, and how she would go forward. Of course she’ll never be the same – survivors never are. But you’ll be happy to hear that she’s good and getting on with her own life. She continues to accept the support of her family and friends, practice good and unapologetic self care, and now gives support by sharing her experience and knowledge with other survivors. She is amazing, my niece, absolutely amazing, and I love her more than I can count.

I am with them in spirit tonight, members of the Chambers, D’Angelo, Okuliar Team (I’ve already volunteered to come up with next year’s team name) and all the other (perhaps more creatively named) teams. I won’t be walking through the (hopefully well lit) streets of D. C. tonight, but I’m here, with my journal and my needle and thread, lighting a candle in memory of those who could conceive of no other way to deal with the situations, problems, demons, thoughts, people that tormented them relentlessly.

And in honor of the loved ones who are left wondering and wounded by a grief that never goes completely away. Those who curl into fetal positions and weep, sometimes raising fists to the sky, and always, always, always wondering what they could have done to assure their loved ones that nothing is ever that awful or that insurmountable, to convince the loved ones that there’s nothing they can’t get through together. For survivors, the “how” is often immediately obvious, it’s the “why” that plagues them without end. Even if there’s a note, even if there have been indications, even if, even if, even if . . . they never find The Answer that makes sense, that would leave them incredibly sad but understanding. I honor those whose lives are forever changed.

My candle also burns in honor of someone I deeply, hugely, gloriously love who once saw only darkness, who took steps to end that darkness, and who didn’t “succeed”. I honor my loved one and all the others, for that matter, who are brave enough – and hear me on this: it takes a tremendous amount of stamina, determination, and flat-out courage to ask for an ear or a shoulder or whatever else they need to get through any given day. If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for staying, even though I know it’s not an easy thing some days. I know it’s not about me, and I admit my selfishness when I say that despite the fact that you still have the power to drive me crazy with frustration and concern, you also have the power to delight and tickle me . . . and creative as I am, I can’t imagine stepping out into a single day that didn’t have you in it. Thank you for for reaching out when you need to, for making the effort, and for allowing yourself to feel laughter and lightness on occasion, even when the darkness is more familiar.

While others lace their shoes and walk, I sit here in my bare feet beside the candle that’s already burning in memory of those who saw no other way, in support of those who love and survive them, and in honor of those who continue to find just enough light to hold onto.

As we find our way around this big rock called Earth, as we ride on the magic carpet ride called Life, may we all be more gentle with each other than fussy; may we replace the arrogance and condescension with acceptance and (at least an attempt at) understanding. When we find ourselves feeling scared or lost or confused or desperately sad or hopelessly depressed, may we dig deep and find enough strength (a.k.a. dregs of self love) in our vulnerability to ask for help, and if we’re the ones asked, may we check judgment and disgust and to do list at the door and respond with tenderness and patience. May we listen more than we speak, hold hands when the words won’t come, and may our loving concern seep and shine through every pore. Amen.